Are canned vegetables equivalent nutritionally the same as fresh vegetables?

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Answered by: Heather, An Expert in the Whole Foods Cooking - General Category
Canned vegetables might offer the least amount of nutrition when compared to fresh vegetables, and even frozen. Mainly due to unknowns in how they were canned. There is much that goes on during the actual canning process that a general consumer would never know. Vitamin loss, over cooking, added salt, and sometimes even added broths. All of these factors must be taken into consideration when making a comparison. However, when you boil down to it, does it really matter? Are canned vegetables equivalent to their fresh counter parts?

Fresh vegetables, when picked at the peak time, are chock full of nutrients. Whether from the farm stand, the local super market, or your own backyard, nothing beats their superiority. When consumed quickly, and without cooking, they offer the greatest of all their benefits. Cooking methods will quickly deteriorate their value though so care should be taken when preparing them. Lightly steaming is considered to be the best method for cooking a raw vegetable.

Now the downfall to fresh vegetables is storage time, and for most cost. Most vegetables do not last very long without preservation, though some can last for months such as root vegetables. Some also require specific methods of preserving, such as pressure cooking for low acid vegetables, which is just about all of them. Pressure cookers are not entirely expensive on an investment, but unless you have access to an abundance of fresh vegetables from a garden, it's not likely anyone would spend the money on specialty canning equipment. Plus if there is no access to an abundance of crops, you'd be left with having to purchase copious amounts of vegetables, which can prove to be very costly and in the end you're stuck canning them, or freezing them.

Frozen foods are probably the best overall,from a nutrition standpoint, especially if there is never a plan to consume them raw. When cooked they're a canned vegetables equivalent, yet you can store them a different way if you lack pantry space. However, they are generally not as cheap as canned vegetables which might be in part to the way they must be transported, and kept frozen. At the same time, though they are much like fresh vegetables, where they were picked at their optimal peak therefore maintaining much of their nutritional content.

Canned vegetables often get a bad rap, usually due to excessive salt. However, just like frozen vegetables they are also picked at their peak, and loose very little nutrients when cooked. No more really than when you would cook fresh vegetables. They're also the most affordable option out of all three, making them perfect for lower income families looking to eat fewer processed foods. Just make sure to look for varieties that were canned in water, and have no added salt. In fact the only ingredients on the label should be the vegetable, and of course water.

Choosing the right vegetables for your family shouldn't be a difficult matter. While the number one goal is put the most nutritious whole foods on your table, one must also take into consideration the cost of doing so. The small amount of nutrients that are lost during canning, should not stop you from using canned vegetables when fresh is not an option. While not all vegetables, or preservation methods are equal, canned vegetables shouldn't be shunned from the table altogether.

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