Unfortunately, pumpkin season doesn’t last that long. With good storage they can be kept for several months before using them, but even then we are still left with a long part of the year without this extremely nutritious superfood.
Given this, many people turn to pumpkin in cans for their recipes. Canned pumpkin is convenient and actually potentially relatively healthy. There’s just one big problem – BPA.
Canned Pumpkin Nutrition
While canned pumpkin often has significantly less vitamin C due to the processing, most of the other nutrients described in How Healthy Is Pumpkin are generally preserved. Minerals should not be affected and the antioxidant carotenoids like alpha-carotene and beta-carotene actually have their bio-availability improved. This is because they are released from the fiber with the processing necessary for canning. This dietary fiber is also there at beneficial levels too, with around 7 to 8 grams for each can.
All of this nutritional information only applies to proper canned pumpkin though, with no other ingredients added. Pumpkin pie mix is a different story altogether, often full of additives, sugar and possibly even high fructose corn syrup. Definitely worth avoiding. Make your own pumpkin pie mix if you value your health.
Canned Foods and BPA
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical used to harden plastics. It has also been identified as a toxic xenoestrogen – an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen in our bodies and can play havoc with our hormones and health in general.
BPA has been linked to obesity, heart disease, breast and prostate cancer and many other serious health problems. The Environmental Working Group’s website is a great resource for info on BPA, including BPA in canned foods.
Testing has detected BPA in a high percentage of people in the USA (one US study found over 95% of those people tested had exposure to Bisphenol-A). This is hardly surprising considering BPA can be found in everything from plastic water bottles (with the number 7 on the bottom) to thermal printed shopping receipts to the plastic linings in many canned foods.
After much delaying, the government agency is finally phasing out BPA from babies bottles. Actually, a better description would be the chemical industry bowed to public pressure and told the Agency to change its recommendations. After years of ignoring mounting evidence, the Agency changed its stance in weeks. Good news, but why did it take so long?
Canned foods are estimated to be one of the biggest sources of BPA exposure for US consumers. The Environmental Working Group reported that over half of all canned foods tested by an independent laboratory came back positive for Bisphenol-A. Some of the worst culprits were canned vegetables, fruits, soups and, worryingly, infant formula.
So what can we do if we like the convenience of foods in cans but want to avoid potentially dangerous BPA?
In a bit of good news from food manufacturers for once, several companies have responded to consumer demand and started producing BPA-free cans, including BPA-free canned pumpkin.
Where to Find BPA-Free Canned Pumpkin
Farmer’s Market have US grown and organic canned pumpkin in BPA-free cans. The company has this very clearly on their website and they look to be the most reliable option for BPA-free canned pumpkin. IHerb have single Farmer’s Market canned pumpkin on discount if you’d like to give them a try. They are also available in bulk 12 packs at Amazon.
Trader Joe’s have also said that their canned pumpkin will be available in BPA-free cans by 2012, though it would be worth checking you’re not getting older stock if you get these.
I suspect other manufacturers will respond with their own versions of BPA-free cans in the future and I’d be interested to hear about any that you’ve heard of in the comments section below. The more awareness there is of toxic chemicals like BPA and the more demand for them to be removed from our food supply the quicker Bisphenol-A-free products will become the norm.
Next are two more pumpkin recipes that can be made with either fresh pumpkin or BPA-free canned pumpkin. First up is a spicy Thai Yellow Curry Pumpkin Soup.
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