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Ask Tufts Experts September 2012 Issue

Q: Is it OK to eat canned fruits and vegetables?

Answer :  Abigail Lundin, MS, RD, a dietetic intern at Tufts’ Frances Stern Nutrition Center, replies: “According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we should strive to eat more fruits and vegetables—fresh, frozen, dried and canned. Canned fruits and vegetables are convenient because they allow us to have access to produce, even when it is not in season. Additionally, canned produce has the benefit of being preserved soon after harvesting. This means that canned produce can have higher vitamin and mineral content compared to fresh produce that sits in the refrigerator for a week or two before it is consumed. Canned fruits and vegetables can be cheaper than fresh alternatives and can be shelf stable for a much longer period of time.

“When choosing canned produce, there are a few things to look out for. First, try to find vegetables without added salt. Read the food label on the back of the can, and if the vegetable you chose is high in salt, consider rinsing the vegetables in a colander under cold water. Second, canned fruits should be packed in natural fruit juice or water. Avoiding fruits packed in syrup can decrease extra sugar and calories. Canned produce is safest when the cans are in good physical condition and they are consumed by the expiration date.

“Some studies have found bisphenol A, also known as BPA, in canned foods, sodas and baby formulas. This chemical comes into contact with food because it is found in the plastic that is used to coat the inside of metal cans as well as in hard plastic bottles. One of the biggest concerns with consuming too much BPA is birth defects, but animal models also show a possible link with certain cancers. BPA concentrations vary widely from different types of canned foods, manufacturers, and production lots. Currently, the FDA is taking steps toward limiting possible exposures to BPA including banning it in baby bottles and children’s cups and providing assistance to manufacturers who seek alternative canning materials. The FDA states that the benefits of canned foods, such as a stable and affordable food supply, currently outweigh the risks of BPA.”

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