Why Some Foods Are Actually More Nutritious Canned

As anyone who has eaten a snack from a home canning cellar can tell you, one major advantage of canned fruits or vegetables is that they extend the season of your favorite foods. When many types of nutritious produce aren't available fresh in the winter, for example, the canned version can help add nutritional variety to your diet. This is especially true in places where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is scarce.

Nevertheless, canned foods get a bad rap. So often, they're seen as less delicious and less nutritious than their fresh counterparts, but that's actually far from the truth when it comes to some fruits and veggies. While canned processed foods, like soups or meats, may contain unhealthy additives, canned fruits and vegetables can be just as beneficial as fresh ones. Here's how to spot canned produce that packs a nutritional punch — often at a lower price point and with a longer shelf life, to boot.

The canning process can help preserve some nutrients

As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports, most canned fruits and vegetables are picked, processed, and canned at the peak of their season, so they contain maximum nutrition and flavor. Per BBC, the nutrients in fresh produce start to degrade the second the item is picked, so a swift canning process can help preserve those vital nutrients. In contrast, something fresh that sits in a truck, then on a grocery store shelf, and then in your fridge will likely be less nutritious. Moreover, in some cases, the heating process involved in canning actually increases the availability of some of nutrients, like lycopene and beta carotene (via the University of Illinois). If you buy canned carrots and tomatoes, which contain heat-resilient vitamins A and E, know that you're still getting these benefits.

However, this heating process can cause other nutrients to lose their value, which is why, sometimes, frozen vegetables are healthier than canned. Still, canned fruits and veggies are helpful in another way: They're often more affordable and convenient, making it easier for people to add more produce to their diet. Finally, the canning process helps ensure food safety, as it kills harmful pathogens. Just check the ingredients label to make sure your canned fruits and veggies don't contain a ton of added sodium or sugar, and they will be a beneficial addition to your diet.