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Can canned fruit be healthy?

Canned fruits are a staple in many Australian and New Zealand households for a reason – they’re convenient, easy to store, have a long shelf life, are versatile and budget friendly. 

As people become more conscious about consuming healthy foods, they may have questions about the nutritional value of canned fruit - is it high in sugar, and can canned fruit be part of a healthy diet?

How is fruit prepared for canning?

Canned fruit will be processed in slightly different ways depending on the fruit that’s being preserved. Most commercial canned fruit producers will begin by washing and preparing the fruits e.g. peeling skins, removing stones, chopping or slicing, etc. The fruit will then be added to cans along with water, syrups, juices and other ingredients. The filled and sealed cans will then go through a series of heat sterilisation processes to neutralise bacteria and preserve the contents.

Does canning affect the nutritional value of fruit?

Most fruit manufacturers attempt to process fruit as soon as possible after picking. This helps to maintain freshness and the nutritional value of the product being preserved. 

Some canned fruit may have additional juices or syrups which can add extra kilojoules and carbohydrates to the product. However, on average, the variance in nutritional value between canned and fresh fruit is minimal. 

As an example, below is a comparison of the micronutrient content of fresh and canned pineapple. The major difference between fresh and canned is the folate and Vitamin C content. 

 

 

Thiamin (mg/100g)

Riboflavin (mg/100g)

Niacin (mg/100g)

Vitamin B6 (mg/100g)

Folate (mg/100g)

Vitamin C (mg/100g)

Pineapple, peeled, raw

0.055

0.015

0.05

0.11

18

17

Pineapple, canned in pineapple juice

0.07

0

0

0.07

5

6

Pineapple, canned in pineapple juice, drained

0.05

0.015

0.1

0.08

5

12

Pineapple, canned in syrup

0.05

0

0

0.07

5

8

Pineapple, canned in syrup, drained

0.06

0

0

0.07

5

8

Data has been taken from the FSANZ Australian Food Composition Database.

As long as we consume a variety of different fresh, canned, frozen and dried fruits, these minor nutritional differences are not critical and won’t lead to any nutrient deficiencies.

Do canned fruits contain more sugar than fresh fruit?

Canned fruits will contain sugar, however most of the sugar content comes from naturally occurring sugars in the fruit. The sugar content of canned varieties compared to fresh fruit will depend on the canning process, whether juices or syrups were added to the canned fruit and whether the canned fruits are eaten with or without the juice or syrup. In general, canned fruit with added juice or syrup will have a higher sugar content than the fresh fruit.

The table below compares the sugar content of fresh and canned varieties of pineapple (eaten with or without the juice or syrup) as an example. The additional sugar and kilojoules we see in canned pineapple is mostly from the added juice or syrup.

 

Energy (kJ/100g)

Carbohydrate (g/100g)

Sugars (g/100g)

Protein (g/100g)

Fat (g/100g)

Pineapple, peeled, raw

178

8.2

8.2

0.6

0.2

Pineapple, canned in pineapple juice

236

12

12

0.5

0.6

Pineapple, canned in pineapple juice, drained

206

10.5

10.5

0.5

0.1

Pineapple, canned in syrup

360

19.8

19.8

0.3

0.6

Pineapple, canned in syrup, drained

345

19.4

19.4

0.2

0.3

Data has been taken from the FSANZ Australian Food Composition Database.

Canned fruit can certainly be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Dietary Guidelines say canned fruit (without added sugars) is a suitable option to reach your recommended serves of fruit per day. With the differences in nutritional value being decidedly minor if eaten in moderation, canned fruit is a convenient and nutritious alternative, particularly when fresh fruit is not available. 

 

REFERENCE

  • Rickman JC, Barrett DM & Bruhn CM. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds J Sci Food Agric, 87:930-944.
  • Rickman JC, Barrett DM & Bruhn CM. (2007). Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables II. Vitamin A and carotenoids, vitamin E, minerals and fibre. J Sci Food Agric, 87:1185-1196.
  • McGinnis M, Gustashaw KAR. & Painter JE. (2020). Fruit myth or fact: Is fresh fruit better than unsweetened frozen or canned fruit. Nutrition Today, 55(6):322-327.
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Food Composition Database – Release 1.0. Accessed 27 Jan 2021 at: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/afcd/pages/default.aspx
  • NHMRC (2013). Australian Dietary Guidelines. Accessed 27 Jan 2021 at: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf

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