Obtaining key nutrients from canned foods can save consumers money

April 23, 2012, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Amid the steady drumbeat from nutrition experts and others to consume a healthier diet – particularly one rich in fruits and vegetables – there often is a bias to eat more of the fresh variety for optimal nutrition. But is fresh always best? Not necessarily.

Dr. Cathy Kapica, PhD, RD, adjunct professor of at Tufts University, and Wendy Weiss, MA, RD, both with Ketchum Global Health and Wellness, conducted a market-basket study comparing the cost of obtaining key nutrients from canned, fresh, frozen and dried varieties of common foods. The study found that when price, waste and preparation time are considered, canned foods almost always offered a more affordable, convenient way to get needed-nutrients. The results of this research, funded by the Canned Food Alliance, were presented at a poster session at Experimental Biology 2012 on Sunday, April 22 in San Diego, CA.

"With economic concerns at the forefront today, households are challenged to meet dietary recommendations within budgetary constraints," notes Kapica. "This research should assure families they are getting needed nutrition regardless of whether they choose canned, fresh, frozen or dried varieties. They can be confident in buying those foods that best meet their budgets, schedules, cooking abilities and taste preferences and still obtain important nutrients."

Key study findings included:

  • Pinto Beans – When the cost of preparation time is taken into consideration, canned pinto beans cost $1 less per serving as a source of protein and fiber than dried beans. This is because it takes about six minutes to prepare a can of pinto beans while it takes almost 2½ hours (soaking and cooking) for dried beans to be meal-ready.
  • Tomatoes – It is nearly 60 percent more expensive to obtain dietary fiber from fresh tomatoes as from the same portion of canned tomatoes. Not only is the price of canned tomatoes lower than fresh for the same serving size, but fresh tomatoes take longer to prepare, adding to the real cost of fresh.
  • Corn – When looking at purchase price alone, fresh corn is less expensive than canned or frozen. However, when the cost of waste (most notably the cob) is factored in, as well as time to prepare, canned corn offers the same amount of dietary fiber as fresh at a 25 percent savings.
  • Spinach – With a lower cost-per-serving than fresh or frozen, canned spinach provides vitamin C at an 85 percent savings when compared to fresh or frozen.
The market-basket study involved buying, preparing and analyzing canned, fresh, frozen and dried (where available)i corn, green snap beans, mushrooms, peas, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, pears, peaches, pinto beans and tuna fish. The foods were cooked so that an accurate comparison could be made. All varieties purchased were with no added salt or sugar when available.

Time is money as the adage goes, so to arrive at the actual cost of each type of food, time spent cleaning, preparing and cooking was recorded and calculated at a rate of $7.25 per hour (the minimum wage in New Jersey where the research took place). Many fresh foods that are sold by the pound, ounce or other measure require peeling, pitting, removing stems and other steps, which reduce the amount of food available for eating. Therefore, the cost of this waste was factored into the actual cost of a serving of those foods.

The foods also were analyzed to determine the cost of several key nutrients, including protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate. The nutrient content was obtained from the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, Standard Release 24. The nutrients selected for comparison were included because they are either "nutrients of concern" for children, adolescents and adults and/or are those commonly found in these foods.

Explore further: BPA spikes 1,200 percent after eating canned soup: study

Related Stories

BPA spikes 1,200 percent after eating canned soup: study

November 22, 2011
People who ate canned soup for five days straight saw their urinary levels of the chemical bisphenol A spike 1,200 percent compared to those who ate fresh soup, US researchers said on Tuesday.

Beans, pulses and legumes have important role in nutrition

April 4, 2012
Beans, pulses and legumes can be classified as either vegetables or proteins under the new USDA dietary guidelines, giving them an important role in a person's daily diet, an expert panel said at the Institute of Food Technologists' ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.