Time Cover - What to eat now

Dr Oz: A new cheerleader for canned and frozen food

A recent Time Magazine’s front cover (December 3, 2012) and lead article will please food industrialists. It’s entitled “What to Eat Now: The Anti-Food-Snob Diet” by Dr Mehmet Oz, the vice chairman and professor surgery at Columbia University, a best-selling author and the host of the Emmy Award-winning “The Dr Oz Show”. It’s a hurrah for the food industry, in fact.

In his article, Dr Oz points out that there’s little difference between the produce that you find at the farmer’s market and what you can find in the freezer case and the canned produce aisle of your own supermarket.

“Forget what the foodies and gourmands tell you, he advises. Some of the tastiest and healthiest food around is also the least expensive and most ordinary. And you need go no further than the supermarket to find it.

“After several years of research and experience, I have come to an encouraging conclusion: the American food supply is abundant, nutritionally sound, affordable and, with a few simple considerations, comparable to the most elite organic diets,” Dr Oz writes. “Save the cash: the 99% diet can be good for you.”

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) agreed with Dr Oz’s assessment. Noting that many people are limited by a busy schedule, tiny cooking spaces or a lack of kitchen equipment, it points out that frozen meals can expand food options while also offering tasty and healthy meals.

“Another benefit of frozen meals is that freezing retains much of the food’s vitamin and mineral content, so eating frozen meals on a regular basis can be healthy as long as you make good choices,” an IFAS tip sheet states. “The use of effective freezing methods helps to maintain the original texture and good taste of food.”

IFAS also offers that some brands of frozen meals may a help with weight management since portion sizes are controlled. Furthermore, these meals can be used to reach nutritional goals set by high-fibre or high-fat diets. The tip sheet suggests checking the nutritional content listing on the food label to identify total calories, fibre, fat, sodium and nutrients that are in the meal.

Dr Oz notes that the blanching process that is used in freezing many vegetables can increase the fibre content of food, which is beneficial. He also points out that water-soluble vitamins, which include vitamin C and the various B vitamins, do better when steamed. Other vitamins and nutrients, such as carotenoids, thiamin and riboflavin, are not affected by freezing, which means you will get the full nutritional value of these vegetables.

Dr Oz also stresses that canned food is another healthy option.  He notes that fibre and nutrient content often stays high in these products. Furthermore, the heat treatment required to actually can cause carotenes, which are believed to reduce eye problems as well as cancer rates, to be more accessible for absorption.

He adds that studies also have found that canned foods often are a more efficient way to get food based on cost, time and waste than fresh food, and that canned pinto beans were a dollar less per serving than dried pinto beans while canned spinach was 85% cheaper than fresh spinach.

Furthermore, Dr Oz says that canned fish and meats still have the same protein content as what you would find at the meat counter. He also advocates for preserves and jams that do not have sugar added as being a great source of several important nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and dietary fibre.