The beginning of a new year has come and for a lot of South Africans this means counting the pennies and recovering from the festive fun.
A great way to remain on a nutritious, delicious diet without breaking the bank is to reach into your pantry for those canned goods that will make your life simpler. Canned foods are nothing if not convenient, but they’ve also gained an unfair reputation in the food game.
How many of us believe that canned goods are less healthy, bad for the environment and are guilt-ridden when using them?
“Canned goods are a great way to maintain a good-quality, tasty meal at an affordable price,” says Arthur Ramoroka, Corporate Nutritionist for Tiger Brands and Eat Well Live Well Ambassador.
The journey from farm to can
It all begins with farmers who nurture and grow the delicious legumes, fruit and veggies that we consume, such as beans, peas, pears, pineapple and lots more.
When ripe and ready, the produce is picked, washed and prepped. Depending on the item, the can is then filled with water or another liquid. Lastly, the cans are heated to a controlled temperature for a period of time to cook the different veggies or legumes. In this way, canned foods guarantee food safety. This is why canned foods can be kept on the shelf and don’t require being stored in the fridge. A bonus during load shedding!
Throughout the production process, the nutritional integrity of the produce is maintained – so why is it that canned goods have such a bad rap?
Myth 1: Fresh produce is always nutritionally the best
While fresh produce, when sourced at peak season, is filled with nutritional value and optimum taste – what about when it is sourced off-peak? Canned goods rely on peak, in-season produce, which means you can expect nothing less than the best quality.
“Once the produce is sourced, the canning process takes place within hours or a few days to ensure its nutritional integrity,” Ramoroka explains.
Did you know that the heat used in the canning process actually enhances the produce? For example, lycopene and beta-carotene are improved with heat.
Myth 2: Canned foods are a high source of sodium
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study (2012) that identified 10 categories of food with high sodium. The list included many items and surprise, surprise – canned foods did not make the list at all!
Canned goods also offer the option of reduced or no sodium. While certain canned foods may include added sodium, draining and rinsing the contents of the can is another way to ensure reduced sodium intake.
Myth 3: Culinary professionals don’t use canned foods
Culinary professionals are not always averse to canned goods, contrary to popular belief. For example, some recipes may prefer the canned option against its frozen or fresh counterpart.
Not only does it save time and money, but it can also be a tastier option. For example, canned tomatoes or chickpeas are a better option than fresh tomatoes for stews.
Canned-food cooking is definitely not a cop-out. It can save you time and money while maintaining the nutritional value and flavour.
Myth 4: The canning process involves excess waste
Steel food cans are one of the most efficiently recyclable materials. They do not spoil, which is a plus against fresh fruit and veggies which are wasted at retail level and in the home.
“Choosing canned goods will help reduce food wastage at all levels from farm to consumption. What’s more, the peels and other leftover produce is used as agricultural feed or compost,” says Ramoroka.
Fun fact: Canned goods can be kept and consumed for two years or more and will still maintain their nutritional and taste integrity. This benefits protein diets as canned fish, tuna or sardines are great protein sources.
Ramoroka’s tip is to always check the can for major dents, rust or swelling before using. Surface rust that you can remove with your fingers or a towel is not a major issue and the contents can be consumed, but if you open a can of food and there is rust inside, do not eat it as rust (oxidised iron) is not safe to consume.
So when a recipe calls for a certain canned good, it’s as easy as reaching into your pantry!