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For an anti-inflammatory, anti-aging nutrient boost, crack open a can of peaches
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“To can or not to can”...that’s what Hamlet should have been asking. But I won’t dare rewrite Shakespeare, instead, I will ask whether canned food should have a place in your healthy gourmet kitchen. 

I am working with the California Cling Peach Board, so I wanted to figure out their health benefits. I already know that I love peaches, and waiting 11 months for my fix isn’t fun, so in the winter months, I find myself turning to the canned variety.

Here is what I discovered: canned peaches (which are picked ripe, at their peak) deliver a promising amount of nutrients that are actually enhanced by the canning process.  Vitamin A, folate, lycopene and some anti-oxidants are made more bioavailable by the heating and canning process. But the truly impressive nutrient is Vitamin E.

Vitamin E is a fat soluble anti-inflammatory, anti-aging nutrient that is usually associated with nuts and seeds.  And while those little bites are great for you, a small handful is all you can eat each day because of their caloric punch. Fruit sources, on the other hand, can be layered in without worry and consumed in satisfyingly high amounts.

There is even research to support that the canning process actually enhances the eye-protecting nutrients of leutin and zeaxanthan, as well as lycopene.

Some of the other cans that I always have on hand include:

  • evaporated milk for coffee, hot chocolate and smoothies. It has all the creaminess and twice the calcium and protein but none of the fat found in cream.
  • Low sodium chicken broth for quick soups.
  • Refried beans for quick burritos or nachos.
  • Clams for stirring into pasta with garlic and parmesan cheese

February was National Canned Food Month and March is Nutrition Month, and I see no reason why the two can’t get along.

Curried Peach Pork Tenderloin
This is one of those mildly curried dishes that takes no time to prepare and is a family-friendly quickie.

Makes 4 servings

Takes: 30 minutes

Recipe developed by Theresa Albert

You’ll Need

  • 1 pork tenderloin (1.5 pounds) cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and divided
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can clingstone peach slices, juice reserved
  • 1 cup sweet white wine
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • Pea shoots for garnish, optional

Prep and Cook

  1. Combine curry and chili powders, one clove of garlic and olive oil in a large freezer bag. Add pork tenderloin and rub spice mixture into meat. Set aside on counter for a few minutes, or place in fridge to marinate for up to 24 hours.
  2. In a small pot combine juice from clingstone peaches (but set aside peaches themselves until later), wine, vinegar and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10–20 minutes to reduce into a sauce. Stir in peaches and reduce heat to keep warm until pork is cooked.
  3. Empty pork into a casserole dish and bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Add the peach sauce and cook for 5-10 more minutes.  Garnish with pea shoots or other herb greens.

  4. Image of peaches from Shutterstock.

    Theresa is a Food Communications Specialist and Nutritionist. Her French Canadian influences are a part of her 'no bologna' style as everything is on the table...not just the dinner. She has the unique ability to distill complex health concepts into simple, savvy steps to improve any lifestyle choice. Theresa is a sought after media commentator and lifestyle pundit on many topics with a particular fascination with human relationships with food and culture. She has two books published in Canada and the US: Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day and Ace Your Health, 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck. She can be found on Twitter as @theresaalbert and at www.myfriendinfood.com.
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how to read a nutrition label
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Labels are critical to help you keep track of your things. The same is true of the food labels that appear on every package in North American grocery stores, and those labels are subject to certain standards under the law.

There are also private labeling systems in place. The Health Check System in Canada, which is a Heart and Stroke Foundation initiative, comes to mind as one that hasn’t lived up to rigorous enough standards.

In the US, there is the Hannaford Guiding Stars System, which is now implemented in Loblaw’s stores in Canada. It’s a ‘quick peek’ rating system to help customers identify the healthier products. Each product is given a rating of one, two, or three stars by a third-party panel of experts. Points are weighted according to the presence of positive attributes (like protein and fibre) and the absence of negative (white sugar, flour, salt, fat, etc.). It is a great quick way to help you pick up the best in class.

No matter the rating system on the product, once you get your products home, take the time to actually read the label and focus on:

  • The Ingredient List. The first three items should be real, whole foods and the list should be as short as possible and completely recognizable.
  • The serving size.  Be sure you know that the serving size is not the recommended amount that you should eat, but a reference number upon which the nutritional information is calculated.
  • % of Daily Value. The number chosen is for a 2000 calorie per day diet which represents an average. And you are not average. So much can affect how many calories are right for you.  Be sure that you know how many calories are right for you, your number could be higher or lower.
  • Slippery Sodium. Health Canada estimates that 88% of our salt intake comes from packaged foods, so simply putting away the salt shaker isn’t the solution. Packages contain a ‘% Daily Value’ amount that is too high so it obscures the facts. Most health care professionals recommend around 1500 mg per day as a maximum. Nutrition labels allow 2400 mg per day (because the Canadian average is around 3300). Be sure that this is a percentage that you stay well below. There are ways to reduce your sodium, but in the meantime, read every package, add up your sources for a day and do not go above 75% of the ‘% DV’.
  • There are only 13 ‘important nutrients’ that must be listed on a label. But of course, a healthy diet contains much, much more. If a piece of fruit listed all of its nutrients, the label would wrap around it many times over.

Most of your nutrients will actually be coming from whole foods, so be sure that this is also where most of your calories come from and you will be right on track.

Image of reading a nutrition label from Shutterstock

Theresa is a Food Communications Specialist and Nutritionist. Her French Canadian influences are a part of her 'no bologna' style as everything is on the table...not just the dinner. She has the unique ability to distill complex health concepts into simple, savvy steps to improve any lifestyle choice. Theresa is a sought after media commentator and lifestyle pundit on many topics with a particular fascination with human relationships with food and culture. She has two books published in Canada and the US: Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day and Ace Your Health, 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck. She can be found on Twitter as @theresaalbert and at www.myfriendinfood.com.
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