With an overpacked schedule or extreme disinclination to cooking, canned foods may be both a time and lifesaver for you. But many people will tell you that canned chicken is “gross” and “unhealthy”. So naturally, at some point you may have wondered — is canned chicken healthy?
The controversy surrounding canned poultry is neither new nor entirely baseless. However, it is also an entanglement of facts and misconceptions. This article breaks down all of them for you, so sit tight and keep reading!
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What Is Canned Chicken?
As the name suggests, it is basically chicken in an airtight aluminum can or glass container. To remove harmful microorganisms, the chicken is cooked before it’s canned, presumably at 165°F as mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Canning the chicken builds a protective barrier against malign bacteria, removing bacteria’s nourishment source, i.e., oxygen from it. So, as long as it’s inside the sealed container, the chicken is in perfect, edible condition. It has a much longer shelf-life than your usual cooked meat — you can literally store it for up to 3-5 years!
You can also store it for years without refrigeration, as you’d do for any other canned food. This makes it a great storable protein source, especially if there are frequent power cuts where you live.
But you might want to eat it within a few days after unsealing the can as it loses its freshness soon after.
Why Canned Chicken Gets a Bad Rep?
We’re not deducing that it is bad for you; we’re just getting the negatives out of the way before letting you in on the good parts. Let’s see what major issues can make canned chicken bad for you.
High Sodium Content:
If you’ve ever tasted canned chicken, the first thing your tastebuds caught was probably the extreme saltiness. Apparently, removing bacteria from canned food involves processing it in a way that the flavor is removed as well. Salt is a low-cost way to compensate for this loss of flavor.
Excessive salt intake attributes to bloating, inflammation, high blood pressure, cardiac arrests, and stroke. A can of chicken may contain from 500-1,000 milligrams of sodium, while your daily intake of sodium should be limited to 2,300 milligrams.
- Sodium Phosphate:
A potentially harmful preservative used in chicken is sodium phosphate. Health experts suggest avoiding foods with sodium phosphate additives as it can be damaging for those with kidney issues as well as for your heart health.
- Modified Food Starch:
Made from common foods such as wheat, potato, corn, etc., modified food starch is used to prevent the chicken meat from getting damaged due to external temperature and the harsh canning process.
However, this additive is linked to health complications such as bloating, diarrhea, allergies, headache, chest pain, fatigue, palpitations, etc.
Bisphenol-A, more commonly known as BPA, is a chemical found in small amounts in the inner lining of canned food products to prevent corrosion in it.
BPA, if consumed at high levels, increases the risks of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Also, this chemical mingles with hormones in the body, messing up cell repair, fetal growth, energy levels, fertility, etc.
Industrial Chicken Source:
One major flip side of canned meat is that it may come from industrial chicken that was raised in an awful, inhumane environment, subject to infections and antibiotic treatments. When you eat that chicken, its diseases are passed on to you.
Furthermore, consuming meat that has been treated with antibiotics may cause your body to develop antibiotic resistance in addition to child development issues.
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So, Is Canned Chicken Healthy or Unhealthy?
A metal coin has two sides, and so does a metal can of chicken. It’s not all bad, as many people may think. Now that we’ve explained the major downsides of canned meat, let’s take a look if they are reason enough for you to completely reject this particular food item.
Canning Doesn’t Mean All Nutrition Is Lost:
Even though canned meat undergoes processing, canning still conserves most of the nutrition elements of the unprocessed chicken. That means much of the vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins of the chicken stay intact in this preservation method.
As said before, high levels of sodium found in the canned chicken are linked to various health issues. However, not all cans have oversalted, overprocessed abominable meat.
You just need to be a smart shopper and look for the best ones in your vicinity. Do some research on the best-canned chicken brands, read the labels on the can before buying, and you’re good to go.
Suspicious Additives Aren’t that Alarming:
Remember we mentioned a harmful additive used in canned chicken called sodium phosphate? Well, its purpose is to prevent the chicken from turning mushy after the canning process.
Sodium phosphate also aids in balancing the pH levels of processed meat, which in turn helps to make the chicken stay fresh inside the can for longer. It is actually a regular preservative that is approved by FDA.
A 5oz can of chicken typically contains no more than 2% sodium phosphate, which is safe to consume if it’s not forbidden in your diet. In fact, to develop the health issues caused by sodium phosphate, you need to eat only canned chicken over an extremely long period.
Just like sodium phosphate, modified food starch is also not catastrophic for your body as long as it’s not overconsumed. It’s used to preserve the meat’s texture, as nobody would like to eat soggy chicken sitting in a pool of broth. You’re good to go unless you have dietary restrictions.
BPA Usage Has Decreased:
BPA is still used in canned foods regardless of its associated health risks, but industry representatives claim that the percentage of cans with BPA has reduced below 10% over the years. Also, most canned food manufacturers have switched to acrylic and polyester to line the cans.
So, it would be misleading to conclude that all chicken cans are lined with BPA and, therefore, come with massive health risks. Also, to be extra safe, check if the can is labeled “BPA free” before buying.
Is canned chicken healthy? The answer is somewhere between yes and no. To some extent, it is a healthy protein source that helps your muscle up and appeases your meat craving. But to ensure it’s healthy, you have to shop really smart: find trustworthy brands and inspect the labels on the can.