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On Nutrition: Confusion reigns about canned food nutrition

On Nutrition: Confusion reigns about canned food nutrition

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Dear Dr. Blonz: We are doing a project on nutrition labeling at school. I have noticed that fruits or foods (such as tuna) can be packed with a liquid that contains calories from sugar or oil. Does the listing of calories per serving include the calories from the liquid? If I drained most of the juice or oil off the food before eating it, approximately how many calories (or fat grams if appropriate) would be saved? Here’s the info from a single-serving can of peaches: serving size 1 cup; calories: 120; total fat: 0 grams; sodium: 15 milligrams; potassium: 150 milligrams; total carbohydrates: 29 grams; fiber: 2 grams; sugars: 27 grams. Here is the ingredient list: peach slices, water, sugar, natural flavor, citric acid and ascorbic acid. — B.T., Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dear B.T.: The Nutrition Facts panel describes the portion upon which the numbers are based. There may be brand-to-brand differences. If there is no statement that the nutrition information is based on drained contents, it should be assumed that the serving is a portion of the entire contents. In the example you provide, it would be the entire contents of the can, including the juice.

There is, of course, the option of draining the liquid to avoid some of the sugar calories. You can also decrease sugar and carbohydrate calories by using fresh fruits or fruits packed in water, rather than heavy syrup, or doing a fresh-water rinse of fruits packed with the syrup. With tuna, a similar goal would be achieved by draining the oil, but there will always be some oil left. (Be aware that the oil used in canned tuna is usually vegetable oil, not the omega-3-rich oil found in tuna.) You can select a brand of tuna that is packed in water.

Although not in the case you cite, products often list the nutritional value of the drained contents. For your project, consider creating a table that lists the nutrition facts between similar serving sizes of drained fruit from different liquids. By comparing the same portion from brands packed in light syrup, juice and heavy syrup, and comparing these with one packed in water, you can see the number and type of calories the accompanying liquid leaves behind after draining. For tuna, you can do this with the drained oil-pack vs. water-pack cans.

Dear Dr. Blonz: I read an article written by a respected scientist who said that dairy foods and beef contain trans fatty acids naturally. I had thought that they were the result of hydrogenation or high-processing temperatures. — W.P., Sun City, Arizona

Dear WP: Small amounts of trans fatty acids can be formed by the bacteria that normally live in the rumen of the digestive system of cattle. (The rumen is the part of the bovine digestive system that helps break down the grasses, shrubs and grains consumed by the cow.) These are different from the ones formed during the commercial process of partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. There is no evidence that the naturally formed trans fats represent a health risk, especially given the small amount present.


(Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He is the author of the digital book “The Wellness Supermarket Buying Guide” (2012), which is also available as a free digital resource at blonz.com/guide.)

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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