10 Healthiest Canned Meats to Have On Hand

Non-perishable provisions such as canned foods are convenient, affordable, and easy to store for extended periods of time. In many cases, they can be a suitable solution to shopping and cooking problems. However, it is still unclear what effect they will have on our health. Many people hold different opinions about these foods' nutritional value–or lack thereof.

There is no benefit from collecting cans that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, or malnutrition. The best healthy canned foods contain low sodium and little added sugar. Keep your pantry stocked with these essential canned goods to whip up healthy, last-minute meals without sacrificing taste or nutrition. These are the best canned foods to keep on hand at all times!

Healthiest Canned Meat Food List

Canned Poultry

Canned chicken plated on blue plate on burlap mat

1. Canned Chicken Breast

Canned chicken tends to be low in sodium and can even be found with no added sodium. Moreover, chicken may have lesser heart disease potential than red meat and contains a rich nutrient profile.

Canned chicken breast is not only an excellent source of lean protein, but it is also a good source of vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc, as well as trace amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C (1). The nutritional values listed above support our energy production, muscle growth, and immune system. 

2. Canned Turkey

Like canned chicken, canned turkey tends to be lower in sodium and can be found with no added sodium. Turkey is an excellent source of protein, which is a great benefit to our bodies. Proteins are necessary for the body to build and repair bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, and tissues(2). 

Canned Fish

Assortment of canned fish

3. Canned Sardines

There are numerous nutrients in these small fish that may help prevent or treat several health conditions. Some of these nutrients may protect against certain cancers or help prevent heart disease.

In some cases, pregnant women and older adults are advised to eat sardines. Essential nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins, and other minerals can be found in them(3). 

4. Canned Anchovies

There are many significant health benefits associated with anchovies, including vitamins and minerals. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to promote heart and brain health. There is also selenium in anchovies, which may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer if consumed regularly.

Other health benefits of anchovies include heart health, thyroid protection, eye health, and Alzheimer's prevention(4). 

5. Canned Salmon

Fish such as salmon are among the most nutrient-dense foods available. In addition to being packed with nutrients, this popular fatty fish may even reduce some health risks.

Canned salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids; it's a great source of protein, high in b vitamins, and rich in minerals such as selenium and potassium(5). Thankfully it's easy to find a clean canned salmon with no added ingredients at local markets and online.

6. Canned Tuna

There are many varieties of seafood in the world, but tuna fish is one of the most popular. Tuna is not only abundant and delicious but also highly nutritious. 

Thanks to its rich nutritional profile, the health benefits of eating tuna include a lower risk of heart disease, prevention of vision problems, reduced risk of cancer, and weight loss support(6).

Although there are concerns with mercury consumption, chunk lite tuna is typically thought of as the safest to eat. The good news is that tuna–much like sardines and salmon–is high in omega-3 fatty acids and b vitamins. 

Canned Pork

Canned pork open on wood table surrounded by herbs

7. Canned Bacon

Canned bacon may not be the healthiest canned meat on this list, but it surprisingly has less sodium than other canned pork items. It's also high in protein, but it's still a processed meat product containing carcinogens. Though, the World Health Organization classifies all processed meats as class I carcinogens (7).

Sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrite are the particular ingredients behind canned bacon being dangerous and carcinogenic. Studies suggest various adverse health effects linked to the consumption of these ingredients. 

8. Canned Ham

Canned ham, in particular, is mechanically formed. Pork leg muscle meat is preserved, flavored, and finely chopped in this method, then reshaped and packaged.

Ham is a lean source of protein, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It's especially rich in selenium. Due to its rich nutritional profile, it is said to support weight loss, help maintain muscle mass, and reduce certain types of inflammation(8). 

Canned Beef

Canned beef

9. All Natural Canned Beef

Eighty-eight grams of protein is found in just one 14.5-ounce can of beef. In addition to providing vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and maintains nerve and red blood cell health, red meat also contains zinc, which assists the immune system(9).

Thankfully, this canned beef is not overly processed, and the ingredient label reads just beef and sea salt. But we wouldn't recommend chowing down on the entire can in one sitting, considering the relatively high sodium and fat content.

10. Canned Corned Beef Hash

Corned beef is processed red meat that is flavored and tenderized by bringing brisket in a salt solution.

Corned beef is a protein powerhouse that adds some essential nutrients to your diet, but it's still processed red meat that's loaded with sodium. In addition, it contains carcinogens that have been linked with an increased risk of health problems like heart disease and cancer(10).

Therefore, you may want to limit your consumption of corned beef to every now and then.

The Bottom Line

​​Even though meat has many health benefits, highly processed meats such as canned meat typically contain higher amounts of sodium, fat, and other chemicals. Although some canned meats are so processed, it's hard to believe they're meat at all.

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, two preservatives, are among the particularly troubling additives for some people.

Although sodium nitrate is not carcinogenic itself, the acids in your stomach can cause a carcinogenic compound to form. This chemical process is inhibited by ascorbic acid (which may also be found in preserved meats).

Since the amount of sodium nitrate in cured meat is extremely low, it's unlikely to pose a serious health risk unless you eat large quantities of it regularly. Though, there is a risk of mercury contamination associated with eating a lot of fish. Fish at the top of the food chain (such as tuna) contain more concentrated quantities of mercury. 

However, you can minimize the above risks by shopping carefully and sourcing canned meats with clean ingredient labels. On the hunt for more healthy, non-perishable provisions? Look no further!

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