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How to Avoid the Poison in Your Pantry

by Tiffany in A Green Home, Healthy Eating

Steps You Can Take to Make Eating Canned Food Healthier and Safer…

Until recently, when I started eating less raw and cooking more in an attempt to win over my husband and ease us all into a more meatless existence I hadn’t used canned food in quite some time. I understood that there were issues with canned foods but since I didn’t eat them I didn’t blog about it. But now I seem to be on a Mexican, South American, and Caribbean cooking kick which uses a lot of beans and I have resorted to using canned beans on occasion. With all that I have read recently though I decided to buy a bean crock and force myself to only use dried beans until canned food is just a bit safer and healthier.

So what is wrong with canned food?

BPA – The major issue is BPA or Bisphenol A. It is the endocrine disruptor that I have mentioned oodles of times on this blog that is found in plastics, water bottle liners, and canned goods, among other things. We may have been quick to take that BPA leaching baby bottle or sippy cup out of Juniors hand but perhaps we didn’t think to look in their green beans. BPA is making its way into our food. Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group have both studied the issue and found BPA in many of the canned products they tested, including infant formula, vegetables, soda and soup. And we are what we eat. BPA is present in detectable levels in over 90% of Americans’ bodies and groups are many are trying to send a message to the powers that be, that poisoning us, just isn’t cool.

BPA free canned goods are available through ethical companies like Eden. We just need to make sure more companies follow suit.

Salt – Canned goods are outrageously high in sodium often times so look for low sodium or salt free brands. Also make sure to put beans in a colander and rinse really well before cooking. Be weary of canned soups since they can contain a third of the recommended amount of sodium for the day just in that one can. Try no salt versions and just get creative with spices and herbs.

Be Fish Aware – If you like canned fish, and I say that with a twinge of longing for canned Alaskan Wild Salmon on crackers… gulp – make sure to get fish stored in water rather than oil. And make sure to buy WILD caught fish since they typically have less contaminants than farmed fish.

Bean Pots! – These are made of clay or ceramic and where very popular decades ago in making beans. You can cook the way your ancestors did! You just put your beans in the pot with some herbs and spices and put it in the oven. The pot keeps the beans from burning and creates wonderfully flavored beans. You can soak the beans in the pot the night before and after rinsing just return them to the pot for cooking. Older pots should be put in a cold oven to get gradually hot rather than putting them in an already hot oven, as they may break.

The idea for crock pots likely came from bean pots but I still think the latter has a place in the kitchen because unless I am making chili or some sort of bean stew I need something smaller. Bean pots are great for baking black beans that may end up in burritos for dinner or under a fried egg for breakfast.

You can find new ones on Amazon and old ones on Ebay.

How do you feel about eating from a can? What do you do to make slow cooked foods just as convenient?

Related: Everything Beans Book

  • andiscandis

    I’m going to seriously consider a bean pot. We eat a tremendous amount of canned beans. It’s what we just had for dinner! I’m of course concerned about BPA, but just haven’t found an easy way to do dried beans yet.

    Sheri- According to the latest issue of Organic Gardening magazine, even the metal tops for canning jars have BPA! ALL of the brands do. I’m not sure how much that concerns me because the food you put up doesn’t really touch the lid. But if you want to go 100% BPA-free, you have to get the old-fashioned glass lids with wax sealing rings. Isn’t that insane?

  • sarah

    I don’t care for canned foods for those very reasons. However, I do use canned tomatoes and beans for recipes. Now… my husband is into stockpiling and this is where the problem comes in. I do want to stock up on some canned foods, but I prefer not to be feeding my family all that bpa in an emergency situation. I just don’t have the time to learn how to can right now…

  • I am so happy to hear about bean pots. The only food I use out of a can are beans and tomatoes. I have vowed that next year I will return to canning tomatoes but didn’t have the bean problem solved until I read this post. Not only is it a great resolution to canned beans but they sound delicious!

  • Dani

    I’ve been trying to figure out a better solution to canned beans.

    How long do the beans need to cook in a bean pot?

    I guess I have to get myself more organized and plan out meals better…I end up cooking last minute and relying on canned beans and tomatoes.


    • Dani, usually several hours 4-6ish… or at lower temps (200-250) for up to 10 hours. Depends on how slow you want to cook them.

  • I’m glad I’ve found your post. I love cooking and i go into canned goods more than the fresh ones. Thank you for sharing your ideas. Nice post!

  • Tracy

    I buy beans in bulk about once a year for food storage. I also use that food storage during the year. Cooking the beans for me was terrible. They always came out mushy until I started using a thermal cooking pot. Now all I do is soak dry beans overnight, drain, and fill the pot with water and boil for 20 min on the stove. Place the cooking pot in the thermal cooker and it just sits on the countertop. No stovetop or oven or crockpot going all day. Open it up at night and it is still blazing hot in there. I then take the beans and place them in storage containers for the freezer to use later. That is how I get around buying canned beans. You can do the same thing with rice…I do it all the time.

  • Trixie B

    I don’t use canned beans anymore, I use dried. Soak them overnight in the crockpot, change the water and cook on high for 3 1/2 hours start to finish. It’s so easy. I divide them up and freeze them. One 1 lb bag of beans makes about 3 cans worth. It takes some planning but it’s not as hard as you think.

  • Just curious, why fish in water not fish in oil?

    Thank you for reminding me that my father gave me a bean pot, which is long forgotten on the top self of the pantry.

  • Bridget

    Thanks for the post & love the input in the comments. This is one of those things that has been in the back of my mind but I haven’t dealt with…life just seems to get busy! I’ve been trying to add more black beans in my diet. I love em & also top them with tons of pico de gallo from Costco…easy, healthy lunch. Trying to incorporate more of Dr. Oz’s food suggestions in my diet.

    I’ve never heard of a bean pot & interested in looking into the thermal cooker as well. Plus it didn’t occur to me to cook & freeze them! Thx Tracy & Trixie.

    So sounds like the thermal cooker is more full proof?? I have the crockpot already. If you soak overnight, do all beans take about the same amt of cook time? Or just trial & error? I can see myself ending up with a bunch of mush.

  • Becky

    Thank you for the info on bean pots. I also do not like eating from cans, but I do not have very good luck with cooking my own beans. Mine still seem so hard even after I follow all of the directions. This bean pot sounds like a good solution for me.

    • I’ve been cooking dried beans from scratch for decades, and it’s a lot easier than you might think. If it’s okay with Tiffany, I could point you to my how-to article.

  • Yay! Thanks for posting! I didn’t know about bean pots until tonight! Next: searching ebay! :-)

  • Karen

    Do all canned foods contain BPA? Is there a way to tell if the canned foods that I buy have BPA? We eat a ton of canned fruit. I looked into canning it myself, but it cost more to can myself than to buy it canned, not including the time and effort I would have to put into canning it.

  • I’m not a big fan of canned foods but I have no choice since I’m not that good at cooking. Thanks for the tips you shared to us, it’s really helpful for us people that consume canned foods.

  • Like you, I avoid canned goods. I used to keep a couple of cans of Eden beans for quick lunches and suppers, but I haven’t needed them since I bought a six-in-one cooker. With it, I can cook enough beans for the week in half the time I used to in my cast iron bean pot.

    When I do, I freeze a couple of cups in a glass or steel container for those weeks I might not make up a batch. Thawed, they’re as easy to use as canned beans, and I know exactly what’s in them.

    When tomatoes are out of season, I rely on glass-bottled spaghetti and pizza sauces for my chilis and soups. Just about everything else I use I buy fresh and in-season or frozen.