Canned food has gotten better with time

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Historically, canned foods have been considered the poor relative of the culinary world and have an even worse reputation for their nutrition, but times have changed.

In the past, fruits were canned only in sugary syrups and vegetables were overcooked and packed in salty brines. Advances in canning technology mean many foods now come packed in water or juice. Low-sugar and low-salt varieties are available.

There's more good news. Produce destined for canning is harvested at peak flavor and nutrition. Though the heating process can initially degrade some nutrients, the packaging keeps levels stable from then on.

Even fresh produce can suffer loss of nutrients if not kept at the proper temperature during shipping and storage.

Some fruits and vegetables actually improve nutritionally with canning. Tomatoes not only don't lose nutrients during processing but they also become better sources of the antioxidant lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A, and studies have shown that the canning process actually makes it easier for the body to absorb the nutrient.

Canned fish and meats also have improved. Low-salt and low-fat versions are common, and in many cases these foods are nutritionally comparable to fresh.

In this recipe, canned salmon (an excellent source for healthy omega-3 fatty acid) teams up with another star of the canned-food world, nutrient- and fiber-rich beans.

The earthy, smoky flavor of canned black-eyed peas (a bean), make the perfect low-fat base for this versatile salmon spread. Serve it on a sandwich, as a topping for crostini, or even a dip for crispy, fresh vegetables.

SALMON AND BLACK-EYED PEA SPREAD

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 6 (about 2 cups)

15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

6- to 7-ounce can salmon

3 tablespoons lemon juice

11/2 teaspoons hot sauce (adjust to taste)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup finely chopped Kalamata olives

In a food processor, combine the black-eyed peas, salmon, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, pepper and cumin. With the processor running, add the oil and process until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add the sour cream and pulse to combine.

Add the red onion and parsley and pulse to just combine. Transfer to a bowl, then mix in the celery and olives.


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