To answer both questions mentioned in the title: not entirely. First, depending on the food that we’re talking about, salt might be an inherent part of the process, either of canning in particular or just the food in general. Canned pickles and olives would need to have salt mixed with them for proper preservation. Salt is also an important ingredient in a variety of fermented food products, and many of these preserved foods are canned.
Second, salt is considered as a flavor enhancer. Processed food manufacturers have become accustomed to adding loads of salt to a wide variety of foods for the better part of a century as a method of making their products tastier or more flavorful. The processing of adding salt to canned foods is not really unique. Pickling is also another preservation process that comes to mind that also uses salt, which is mixed with water to create brine, although some pickled foods would have vinegar instead.
Third, while canned fruits and vegetables are certainly saltier than their raw counterparts, they’re not really as salty as you might think. One 30g slice of white bread has three times more sodium than 28g of canned green beans, which means that some foods that you may be eating right now may have more sodium content than canned foods.
Fourth, while canning certainly tends to kill biological organisms that can often make food go bad, it’s not magic. Some organisms that go inside canned goods are merely weakened, and some may even survive, although it is only in such small numbers that they can’t cause stomach problems if the food is eaten within a year or two. A little amount of salt goes a long way towards ensuring that fewer bacteria survive, but those that do will stay dormant.
Lastly, bacteria aren’t the only things that are contributing to food spoilage. There are different chemical processes that have nothing to do with bacteria, and these can make food go bad, or at least lose quality in terms of taste and flavor over time. Discoloration comes immediately to mind when we talk about food chemicals, but that is not the only negative aspect of these processes. Flavors can change, and textures can break down as well. Foods can also take on weird flavors based on the material that was used for their containers. Salt usually creates an environment that is inhospitable for bacteria to grow, but it also tends to interfere with some of the other processes, making it a very useful preservative even in a largely sterile environment.
However, there are certain risk factors that are associated with salt when it comes to consuming it. The sodium found on canned foods is called dietary salt. While normal consumption of dietary salt doesn’t pose any health problems, it can be hazardous when one person eats too much dietary sodium over a span of a week or month. This drawback to dietary sodium may be one of the reasons why most people would often tell others that eating canned foods is bad. However, as previously stated, eating canned food every once in a while is not bad, although you must make sure that you eat it in moderation.
Fascinatingly, there are several manufacturers that have produced canned foods with low sodium or without any salt at all. But these special canned food products are slightly more expensive than the regular ones since they are developed using a different process. You can also reduce the amount of sodium in the canned foods that you bought by rinsing them thoroughly before cooking or preparing. This method is effective since the sodium found in these canned products is in liquid form.
Besides sodium, canned foods are also rich in different vitamins and dietary fiber, which could help your body stay healthy. Surprisingly, studies show that a few canned foods are healthier than their raw or fresh versions, and one of these foods is canned tomatoes, which is said to have higher lycopene content than fresh tomatoes. By stocking canned foods in your pantry, not only will you be prepared during emergency situations where you can’t go outside to buy food, you will be able to provide yourself and your loved ones nutritious foods that have a longer shelf life.