Hardly anyone, least of all anyone with diabetes, hasn’t heard the message: Eat more fruits and vegetables. Consuming a hefty dose of produce is recommended by virtually every medical and nutritional organization, for benefits ranging from cancer protection to aid in weight loss and maintenance. But some of the common advice on how to increase your fruit and vegetable intake — visit farmers’ markets; shop around the outside (rather than in the center) of the grocery store — ignores the possibility of consuming produce largely in canned rather than fresh or frozen form. And in today’s freshness-oriented food culture, using canned fruits and vegetables may seem old-fashioned and even unhealthy or disgusting to some people. So what are the actual pros and cons of canned, frozen, and fresh produce?
A study published late last month examined the nutritional and cost differences between canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, it examined 8 common vegetables and 10 common fruits that can be found in all three forms. As described in an article on the study at Medical Daily, the researchers found that most nutrients were preserved in canned fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, some nutrients were found in even greater quantity in canned items: Canned tomatoes, for instance, contain more B vitamins and lycopene than their fresh counterparts. Certain canned vegetables such as beans contain more soluble fiber, which has been shown to help reduce blood glucose and cholesterol levels as well as boost digestive health and regularity. In addition, canned produce was found to be much less expensive than either fresh or frozen produce, costing, on average, 20% as much as fresh and 50% as much as frozen produce.
But, alas, the story doesn’t end there. Canned fruits often contain added sugar, while canned vegetables may have high levels of sodium. To the extent that they are more easily digested, canned fruits and vegetables may not lead to lasting fullness, compared with their fresh equivalents. And there is longstanding concern that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely found in the plastic lining of cans, may lead to conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breast and prostate cancers, and reproductive dysfunction. On top of these concerns, many people find canned produce to be, by and large, mushy and unappealing.
What’s your stance on canned fruits and vegetables — does their convenience and low cost outweigh any disadvantages? Are you more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when you can keep them on hand indefinitely — either canned or frozen — or when you buy them fresh and know you have a short window in which to consume them? Do you find it easier to prepare and cook with canned, frozen, or fresh produce? Have you noticed any different effects on your satiety or blood glucose levels among different forms of the same food? Leave a comment below!