No fresh produce? No problem. If you’re keen to bank some basic meal inspiration using only a handful of store cupboard ingredients, you’re in luck.
Let us tell you, there’s a lot more nutrition to be found than you'd assume from simple dry and canned ingredients. It's time to ditch your preconceptions of tinned foods automatically being lower in nutrients. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite; according to a study published in the Nutrients journal, those who ate more canned food consumed a higher intake of nutrients overall.
Stop your Googling and let Women's Health help. It's all about clueing up and cooking the right combos, according to the queen of store cupboard cooking, Jack Monroe (@jack_monroe). She, of all chefs, is best positioned to advise on which tinned foods are actually worth you trying at home as her debut cookbook, Tin Can Cook, £6.99, hit shelves last year. Monroe is an award-winning anti-poverty campaigner, food writer and chef who packed her book with over 75 recipes made entirely from seemingly mundane tinned and canned ingredients. Meals made from tinned foods don’t need to be tasteless. Trust us.
Not only do these tips guarantee cheap and easy meals to feed the whole family and for even the most inexperienced of cooks, they share invaluable insight into which tinned foods are actually good for you. Did you know that tinned tomatoes contain more lycopene, a cancer- fighting agent, than their fresh counterparts? Or that tinned sardines contain almost an entire day’s recommended intake of vitamins D and B12?
Brace yourself for the ultimate tinned foods rundown, without scrimping on any nutrition wins. Go back to basics with Monroe and her favourite Tin Can Cook tips. For meals any day, any time, any ingredients.
Happy tin cooking.
47 tinned foods that are good for you, according to Jack Monroe of Tin Can Cook
Ready to learn which tins are actually nourishing for you and worth stocking up on, responsibly? Jack advises grabbing your tin opener and adopting an open mind.
Do tinned foods contain the same nutrients as their fresh alternatives?
A totally valid question. For many years, the preservation methods used for tinning and canning food have been rumoured to use chemicals and added nasties that lower the nutrient density of the original fruit or veg.
But there's not much scientific evidence proving that—quite the opposite, as Jack shares in her book that a detailed study by the University of California found that "freezing and canning processes may actually preserve nutrient value"'.
Why? Well, according to the study, the initial treatment of fresh foods products can result in 'loss of water-soluble and oxygen-labile nutrients, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins' while tinned and canned foods leaves these nutrients fairly intact. Plus, the study concluded that the nutrient benefits of canned and frozen products are often ignored in favour of fresh product with little or no legitimate nutritional reason.
Think about it: storage methods have been designed and developed over the years to ensure you get the same nutrients from tinned products that can be eaten year round as perishable fruits and vegetables. It's the same with frozen foods—most actually contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts, as they're preserved more professionally.
While the study did find that initial canning can sometimes cause a slight loss of some nutrients (notably vitamin C), their research concluded that the nutrient value once canned remains stable, and that fresh fruit and veg lose nutrients in other ways, making canned and tinned foods just as viable an option for nutrient dense food.
Do tinned foods contain chemicals?
The majority of the concern about whether tinned foods are good for you revolves around the potential presence of bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA. Jack explains that it's a plastic coating chemical used in the lining of some tins that can, theoretically, interact with oestrogen receptors in the body.
However, she maintains that 'the US Food and Drug Administration states that ‘normal levels of canned food consumption have no adverse effects on general health’, and as of 2016, major manufacturers have pledged to remove the BPA lining from their tins'.
Which tinned foods are actually good for you?
A source of vitamins A, C, E, K as well as vitamin B9, iron and fibre.
2. Baked beans
Look out for the low-salt and low-sugar versions of these. Baked beans are a source of magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and copper.
Try: rinsing off the sticky orange sauce and using them as small white beans.
3. Beef (stewed steak)
Beef is a good source of protein – even beef that comes in a can. You can also grab yourself some vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6 here.
In addition to containing antioxidants, many also contain considerable amounts of vitamin C.
5. Black beans
A great source of fibre, protein and vitamin B9, they are also a good source of copper, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
6. Black-eyed beans
These are a source of fibre, potassium, protein and iron.
7. Borlotti beans
These are a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and copper.
8. Broad beans
Also known as fava beans, broad beans contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, making them a healthy choice. They also contain potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, are a source of magnesium and are an inexpensive source of protein.
9. Butter beans
Low in fat and a source of protein, butter beans contain zinc which helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
10. Cannellini beans
A good source of carbohydrates and protein, cannellini beans contain several B vitamins, including B12. They also provide iron, potassium, zinc and other essential minerals.
Known for being a source of beta-carotene that is converted by the body to vitamin A, carrots are also a good source of vitamin K.
These are a good source of vitamin C: you can find up to 16 per cent of our suggested daily intake in half a standard tin (150g). Cherries also contain fibre. Half a tin provides a source of potassium – around 350mg – which plays a key role in muscle, heart, kidney and nerve cell functions.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a good source of protein, carbohydrates and fibre. The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K in chickpeas all contribute to building and maintaining bone strength.
14. Chopped pork
Although admittedly high in sodium, fat and calories, chopped pork products such as Spam also provide protein and several micronutrients, such as zinc, potassium, iron and copper. Not one for everyday consumption, but there’s some goodness in there if you look hard enough.
If you’re lucky enough to find these at a low price you can sling them over pasta, or into a soup or chowder. They are a good source of zinc, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a source of potassium, manganese and phosphorous.
A seaside favourite, cockles also come in tins and can be found at most supermarkets. They are a good source of vitamin B12, iron, iodine, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids and phosphorous.
17. Coconut milk
Containing a mixture of saturated and non- saturated fats, coconut milk is a good source of potassium. Use it in curries, as a base for soups, or for baking in luxurious breads.
18. Cod roe
Pressed cod roe is a cheap source of protein. It also contains small amounts of phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper, iron, manganese and potassium.
19. Corned beef
Don’t write this one off just yet; corned beef is not as high in calories as you may think (although watch out for the fat content) and it’s a good source of protein.
Tinned crab is the most convenient way to eat it; although canning does dull the flavour somewhat, it’s nothing that a dash of lemon juice and a shake of salt and pepper can’t revive. Canning preserves crab’s nutrients, and it is full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
These are sometimes found in tins but are more commonly dried. They are an excellent source of fibre, and a good source of manganese and potassium.
A good source of vitamin C, fibre and potassium. They also contain carbohydrates, and the red and pink varieties contain lycopene (an antioxidant).
23. Green beans
Botanically a member of the legumes family, green beans are a good source of fibre and vitamin B9, and a source of vitamins B2, C and E.
24. Haricot beans
Also known as navy beans, haricot beans are an excellent source of dietary fibre and a very good source of both vitamin B9 and manganese. They are also a good source of many minerals including copper, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. In addition, they are a source of protein and vitamin B1.
25. Kidney beans
These slightly ugly dark red-coloured nuggets are versatile powerhouses of goodness. Use them in anything from chillies to bean burgers, burritos to soups for a hefty whack of fibre, iron and the health-boosting vitamin B1. Due to their complex carbohydrate content they provide a slow-release of energy and are a source of protein.
26. Lemons (preserved)
These are high in vitamin C, which isn’t adversely affected by the process of preserving them. Unusually for a lemon you can eat the whole thing – skin and all – providing some extra fibre rather than just squeezing out the juice.
Due to their fibre content, lentils can help to lower cholesterol, which is part of the maintenance of cardiovascular health. The slow release of complex carbohydrates helps to stabilise blood glucose (sugar) levels. They are a good source of fibre, B vitamins including vitamin B9, protein, copper, iron and manganese.
This is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which play a role in the maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails.
These are high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, dietary fibre and are a source of phosphorous.
Rich in B vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5 and B9. These help the body to release energy from digested food. They also aid in the formation of red blood cells.
These are a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. According to the author Joanna Blythman, regular consumption of mussels can help improve brain function and reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Mussels are also a brilliant source of vitamins and packed with important minerals such as zinc, which helps build immunity. Mussels even contain levels of iron and vitamin B9 to rival red meats.
Let me blow your mind: olives are classified (botanically) as a fruit! A tangy, bitter, fatty little fruit. They are also a good source of vitamin E and fibre as well as a source of monounsaturated fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, ‘monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.’
A good source of both fibre and vitamin C. A US study states that ‘stone fruits such as peaches have been shown to ward off obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease’.3
A good source of vitamin C, as well as vitamin K, potassium and very small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and B9.
Low in total and saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, peas contain some protein; and vitamin A, C, K several B-vitamins including B2, B3, B6 and B9; magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper; and are a good source of dietary fibre.
This contains some vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6 and B9, potassium and magnesium. Uniquely for a fruit, pineapple contains high quantities of manganese.
37. Pinto beans
These are a good source of vitamin B1 and manganese; and contain some vitamin B9 and protein.
Tinned potatoes are a source of vitamins B6, C and fibre. They also contain some copper, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, vitamins B3 and B5.
These fruits are naturally high in fibre and contain small amounts of potassium in a standard serving of about 3 prunes (30g). Prunes are a good source of vitamin K and also contain some beta-carotene.
Containing fibre and vitamin C, rhubarb is also a source of vitamin K and calcium.
Tinned salmon is high in protein and essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a good source of selenium, calcium (if you eat the bones) and vitamins B2, B3, B6 and B12.
These little fish are a powerhouse of vitamins and nutrients; one small can contains the daily intake of vitamin B12 for an adult. Also rich in vitamins B2, B3 and D, selenium, phosphorous and calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
This leafy green vegetable is rich in vitamins B9 and C. Spinach contains vitamins A, B2 and E, protein, fibre, zinc, calcium and iron.
Canned sweetcorn contains fibre, vitamins B2, B3, B5 and C; magnesium; phosphorus and folic acid.
Are virtually fat- and cholesterol-free and a source of vitamin C. They also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene that become more easily absorbed with cooking.4
An excellent source of selenium; vitamins B3, B12, protein and a source of vitamin B2. tuna also contains the minerals choline and iodine.
47. Yellow split peas
Yellow split peas are a source of molybdenum. They are also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin B9 and manganese, as well as a source of protein. They also contain smaller amounts of vitamin B5, phosphorus and potassium.
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