The universal call to increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, higher fibre foods and seafood, coupled with tightening family budgets, means that a study published recently in the Journal for Nutrition and Food Sciences is highly relevant.
The study looked at the nutritional qualities and relative cost of canned foods, and reassuringly found that canned foods provide sound nutrition at an affordable price, in a convenient format. Specifically much-needed key nutrients, such as fibre, protein, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin A were shown to be significantly preserved in a range of canned foods.
The nutritional findings are in line with research undertaken here in New Zealand about 10 years ago, but the latest study went an extra step by evaluating affordability on a price-per-serve basis against fresh, frozen and dried counterparts. The affordability measures took into account preparing and cooking time, and also energy usage.
The study looked specifically at canned beans, corn, mushrooms, peas, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, peaches, pears and tuna; comparing then with their fresh counterparts.
Two examples of the findings were:
- Tomatoes – It is nearly 60 percent more expensive to obtain dietary fibre from fresh tomatoes as from the same portion of canned tomatoes.
- Corn – When looking at purchase price alone, fresh corn is less expensive than canned or frozen. However, when the cost of waste (most notably the cob) is factored in, as well as time to prepare, canned corn offers the same amount of dietary fibre with a 25 percent cost saving compared to fresh and the same amount of folate with a 75 percent cost saving compared to fresh.
The NZ Nutrition Foundation (NZNF) commented on the relevance of the findings, as they come at a time when many families are struggling to put healthy food on the table because of limited budgets. It also makes the point that canned foods ensure essential nutrients are more accessible to consumers, particularly those with limited storage, preparation facilities, limited time, skill or interest in preparing fresh foods.
I find this heartening, at a time when so many of our current foodie programmes put great emphasis on the use of fresh fruit and vegetables. I fear this may be setting the bar too high for many kiwi families who are struggling to make ends meet. We now know that canned foods do deliver the goods nutritionally and needn’t shy away from the limelight, in the informed kitchen.