The ability to preserve foodstuffs is essential for the evolution of human life and civilisation. It made it possible to store food to be used during periods of scarcity, periods otherwise leading to mass starvation and death. However, as with every great improvement of food availability, it comes with a loss of food quality. (So did even the Neolithic revolution, the introduction of agriculture, and the use of fire.) So what can we say about the quality of preserved food?
In Why Dietary Supplements are Needed, I wrote:
“Storage is another destructive factor. All fresh fruit are losing vitamins every second after having been picked from the plants. The same goes for all crops. An orange, for instance, is losing vitamin C from the moment it is picked. Long storage and time-consuming transportation hardly preserves any nutritional value.
Fruit are often picked before they are ripe, to ripen afterwards during storage or transportation. A fruit that is ripening after being separated from the plant and root will never develop full nutritional value!
All forms of preservation take their toll on nutrients, especially vitamins. Which method of preservation is the best and least harmful choice depends on the foodstuff we deal with, and what we mainly want to preserve in it. No general rule applies.”
The first method of preservation that was developed, was probably drying; initially in sunlight, later with the help of salt. Drying in sunlight is a fairly good way to preserve for instance certain fruit, but it comes at the cost of water soluble vitamins, especially vitamin C. When salt is used for preservation, it increases the number of foodstuffs that can be preserved, but it comes with its own extra dangers. In Why Salt Destroys Your Health - and Why People Like It, I wrote:
“Salting was the first widely used method of preserving food and it has surely been used as a preservative for millennia. As such, it was important and valuable. Not good for the health, but better than starving to death. After all, it provided the possibility to store food and use it later, in a period of scarcity. Today, however, it is not needed at all, except in times of extreme sweating. But people got used to it, so it remained in the cooking habits.”
In the same article, I describe why and how salt is harmful.
Modern methods of preservation include freezing and canning. Freezing is the best method for many foodstuffs, although not perfect. To an extent it can increase the availability of certain nutrients, by breaking the cells of the foodstuff. This is useful for us in case of certain hard plant cells, which we can not digest otherwise (unless heating them). If we cannot break them down, certain nutrients will remain unavailable for us.
So, how about canned food? Is it a healthy choice?
Generally speaking, no. What's canned is not fresh. It has often been boiled, salted or sugared, or put in oil, and the metal of the can poses an extra problem. For certain foodstuffs it remains the least bad method of preservation though, but that's not the same as if it were really good.
So not generally speaking - however, there are a few confusing exceptions.
If we measure the magnetic field that surrounds everything alive, it's still there for canned food in two cases: black beans and tomatoes. If this magnetic field is really a proof that something is living, black beans and tomatoes are indeed alive even after months enclosed in metal. This is a puzzling fact for which I have no explanation.
Canned cherries have been used to cure difficult disease, even cancer. This might have something to do with their high level of cyanide-related bioflavonoids, but it is unlikely that the flavonoids are still bioactive after many months in a sealed can. Perhaps there is some other unknown substance at work here? Whatever the case, canned cherries are healing.
The real superpower here, however, is sardines in oil. It is one of the best sources of co-enzyme Q10 we know of. Sardines are also rich in many vitamins and minerals, and in Omega-3 fatty acids which combat inflammations and cardiovascular disease. Sardines in oil are very healing despite being indisputably dead. This might be explained by Q10 and Omega-3, but what's puzzling is that there is no living alternative offering the same curative power.
Fresh sardines? They still offer the vitamins and minerals, but not the same high level of Q10, and they don't possess the strong healing properties of canned sardines in oil.
I also want to include canned mackerel. It is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Better than buying a fish oil supplement. The mackerel doesn't lose any nutritional value by being canned.
Canned mackerel and sardines come in many brands and prices. There is no reason to buy the most expensive labels, the price does not reflect quality. Just try the labels you have available and let the taste determine what is best.
Finally... 100% natural and unprocessed honey is a natural preservative. If you put something in a jar with pure honey and seal it, it holds almost forever.
Why Dietary Supplements are Needed
Why Salt Destroys Your Health - and Why People Like It
Co-Enzyme Q10 & Carnitine
Understanding Dietary Fats Part 1 (of 2)
Understanding Dietary Fats Part 2 (of 2)
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(Lead image by heberhard/Pixabay, CC0/Public Domain.)
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