Canning is one of the most reliable and economical forms of food processing available today. Believed to have been invented in the early 1800s, it was first employed to preserve food for the military troops while out on deployment, but then grew in popularity to become a standard way of preserving and delivering food to the masses.
The methods of canning used in the 1800s are similar to those used today: the food is placed into a sealed can or jar, heated to a certain temperature, and then kept sealed until use. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that Louis Pasteur explained why food treated this way didn’t spoil: the heat killed off the microbes, including bacteria, and the sealing kept any new ones from entering.
Though fresh foods are often touted for their nutritional value, studies have found little difference overall in the nutrient content of fresh versus canned foods. Today’s canned foods can be subject to extensive processing, though, which can break down some of the nutritious compounds. Some manufacturers may add unhealthy ingredients, too, including extra-sugary syrups, additives, and salt.
Many cans are also lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), a plasticizing chemical linked with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, fertility problems, and hormone disruption, though levels found in the lining of cans today are low and believed to be safe.
Though we may prefer fresh or frozen foods for optimal health, there are times when canned foods can come in handy. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many families turned to canned foods to stock their cupboards. Emergency preparedness programs also call for canned goods, and sometimes the food you need can only be found in cans.
Fortunately, manufacturers are responding to consumer demand, and many of today’s canned foods are healthier than ever before. We recently reviewed dozens of them, looking at factors like nutritional content, additives, extra ingredients (salt, sugar), lining (BPA or not?) organic options, and cost. All of these top-rated canned foods can be purchased online at Amazon.
We’ve identified Amy’s Hearty Minestrone with Vegetables as our top-pick. It’s USDA certified organic with a healthy mix of vegetables, grains, and lentils that provides a nutritious, complete meal.
The 5 Top-Rated Canned Foods
|Best Canned Food Overall||Amy’s Hearty Minestrone with Vegetables||4.3|
|Best Canned Vegetable||Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans||4.2|
|Best Budget Canned Food||Rosarita Traditional Refried Beans||4.6|
|Best Canned Meat||Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna||4.6|
|Best Canned Fruit||Dole Pineapple Slices||4.4|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change.
Best Canned Food Overall: Amy’s Hearty Minestrone and Vegetables
Soup makes a great canned good as you can use it as a side dish or a complete meal. That’s one of the reasons why we chose Amy’s Hearty Minestrone with Vegetables as our top pick—not only will provide you and your family with a healthy meal in tough times, but it’s also a great choice anytime as the hearty, rich flavor is likely to be a favorite among adults and kids alike.
This product has been USDA-certified organic—a seal of quality you can trust. It’s full of vegetables, including tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, leeks, celery, green beans, turnips, carrots, and more, plus lentils and pasta for texture, along with garlic, sea salt, and basil for flavor. One cup gives you 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, but it’s low in fat and saturated fat.
Best of all, you get all this goodness in a non-BPA lined can. We’ve chosen the minestrone here as it makes a tasty, hearty meal, but Amy’s makes many other organic soups as well that you may enjoy.
Amy’s Hearty Minestrone with Vegetables Key Features:
- USDA-certified organic
- Packed with nutritious vegetables
- Good source of fiber and protein
- Non-BPA lined cans
- Low in fat
Best Canned Vegetable: Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans
Manufacturers like to add sugar to their canned vegetables. Strange, right? At home, we wouldn’t pour sugar on our peas or corn, but companies like to do that. I guess they think more people will buy sweet-tasting vegetables. But we get way too much sugar in our diets as it is—we don’t need more with our asparagus.
Fortunately, you can enjoy canned green beans without the added sugar if you choose Del Monte Cut Green Beans. The only thing the manufacturer adds is a little bit of sea salt, which makes a lot more sense than sugar. Don’t worry—the added salt only makes up 16 percent of your daily intake, so even if you’re on a low-salt diet you’ll still be okay.
Green beans, of course, are healthy anytime and provide a good supply of potassium, a little fiber, and protein too. Del Monte picks these at the peak of ripeness and packs them within hours so they taste fresh, and because they’re green beans, you can use them as-is for a side dish, or add them to your pasta or casseroles for a bit of vegetable goodness.
Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans Key Features:
- No added sugar
- Contains a dash of sea salt for taste
- Picked at the peak of ripeness
- Finely sliced and ready to serve
- Perfect for adding to casseroles and pastas
Best Budget Canned Food: Rosarita Traditional Refried Beans
America loves its refried beans, and why not? It’s a healthy food, low in fat and high in protein, plus it’s a great source of fiber, with one serving giving you about a quarter of what you need for the day. It’s packed with potassium, which you need for healthy blood pressure, strong bones, and optimal muscle maintenance, and it fits a low-carb lifestyle, as it has only 10 grams of net carbs per serving.
Rosarita Traditional Refried Beans are popular on the market and for good reason. Each can contains pretty much all cooked beans, with a little bit of salt, vinegar, and spices, and less than two percent of lard (but no trans fats). Even better news: You can get a 16-oz. can for about a dollar or less. That means you can feed your family on a budget, and know they’ll enjoy what they’re eating!
Refried beans are super versatile. Use them for authentic Mexican-style dishes and sides that you can whip up in just a few minutes, as these beans are heat-and-serve.
Rosasrita Traditional Refried Beans Key Features:
- Low-fat, high-fiber food
- Made with beans, salt, and spices
- Healthy food for a great price
- Extremely versatile—use them in a wide variety of Mexican-style dishes
- High protein content keeps you satisfied
Best Canned Meat: Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna
One of the concerns with tuna is that it’s being overfished in unsustainable ways. Another is that the nets used to catch tuna can inadvertently trap dolphins and other marine life too, harming them and sometimes killing them.
Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna does tuna right: it’s the number-one-rated Greenpeace tuna brand, so that tells you something. The company follows current fishing recommendations, using pole & line catching methods (rather than nets) to help maintain natural fish populations and natural habitats.
In one can you get only the tuna and a bit of sea salt to taste, so no extra oils to add fat and calories. Tuna is a wonderful source of protein and will keep you satisfied for hours, plus it’s a much healthier choice than lunchmeat, as it’s low in fat and contains no potentially dangerous nitrates.
Tuna is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved cardiovascular health. Use it for a simple lunchtime sandwich, add it to crackers for a healthy snack, toss a little with your salad to make it more satisfying, or use it instead of beef in your dinnertime pastas.
Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna Key Features:
- Sustainably sourced wild tuna
- No extra oils—simply tuna and a dash of sea salt
- Number-one Greenpeace tuna brand
- Rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids
- Versatile food perfect for lunch, dinner, and snacks
Best Canned Fruit: Dole Pineapple Slices
Most of us would prefer fresh fruit to canned. Fresh is usually healthier too, simply because companies often add a lot of sugar and heavy syrups to canned options. But if you’re in a situation where you can’t get fresh, a can of Dole Pineapple Slices is a great choice.
It doesn’t contain added sugars—all the sugar is naturally occurring from the fruit. Plus it comes in a can that’s BPA-free, which is wonderful considering that pineapples are pretty acidic and could encourage any chemicals in the lining to leach into the food. The Dole brand is also NON-GMO certified, meaning that the fruit has not been genetically modified.
Pineapples are naturally high in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant linked with helping to boost the immune system while reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and protecting memory and thinking. They’re a versatile fruit too, perfect on meat sandwiches, in salads, as a side dish, or of course, in pineapple upside-down cake!
Dole has other brands of canned fruits as well, all packed in 100% fruit juice.
Dole Pineapple Slices Key Features:
- Packed in a BPA-free can
- No added sugar—packed in 100% pineapple juice (with no added sugar)
- High in vitamin C for a healthy immune system
- Non-GMO certified
- Perfect for sandwiches, side dishes, and desserts
It’s good to know that you can stock your emergency shelves with healthy, nutritious canned foods. To make sure you’re completely prepared, try our Best Freeze Dried Foods and Best Grocery Delivery Services.