While fresh fruit and vegetables are quite nutritious, canned versions can be a good alternative if fresh produce isn't available or isn't of high quality. In terms of nutritional value, the fruits and vegetables in the can compare well to fresh varieties, though the ingredients, such as salt or sugar, that are often added to canned produce drive down the nutritional value somewhat. Canned produce is still a nutritious option, however, if you know what to look for on the label.
Canned Is Nutritious ...
In terms of nutrition, there isn't a lot of difference between fresh and canned varieties, according to Kansas State University Research and Extension. Canned fruits and vegetables retain their nutrients, such as vitamin C and fiber, through the canning process, which makes them about as healthy as fresh produce. In fact, canned might be better in some cases because it can take several days for freshly picked produce to reach store shelves. In a 2011 study published in the "Journal of Science and Food Agriculture," researchers found that canned peaches contain similar amounts of vitamin A compared to fresh peaches.
... Except for the Sodium ...
One drawback to canned fruits and vegetables is that manufacturers often add salt to enhance the taste and help preserve the food so it can be sold and stored for longer periods of time. For example, fresh green beans are quite low in sodium, but a cup of canned green beans can contain up to 376 milligrams of sodium. That's one-quarter of the daily 1,500-milligram limit recommended by the American Heart Association.
... And the Sugar
Fruit is often packed in syrup, which contains added sugar. A cup of canned pears in syrup contains about 40 grams of sugar compared to a cup of fresh pears, which contains 13.5 grams of healthy, naturally occurring sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their sugar intake to 6 teaspoons or less per day and that men limit themselves to 9 teaspoons or less. Too much sugar raises the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Keep These Things in Mind
The texture and taste of canned produce is different than fresh. Fresh produce tends to be crisper and juicier than canned. If you do opt for canned, look for no-sugar-added or no-salt-added varieties because they're the most nutritious. If these aren't available, rinse the produce to wash away some of the sodium or sugar, recommends Kansas State University Research and Extension.
- K-State Research and Extension: Canned Versus Frozen Fruits and Veggies
- University of California, Davis: Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables
- Journal of Science and Food Agriculture: Nutritional Content of Fresh and Canned Peaches
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pears, Canned, Heavy Syrup Pack, Solids and Liquids
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pears, Raw, Bartlett
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Beans, Snap, Green, Canned, Regular Pack, Drained Solids
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Beans, Snap, Green, Raw
- American Heart Association: Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride)
- American Heart Association: Sugars and Carbohydrates