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Study: Canned produce more affordable, just as nutritious as fresh

By Maggie Hennessy , 10-Mar-2014
Last updated on 10-Mar-2014 at 15:38 GMT

Study: Canned produce more affordable, just as nutritious as fresh

Despite recent improvements in the American diet , public health concerns about obesity and hunger still abound. At the center of the both issues is a call for better access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

Findings from a recent Michigan State University (MSU) study, commissioned by the Can Manufacturers Institute, found that canned foods can provide an affordable, nutritional way of helping consumers increase fruit and vegetable intake, regardless of their income level.

The study, "Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables" analyzed more than 40 scientific journal studies and nutrition data, comparing canned fruits and vegetables to fresh and frozen based on nutrition and cost.

Previous research has examined the nutritional merits of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables alone. However, there is limited data on the cost-effectiveness of fresh compared with canned and frozen food. 

Canned vegetables post similar nutrition scores, lower cost per edible cup than frozen, fresh

For this study, commissioned by the Can Manufacturers Institute, the researchers examined the nutrition delivered in eight common vegetables and 10 common fruits across multiple packaging options (fresh, frozen, and canned) relative to average costs. They calculated nutrients per calorie for each packaging option and scored them based on nutrient intake recommendations. Average costs were obtained from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Nutrient scores for vegetables were similar across all three packaging options; however, canned vegetables had a lower cost per edible cup compared with frozen and fresh. Nutrient scores were variable for the fruits across the three packaging options, and canned fruits were either lower or comparably priced per edible cup.

CMI pointed out that canned vegetables are often more affordable than fresh and frozen varieties, saving up to half the cost of frozen and 20% of the cost of fresh. Indeed, some in the nutritional community have slammed the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans for being overly aspirational, noting that dietary advice often emphasizes foods that the average person can’t afford—such as fresh produce, low-fat dairy and expensive nuts.

"Canned fruits and vegetables provide high quality nutrition to Americans regardless of income level and geography," said Steven Miller, PhD, lead researcher and assistant professor at MSU's Center for Economic Analysis. "By increasing accessibility to key nutrients many Americans need, canned foods are a year-round solution to help families prepare healthier, balanced meals."

Source: American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 

DOI: 10.1177/1559827614522942
“Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables”
Authors: Steven R. Miller, William A. Knudson

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