Fresh is usually the best option when buying produce, but sometimes frozen food is actually more nutrient dense, because it is picked at the peak of ripeness before being blanched and frozen. Canning food is done at a high temperature and there is a loss of nutrients in this process–but this can be different for certain foods, and the nutrient stability after canning remains virtually undisturbed by time. When using fresh food, the way you store it and cook/prepare it has a huge impact on the nutrition in your meals, and food begins to lose nutrients after it is harvested.
According to a UC Davis study, “as much as 77% of the nutrient (in green beans) may be lost in 7 days storage at 4°C (39°F)”–meaning even fresh, refrigerated food loses nutrient value. Quickly. The same study also found that some frozen fruits, due to added absorbic acid after being blanched, have more vitamin C than their fresh counterparts. In the case of canned foods, UC Davis reported a loss of 10-20% vitamin C loss.
Depending on the food in particular, certain nutrients will be more dense in either fresh, frozen, or canned goods. Fiber and mineral content is generally similar in all three. Raw, organic, and local is always the best option for getting the freshest and most environmentally-friendly way to eat, but sometimes certain foods aren’t available and so buying frozen and canned make for great alternatives in order to ensure proper nutrition. Always make sure to check the labels of processed goods, buy items with only the ingredient listed, preferably organic, and no additives or preservatives. Canned food often contains sodium, but the sodium content can be drastically reduced by draining and rinsing. You can always can or freeze your own food too. I love buying a case of bananas, peeling, bagging, freezing them–it saves money, and I always have fruit on hand. Be aware that in many canned and packaged goods, there is a chemical compound named Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is in Epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics. It is found in food and drink packaging, metal products, water supply pipes, breast milk, CDs, and more. The most common way humans are exposed to Bisphenol A is by diet. Some plastics with the recycle number of 3 or 7 contain BPA.
Tips from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services to reduce exposure to BPA include: limiting canned foods, employing the use of glass, porcelain, stainless steel, and never microwaving polycarbonate containers.
If you are careful to not overeat canned foods, and look for BPA-free cans (available at some natural stores and Whole Foods), you can still get the nutritional benefits and convenience of canned foods. Case in point: here is a delicious raw taco recipe using canned jackfruit!
Vegan Jackfruit Tacos
6 Roma Tomatoes
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 or 1 Jalepeno
1/2 Honey Crisp Apple
1/4 Salsa Verde
2/3 Lime, juiced
Small handful Cilantro
Cashew Sour Cream:
1/2 c Cashews (you can soak these if you want a creamier texture)
1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Lemon, juiced
1/4 c Water
1/4 tsp Salt
Jackfruit Carnitas, 1/2 recipe from Everyday Dish:
1, 20 oz can of Young Jackfruit in Brine
1/2 Salsa Verde
1 tbsp Mild Chile Powder
1/2 tbsp Cumin
1/2 tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/3 Lime, Juiced (I didn’t care much for the lime in this to be honest)
1. Drain the Jackfruit and squeeze out the excess brine, there may be some seeds in the Jackfruit meat, I removed these.
2. Put into a pot along with the spices, and 1/2 the Salsa Verde. Use a potato masher to add texture to the Jackfruit.
3.I didn’t really follow the directions on Everyday Dish for cooking the dish–I just heated it up on medium for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Alternatively you can put this in a crock pot for 6-8 hours to allow the flavors to marry.
4. Put all your ingredients inside a fresh cabbage leaf “tortilla”, along with whatever you like to eat in tacos. I added red pepper, cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa. These are kind of messy, so make sure to have napkins on hand!
Photo: Jessica Ferguson