Tinned food: Is it healthy?

Tinned foods

Did you hear me talking to Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland about this?

I am a nutritionist and I eat tinned food. Tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, cannelini beans, black eye beans (and many other beans), baked beans, lentils, sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon, coconut milk, peaches, pears, pineapple. Yes, that’s a long list but my point is, I eat them too. Regularly.

You may think tinned foods are unhealthy but it is not as simple as that.

Some things to think about when you are choosing tinned foods:


Some foods have added salt in them. Too much salt can increase blood pressure so we want to reduce our salt intake as a nation. Compare their labels to other similar foods when making a choice. For example, if you are buying tinned soup – compare it to a fresh one or a packet one, if you are buying tinned fish, compare the one in brine to the one on oil or spring water or tomato sauce. Always compare per 100g.

Adults should have a maximum of 6 grams of salt a day so you don’t really want your soup to give you more than 2 grams per portion (you’ll get the rest from your other 2 meals).


Sugar is added to unusual things like sauces but it is also added to fruit in the form of syrup. Whilst fruit naturally contains sugar, we ideally want our sugar to come from the whole fruit. If you are buying tinned fruit, opt for the ones in juice. Drain off the juice and have it as a separate portion of fruit. (80g of fresh fruit is a portion or 150ml juice).

Processed meat

Some meats have preservatives added in the processing. These can be harmful in large amounts. The quality of the meat in tins tends to lean more towards processed meats. If you can, avoid regular consumption of tinned processed meat. Opt for beans, lentils and tinned fish which are less processed for your protein if you are relying on tinned foods.

Omega 3

There is slightly less omega 3 in tinned fish than fresh fish. It is still a good source of omega 3 and a much cheaper alternative. Sardines are less affected than salmon so are a great option when it comes to tinned fish.

Vitamins loss

There is some vitamin loss in the canning process especially water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins. They shouldn’t be the only foods you eat so it is good to have some fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fresh starchy foods and proteins to make up for this.


Whether you are buying tinned potatoes or tinned peaches, it is important to remember that they don’t have the skins on so they are lower in fibre than eating their fresh counterparts with the skin on. If you are limited to canned foods, adding pulses like beans and lentils is a good way of increasing the fibre content of your diet.

Soups are likely to be lower in fibre too, so why not add a handful of frozen veg to your soup to add some extra fibre (and one of your 5 a day!)


Research showed increased levels in the urine after drinking tinned soup compared with fresh soup. There is limited evidence though. The Food Standards Agency have concluded that this does not pose a risk to human health. If you are concerned about this, you might want to consider making your own.

Meals I cook with tinned foods

Bean curry – using tinned beans, tinned tomatoes and onion, garlic and curry powder (and fresh coriander if you like it) like this BBC recipe

Sardine pasta – using tinned sardines in tomato sauce and frozen peas, stirred into pasta

Jacket potato with tuna and sweetcorn

Thai chicken and chickpea curry – using tinned coconut milk and chickpeas, alongside curry paste, chicken and other veg.

Lentil and beef burgers – when making homemade burgers, I add a tin of drained green lentils to increase the fibre and reduce the cost of the mix. They work well in kebabs, Bolognese and chilli too.


Tinned food can be useful in the diet. They shouldn’t make up the whole diet though and looking at labels is helpful to choose better options. Making sure you get variety, as with all nutrition, is important.

This article is meant for information purposes and does not constitute individual dietary advice

Image by Monica from Pixabay

Published by Aliya Porter

An experienced Registered Nutritionist helping you to live healthily without breaking the bank or chaining you to the kitchen.

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