These days, the last thing I want to do is spend hours and hours in my kitchen making a meal.
Canned foods are a staple in my pantry to add nutrients to my meals and make cooking that much easier. I often stock up on canned garbanzo beans, chicken, diced tomatoes, and black beans so I can quickly make salads, wraps, and soups.
Indeed, canned foods are convenient, inexpensive alternatives to fresh and frozen foods. They make it possible to eat seasonal foods all year round.
While some canned products get a bad rap for their high sodium levels, many unsalted and low salt options exist.
All in all, you don’t have to shop at high end health food stores or spend a lot of money on groceries to improve your health. Canned foods are affordable and can make healthy eating effortless.
Here are 10 of the healthiest canned foods.
Canned beans include garbanzo beans, pinto beans, black beans, red kidney beans, and lima beans. They’re not only a staple for vegan and vegetarian diets but also save you a lot of time, as dried beans require hours of soaking before you can cook them.
Generally, canned beans are high in protein and fiber but low in fat.
Eating a high fiber diet is vital for lowering cholesterol and weight. That’s because fiber helps you feel full longer, which may lead you to eat less food overall (
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends opting for unsalted canned items. That’s because high salt intake is linked to increased blood pressure, which may raise your risk of stroke, kidney disease, and heart conditions (
Be sure the label reads “unsalted” or “no salt added.” If the ingredient list includes salt or sodium, it’s best to drain and rinse the beans before use.
Canned beans work nicely in soups, stews, chilis, salads, fresh salsas, casseroles, meat dishes, and baked desserts.
Canned meat and fish are excellent, inexpensive sources of protein.
Be sure to buy proteins canned in water or brine, not oil or sauces, for their lower calorie and fat content.
For example, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of tuna canned in oil packs 200 calories and 8 grams of fat, while the same amount of tuna canned in water contains just 90 calories and 1 gram of fat (
Salmon, tuna, sardines, and chicken are great canned protein options.
Canned chicken is very low in fat but high in protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Canned fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce heart disease risk (
Canned meats and fish make stovetop patties, dips, pasta, salads, soups, and quesadillas easy to prepare.
Canned diced tomatoes are not only nutritious but also crucial in a number of recipes.
Tomatoes of all sorts contain lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that gives this fruit its red color and provides disease-fighting benefits (
Surprisingly, canned tomatoes boast higher amounts of lycopene than fresh tomatoes (
Diced tomatoes go well in countless dishes, such as soups, pasta, casseroles, pizzas, flatbreads, and lasagna.
This dairy-free milk substitute is a great, lightly sweet choice for numerous recipes.
Although coconut milk is high in fat, it’s mostly made up of a certain type called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Although more research is needed, MCTs may provide greater heart health benefits than butter, such as increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (
Smoothies, soups, dips, sauces, coffee, marinades, and desserts all benefit from coconut milk’s creaminess.
Canned diced green chiles pack great flavor and work well as a garnish.
Green chiles are a type of pepper, which are rich in phenolic compounds like capsaicin.
Capsaicin is responsible for the burning sensation you feel when you eat hot peppers. It also functions as an antioxidant, fighting unstable molecules called free radicals to help manage heart disease (
What’s more, just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of diced green chiles provides 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin A, which is essential for eye health (
Add green chiles to scrambled eggs, burgers, chili, stir-fries, and sandwiches.
Corn sometimes gets a bad rap since starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, and winter squash have more carbs than non-starchy veggies like broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers.
However, baby corn is considered a non-starchy vegetable (18).
If you have diabetes, limiting your intake of carb-rich foods is essential for blood sugar control (
Baby corn is fat-free and very low in calories and carbs. For instance, there are only 3 grams of carbs in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of baby corn (
Baby corn is a perfect fit for stir-fries, soups, salad toppings, and snacks.
There’s no need to deal with a peel with canned mandarin oranges. This naturally sweet, tangy fruit is bursting with nutrients.
Still, to cut down on your intake of added sugar, it’s best to buy mandarin oranges canned in juice rather than syrup.
Just 1 cup (249 grams) of mandarin oranges offers 6% of the DV for folate, 12% of the DV for vitamin A, and 94% of the DV for vitamin C (
Folate is essential for pregnancy since a deficiency in this nutrient may cause fetal development issues. Today, many foods are fortified with folate to prevent this (
Eating foods like mandarin oranges that provide vitamin A may help prevent conditions like night blindness (
Canned mandarin oranges may also help prevent a vitamin C deficiency, which is linked to a poorly functioning immune system (
Enjoy canned mandarin oranges right out of the can, in baked goods, or as a topping for yogurt, cottage cheese, or salads.
With their distinct flavors and nutrients, olives do more than garnish your martini glass.
Just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of canned olives offers 7% of the DV for calcium, 35% of the DV for iron, and 11% of the DV for vitamin E (
Your body needs iron to circulate oxygen via your red blood cells and vitamin E to act as an antioxidant and help fight inflammation (
Canned olives are also very high in sodium. While sodium is an essential nutrient, too much may lead to high blood pressure (
As such, it’s important to look for low salt varieties.
Olives are great on pizzas and sandwiches, as well as in salads, hummus, and tapenade. Many people enjoy them on charcuterie boards.
Canned pumpkin can bring autumn aromas into your home all year long. It’s also very nutritious.
One cup (245 grams) of canned pumpkin boasts 7 grams of fiber, 45% of the DV for magnesium, 10% of the DV for both potassium and vitamin C, and a whopping 208% of the DV for vitamin A (
Fiber may help prevent constipation by keeping food moving through your gut, as well as promote weight loss by helping you feel full. Meanwhile, vitamin A is necessary for optimal eye health (
Besides its obvious uses in desserts like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, canned pumpkin makes a scrumptious ingredient in soups, smoothies, mousse, pudding, and pasta dishes.
This fibrous tropical fruit is notoriously tough to open, so it’s a good thing it comes in a can. Jackfruit is a popular vegan and vegetarian substitute for pulled pork.
Jackfruit is a low calorie food that may promote weight loss, as it has just 16 calories in 2 ounces (56 grams). It’s also a heart-healthy alternative to meat since it’s free of fat and cholesterol (
Jackfruit makes a great filling for tacos or enchiladas, as well as a healthy ingredient in stir-fries and fried rice.
It’s best to avoid foods that are canned with excess sugar or salt.
To do so, select fruits that are canned in their juice or in water, and check nutrition labels for the sodium content.
Fruit canned in syrup
The general rule for buying canned fruits is to select those canned only in water or their own juice, since they contain less sugar than those canned in syrup.
High sugar intake is associated with hyperactivity, brain deficits, and overweight and obesity in both children and adults (
High sodium canned items
Canned soups, pastas, and meats may contain large amounts of sodium, which may raise your risk of conditions like high blood pressure or heart failure. You can control the sodium content by making homemade versions of these foods (
The AHA defines low sodium foods as those with less than 140 mg per serving. Check the label on canned foods to limit your sodium intake (
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be pricey.
Canned foods are inexpensive, quick to cook with, and rich in nutrients that benefit your health. What’s more, they last a long time and can be used in a variety of recipes.
Always read the nutrition label to determine whether a particular canned good fits your lifestyle.
Just one thing
Try this today:
- Add low sodium diced tomatoes to a lentil soup or chili.
- Top your leafy green salad with mandarin oranges canned in their own juice.
- Use canned pumpkin to make healthy pumpkin muffins. Here’s my favorite recipe.
- Mix chopped cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and low sodium canned olives into a Mediterranean salad.