Back in the late 18th century, canning began its evolution when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte issued a challenge for someone to come up with a safe way to preserve food in quantity to feed his troops. Now, canned food is a part of everyday life.

In the canning process, food is sealed into an airtight, cleaned and sterilized container using heat to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that cause food to spoil. Over the years, the processing conditions have been dramatically refined so the best texture, greatest flavor and maximum nutrition are retained in canned foods.

Myths about canned foods are abundant. Here is some “food for thought” to help reveal the truths:

Myth 1: Canned food is high in sodium. Fact: No sodium (or other preservative) is needed to make canned food safe. Salt is added simply to enhance the taste of a particular food. In fact, “no sodium” and “low sodium” options are readily available for many products. Draining and rinsing canned food before use reduces sodium levels 23-40 percent according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Myth 2: All canned fruit is high in sugar. Fact: Besides those fruits canned with heavy and light syrups made with added sugar, many canned fruits are available packed in their own juice or water. Just as with rinsing added sodium from vegetables, rinsing fruit before serving can reduce the amount of added sugar.

Myth 3: Fresh food is best. Fact: In a University of California-Davis study, researchers found when a food is eaten, regardless of being fresh, (frozen) or canned, the nutrient levels are not significantly different. Researchers at Michigan State University found a nutritional advantage in certain foods for canned vs. fresh fruits and vegetables.

From olives to tuna and pureed pumpkin to evaporated milk, canning is a healthy way to decrease food waste, increase convenience of perishable foods and save money. Canning also increases the variety of nutritional fruits and vegetables available to consumers in the Midwest where food is not grown year-round.

Remember - if a can is leaking, bulging, dented, cracked, discolored or smells bad, DON'T USE IT! Take advantage of specials and stock up on canned foods for great taste, economy, variety, convenience and nutritional benefit.

Try this great-tasting recipe using canned fruits to see for yourself how delicious, nutritious and easy it is to take advantage of canned fruits. Unlike fresh fruits, these canned fruits are ready to use!

Apricots and cherries with ricotta and thyme

All you need:

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or sea salt) 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons balsamic glacé (thicker than vinegar) 2 (28-ounce each) cans pitted apricot halves in light syrup, drained 1 (15-ounce) can tart red cherries, pitted, drained 4 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme 3/4 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese 1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

All you do: 1. Preheat broiler to high. Move rack to second position from the heat element. 2. Mix together salt, olive oil and balsamic glacé in small bowl. 3. Place drained fruit in 8.5-by-11-inch jelly roll or other pan lightly coated with pan spray - apricots first, and then cherries scattered evenly throughout the pan. 4. Drizzle olive oil mixture evenly over the fruit. Lay thyme sprigs on top of the fruit. 5. Broil fruit mixture (not too close to flame; adjust shelf position if needed) until tender, juicy and slightly gooey. The edges may brown or even begin to blacken as sugars caramelize (approximately 15 minutes). 6. Remove from oven; tuck spoonsful of ricotta around the cooked fruit. Sprinkle with goat cheese. 7. Return pan to broiler until cheese is slightly brown and melted. 8. Remove pan from broiler; carefully remove charred thyme sprigs if desired. Sprinkle broiled fruit with chopped fresh parsley and thyme. 9. Serve immediately on pieces of grilled whole grain bread, whole wheat pita wedges, water crackers or other plain cracker of choice.

This dish pairs nicely with a green salad and grilled chicken or fish. Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Pacific Coast Producers

Nutrient Facts: Per serving: 280 calories (50 calories from fat), 57 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein, 6 g fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at