Comparative Nutritional Analysis
of Fresh, Frozen and Canned Products

Canned Products  
Canned Fruits and Vegetables:
How Do They Stack Up?

The University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition conducted a comprehensive nutritional label analysis comparing the nutritive values of 14 different fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. Of that, nearly 84 different varieties and commercial brands were examined for nutritional content.

Results confirm that, in most cases, canned fruits and vegetables are nutritionally equal to their fresh and frozen counterparts when prepared for the table. The analysis also found incidence where certain private-label and branded canned products, such as potatoes, spinach, apricots, carrots and pumpkin actually exceeded the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) requirement of certain vitamins, as listed on nutrition labels.

The analysis includes information compiled from both the USDA's data bank values for fresh, canned and frozen foods, which provide representative values, and from nutrition labels. Experts agree data bank values are good guidelines to nutrient content, but labels are viewed as providing more realistic values. All comparisons are based upon recommended serving sizes of fruits and vegetables from the dietary guidelines, which include 1/2 cup of fresh-cooked, canned or frozen and 1 cup (or 1/2 cup) of uncooked. Additionally, the analysis shows comparisons between the processed and the fresh values. Keep in mind that the "fresh" values may be "fresh from the field" not "retail-market fresh," which most consumers eat.

"Consumers can feel good about selecting canned fruits and vegetables along with either fresh or frozen foods as a means of getting the nutrients they expect from the fruit and vegetable group," said Barbara Klein, Ph.D. And professor, Foods and Nutrition, at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Canned Fruits
  • Apricots: Canned apricots are a good source of vitamin A (as carotene) and are comparable to the vitamin A content provided by the fresh and frozen varieties. The average serving (1/2 cup) of canned apricots in juice provide 21% of the RDI for vitamin A.
  • Cherries: In comparing the vitamin A and vitamin C contents of 1 cup of raw cherries and a 1/2 cup of canned cherries, even pie filling, the values are comparable. Plus, canned cherries have more vitamin A than frozen cherries.
  • Peaches: Both fresh and canned peaches provide about the same amount of the RDI for vitamin A (as carotene) and vitamin C. Higher levels of vitamin C in frozen peaches come from added ascorbic acid, which is used to maintain color.
  • Pineapple: The fresh and canned varieties are very good sources of vitamin C, providing more than 20% of the RDI. Both are comparable in their RDI percentages. The only difference is one comes ready to eat. Ever peel a pineapple?
Canned Vegetables
  • Asparagus: The vitamin A and C contents of canned asparagus are nutritionally comparable to fresh-cooked and frozen asparagus. In fact, the USDA's data bank value of the vitamin C content of canned asparagus is higher than fresh-cooked asparagus.
  • Carrots: Most varieties of canned carrots provide at least 100% of the RDI for vitamin A. The study shows comparable vitamin A content in fresh-cooked, canned and frozen carrots. Certain canned brands surpass their frozen counterparts and edge out the fresh variety by packing more than 300% of the RDI for vitamin A per serving, according to actual chemical analysis of the products.
  • Potatoes: About 20 to 25% of the RDI of vitamin C is provided by a serving of canned potatoes. The analysis shows the USDA's data bank values for vitamin C in fresh and canned are lower than the amounts recorded on the labels of two brands of canned potatoes.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A (as carotene). Canned pumpkin supplies much more vitamin A than the fresh-cooked variety. Even pumpkin pie filling provides more than 160% of the RDI of vitamin A.
  • Spinach: Fresh, canned or frozen spinach is an excellent example of a nutrient-dense vegetable. The canned varieties are excellent sources of vitamin A, supplying anywhere from 50 to 160% of the RDI and surpassing the vitamin A content in fresh spinach. It's also a good source of vitamin C by providing more than 25% of the RDI per serving.

Savory Potatoes


Servings: 6


  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 5 cups diced small red potatoes
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup sliced leeks, separated in rings
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 ounces) beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut in 6 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
  • For garnish: fresh oregano (optional)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Put potatoes, tomatoes and leeks into prepared pan. Sprinkle with minced garlic, thyme and oregano. Pour broth over vegetables and stir gently to mix. Scatter butter over top.

Bake uncovered, about 50 minutes until potatoes are tender. Serve immediately.


Pineapple Cranberry Salsa

Servings: 8


  • 1 can (15-1/4 ounces) crushed pineapple in its own juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1 can (8 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice


Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Pour juice into saucepan; add gingerroot, garlic, orange peel, allspice and red pepper flakes.

Cook over medium-high heat 8 minutes; remove from heat. Stir in pineapple, cranberry sauce, onions and lime juice. Serve warm or at room temperature over sliced turkey.


Provided by Steel Packaging Council, American Iron and Steel Institute

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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