The Interior, Part 4: The Canned Goods Section

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Canned goods have an often undeserved bad reputation.  True, the sodium is often high, as can be the sugar, and some cans are lined with bisphenol A (BPA).  However, many low-sodium products are available, including vegetables and fish canned without added salt.  Similarly, fruits are available in juice, as opposed to heavy syrup, thereby sparing a considerable amount of sugar.  These days, perhaps due to the BPA concern, several traditionally canned products, such as soups and beans, are now available in boxes instead.

Beans are cheap protein sources that also provide plenty of fiber.  Garbanzo beans, for example, are available in boxes without any added salt, and many people enjoy them on top of a salad as a change of pace from grilled chicken, tuna, or other animal-based proteins.  Canned tuna, sardines, and salmon all provide protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in a shelf-stable form that can conveniently wait in your pantry until you need them.  Because sardines and canned salmon often (but not always) contain edible bones, they are great sources of calcium as well.  For those who are concerned about potential BPA in the cans, salmon and tuna also come in packets.

I have seen patients of mine utilize canned/boxed soups in different ways.  One popular method of controlling calorie intake is to begin a meal with a broth-based soup such as minestrone, vegetable, or chicken.  Such soups are relatively low in calories and can help make one feel full without contributing much in the way of calories.  In other words, if someone has a smaller portion of his entrée and substitutes some broth-based soup instead, the overall meal will likely be lower in calories.  I also see patients who will mix together a broth-based soup with frozen vegetables, sprinkle in some nuts or beans for extra protein, add in some frozen brown rice, and bring the concoction to work as a healthy lunch that requires virtually no preparation and nothing but a microwave to heat.

My neighborhood store stocks oils in the canned goods aisle too.  Coincidentally, I write this at the same time as I am preparing for an upcoming guest appearance on Beyond Strong with Jessica R. on which I will be discussing fats.  I could write an entire blog series about fats, but for the sake of discussing them in the context of this blog entry, I will streamline the topic into just a few points.

  1. Olive oil is not the only healthy oil on store shelves; there are plenty of others, too.
  2. Opt for fats that are liquid at room temperature (e.g., olive, canola, soybean, corn) as they tend to have a healthier ratio of unsaturated-to-saturated fat in comparison to those that are solid at room temperature (e.g., coconut, palm, palm kernel).
  3. Fats help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as the phytochemical lycopene, so consider skipping the fat-free salad dressing and instead choose one that has some fat in it.  Even better, choose a dressing high in monounsaturated fat (such as one made primarily with olive oil).  One research study I read found that it took just three grams of monounsaturated fat to achieve the same level of vitamin A absorption achieved with 20 grams of other fats.
  4. Not all oils are meant for use at the same temperature, so check the bottle to make sure the one you are selecting fits your intended use.  For example, extra virgin olive oil, with a smoke point (the temperature at which oil begins to break down) of 320-375o F, works well for low-heat cooking and salad dressings.  In contrast, canola oil has a higher smoke point of 468o F, making it a better choice for sautéing and stir-frying.

Next installment, I will discuss the baking goods section . . .

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