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A persistent myth plagues canned fruits and vegetables. The general assumption is that canned fruits and vegetables cannot possibly be as nutritious as the fresh fruit in the produce section at the grocery store.
According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, “canned fruits and vegetables provide as much dietary fiber as their fresh counterparts. Canned fruits and vegetables also act as a weapon in helping to combat the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.”
At the time of harvest, fruits and vegetables intended for canning are picked at the peak of ripeness, unlike their fresh counterparts. In most cases, fruits and vegetables are canned within 24 hours of being picked, thereby packing the nutrients into the can. The Illinois study consistently refers to the fact that canning is one of the best-studied forms of food preservation. Using heat to cook or can foods destroys microrganisms that can cause food spoilage or food-borne illnesses. The sterilization process occurs inside the can as the food is uniformly heated; no preservatives are used or needed. When fruits and vegetables are canned, they will hold their nutrient levels even after two years of storage, making them available year-round.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are often picked before they have had a chance to fully ripen and the nutrient content has matured. Sometimes fresh fruits or vegetables will make a journey of up to two weeks before they arrive at the grocery store. In addition to travel time, fresh fruits and vegetables may spend days in a storage locker or in the crisper before they are sold at the grocery store.
For additional information: The Canned Food Alliance (CFA) and researchers from the University of Illinois have established a website to provide a complete listing of the 1997 nutrition study components.