Print Toni Kuehneman

Every year in October, our country celebrates Food Day.  According to the Food Day website, “Food Day is a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.”  When I think of Food Day, the sound bite:“fresh is best” comes to mind. But recent studies reveal that processing or cooking some foods increase their nutritional benefits.

While many folks enjoy the garden fresh tomato for its delicious taste, dietitians also know it as a source of vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene.  Many garden tomatoes are canned or processed into tomato sauce or salsa.  Did we lose the nutrients in the canning or cooking process?  While most of the vitamin C is lost, heat increases the available lycopene content.  Heating helps break down the walls of the tomato, releasing the nutrient.  Lycopene is a nutrient found in foods that are naturally red in color like red bell peppers, red cabbage, and watermelon.  In research studies, lycopene is thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.  Enjoy tomatoes fresh, processed, or canned. I like to purchase the no-salt added canned tomatoes or sauce.

Lutein, another nutrient, found in corn, spinach, kale, and dark greens, helps to protect the eyes from age related macular degeneration.  The lutein content is increased in both canned and frozen corn, spinach, and kale.  Both frozen and canned products use heat in the process.  Once again, heat breaks down the plant’s cell wall to release more of the nutrient.

Compared to fresh peaches, canned peaches have similar levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and folate.  While the canning process did decrease vitamin A, levels of other nutrients were comparable to fresh peaches.

These findings are interesting to me because they expand the choices of nutritious food.  Fresh is best in the summer with so many seasonal, local fruits and veggies available from urban gardeners and farmers markets. With the onset of autumn and the upcoming winter season, know that nutritious food includes affordable frozen or canned products.  Be alert to the sodium content of the canned veggie products.  Be sure to purchase the lowest in sodium and then drain and rinse the vegetables to remove about 30-40% of the sodium.  Frozen fruit and veggies taste similar to fresh.  Canned fruit in light syrup or packed in juice reduce the added sugar content. Drain the syrup or juice and enjoy the fruit pieces.

Celebrate Food Day 2013 with five to eight servings of fruits and veggies, fresh, frozen, or canned, and enjoy fruit and veggies throughout the year.


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