Tinned fruit and vegetables are a storecupboard staple for a reason – they’re convenient, budget-friendly and versatile – but are they as nutritious as fresh produce? We asked nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to explain.
Are tinned fruit and vegetables as healthy as fresh?
For most produce, when we compare the tinned variety against fresh, there isn’t a great deal of difference in the macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats. For example, 100g of tinned tomatoes has 1g of protein, 3.8g of carbohydrates and negligible fat compared to 100g of fresh tomatoes which has 0.5g of protein, 3g of carbohydrates and also negligible fat. Calories are also about the same per 100g at 19 calories for tinned and 14 calories for fresh tomatoes.
In terms of vitamins and minerals there are slight differences. Tinned fruit and vegetables contain good levels of these nutrients, and are a valuable part of a balanced diet. However, a very small amount of vitamins and minerals may be lost in the tinning process. Using tinned and fresh tomatoes as an example, tinned tomatoes have 328mcg of carotene (which converts to vitamin A in the body) compared to fresh tomatoes which have 349mcg. Tinned tomatoes also contain 11mg of both folate and vitamin C compared to fresh tomatoes, that contain 23mg of folate and 22mg of vitamin C. Nevertheless, tinned produce is still a valuable dietary source of many vitamins and minerals.
When buying tinned fruit or vegetables, check their labels and avoid those with excess added salt or sugar. For example, tinned pineapple in syrup contains 16.5g of sugar per 100g and tinned pineapple in juice contains 12g per 100g. Fresh pineapple contains 11g of natural sugar per 100g.
Some tinned produce will naturally contain more salt or sugar due to the tinning process, without extra added ingredients. For example, tinned tomatoes contain 3g more sodium per 100g (5g per 100g in total) compared to fresh tomatoes (2g per 100g in total). However this difference is small and is still a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
How are tinned fruit and vegetables processed?
The process will vary slightly depending on the fruit or vegetable being tinned but essentially the fruit and vegetables are washed and prepared, for example stones are removed from fruits, vegetables may be peeled and/or chopped before being blanched. They are then poured into a tin and any water, syrups, juices or seasoning are then added.
For tinned fruit, water, syrup or juice will have been sterilised before sealing the tin, but tinned vegetables are heated quickly under steam, to a precise temperature for that particular vegetable, and cooled quickly to sterilise them.
Most fruit and vegetables are tinned close to where they are picked, and within a few hours in order to help preserve their freshness and nutrients as much as possible.
How can I choose the healthiest tinned fruit and vegetables?
Look for tins that have no added salt or sugar, and for tinned fruit choose those in natural juices rather than syrup to keep the sugar content down.
How much counts as one portion of your five a day?
80g of tinned fruit or vegetable counts as one of your five a day, the same amount as fresh fruit or vegetables. A standard tin is around 400g so just a quarter of a tin will easily cover one of your five-a-day.
Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Healthy recipes using tinned vegetables
This article was published on 1 May 2020.
All macronutrient and micronutrient analysis: McCance Widdowson’s Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset 2019.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our terms and conditions for more information.