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While some might turn up their nose at canned produce or canned meats, they do have their advantages. They're inexpensive and convenient, making them an easy pick to stock your pantry. And while some foods lose nutrients during the canning process, there are others that actually increase in healthy compounds. For instance, canned or cooked tomatoes have more antioxidant availability than raw tomatoes, thereby reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease risk. The same goes for carrots, spinach, asparagus, and corn. Check out my top picks for the healthiest canned foods.

  • Tomatoes: Tomato paste, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, etc. are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, and who can beat the convenience? But be careful with the flavored varieties, such as "fire roasted" or "rosemary and oregano" which generally have more sodium. Always buy "no salt added" canned tomato products.
  • Beans: Beans, such as kidney, black, and pinto are full of fiber and protein. Soaking dried beans takes planning and a lot of time, so when you're in a hurry go for the canned version. But before you buy out the store, compare the labels and choose the one with the lowest amount of sodium. Like tomatoes, these are generally the ones without any special seasonings. And be sure to rinse beans before using to wash away about 30-40% of the sodium.
  • Salmon and Tuna: Canned salmon and tuna are a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. If you're worried about mercury content, choose light tuna, which generally has less mercury than albacore. Try canned salmon with bones, which may not sound appealing but they are soft, edible, and loaded with more calcium. Always buy canned fish packed in water, not oil and look for low sodium varieties.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene and is also a good source of potassium and iron. While canned pumpkin generally has fewer nutrients than raw, fresh pumpkin has to be cooked, leaving you with essentially the same amount of nutrients as the canned version. When buying canned pumpkin look for labels that state, "100% pumpkin" to avoid additives or preservatives.

Avoid canned products that are dented, rusted, leaking, and swollen. Bulging cans could indicate that the potentially deadly food poisoning, botulism, is present. Store unopened canned foods in a cool dark place. After opening, store out of the can and in the refrigerator. There's no need to completely count out canned foods, especially these top picks.


Chili Cornbread Casserole (Printable PDF)


1 lb. lean ground beef

1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (14.5 oz.) no added salt diced tomatoes, drained

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup frozen corn

1 Tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

½ cup yellow corn meal

½ cup flour

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 ½ Tablespoon baking powder

1 cup skim milk

1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Brown beef with onion and pepper until no longer pink. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. Simmer for 5 minutes. In separate bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, sugar and baking powder. Combine milk, egg and oil and pour into flour mixture, stirring until just moistened. Spread beef mixture into 8x8 baking dish. Then spread cornbread over top. Bake at 425?F for about 10-12 minutes or until cornbread is browned.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 280 calories, 7 grams fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 170 milligrams sodium, 35 grams total carbohydrate, 5 grams dietary fiber, 19 grams protein