Hold the Canned Goods and MREs!
by Martin J Adams
If you've read even one book on emergency preparedness or survival and what to stock in your home or retreat,
you've been told to stock canned goods as a major part of your food storage program. When I say 'canned goods', I'm
talking about canned vegetables, fruits, beans and such, not the use of canning as a sealed container for
wheat, honey and other non-cooked foods. Canned food, in the way I mean it, is pasteurized, to cook it and make it
sterile, so it will store for months or years without spoiling.
I've been studying and teaching people about food, diet, nutrition and health for over 40 years, and I have
never suggested that anyone buy food in cans. Every credible author, scientist and heath expert I have
encounterd in this time had the same opinion. Why? Because food in cans is low-quality nutrition. I know, this is
just the opposite of what nearly every book on emergency food says. Are they all mistaken... dead wrong?
Excuse me if this comes as a shock, but yes, they are mistaken, probably because they are not nutritionists. Canned
food is truly 'emergency food' - what you would eat in an emergency if you have absolutely nothing better. Canned
food was actually invented as purely emergency food, not food to be eaten on a regular basis. So what's wrong with
It's about as dead as food can be. Nobody would argue with that. There are now many conclusive studies showing
not only the health benefits of living food, enzymes and vitamins (all destroyed by cooking), there is also plenty
of evidence that these natural foods reverse aging, boost the immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease and
actually heal the body. Cooking food destroys most or all of the vitamins and enzymes - they are heat sensitive.
And yet, vitamins and enzymes are known to be essential for good health. Canned foods have little or no fiber left
- it's all mush. No fiber means poor elimination - constipation. In an emergency, you will probably want your food
to give you high-quality nutrition, keep you regular, give you energy and help you perform at your best, while
supplying your nervous system with the necessary nutrients for you to think clearly and remain stress-free. Canned
foods are not up to the task, and if you rely heavily on them and still expect to perform well, you will be
disappointed at best, and at worst you could be dead, due to poor performance under stress. "Family survives
nuclear blast but later dies from poor nutrition" - oops.
MREs - Meals Reluctantly Eaten - are another poor choice for emergency food, and yet some people are tricked
into buying them. People who recommend them are either misinformed about the true quality of nutrition which MREs
have (or lack) or they are making money by selling them. This is a mistake, because they are giving advice to many
hundreds, possibly thousands of people who may believe they are getting sound advice about one of the most critical
preparations they need to make: food storage. And they are giving incorrect advice. If they ever had to survive on
canned food, they would know better.
MREs are at about the same level of quality as canned food - as dead as the container they are packed in. They
are processed, preserved mixtures of devitalized foods you would not feed to a hungry dog - okay, maybe to a hungry
dog. They are convenient and maybe some of them taste okay, but sound nutrition that your body needs is lacking.
Taste, these days, is not an indication of sound nutrition. You can do much better.
This is huge! Books on emergency planning, survival strategies, food storage and retreat stocking all sing the
glories of canned food. Thankfully, storing grains, like wheat and rice, and legumes, like beans and lentils, are
covered in many books, and some thankfully mention soaking and sprouting grains and seeds, but it appears that
canned goods are given far too much importance, and natural foods too little. Why are we so confused about what
good food is? Because food 'education' in this country is largely manipluated by the powerful food industry. They
supply free 'educational' materials to schools, so our children 'learn' what good nutrition is. They supply free
'educational' materials to medical students. In short, they have found out how to ensure their own profits by
brainwashing us about food. While not the subject of this article, it helps to explain why nearly all of us have
incorrect information about food and health. (For more on this, see The China Study by T. Colin Campbell) We
are told to buy profitable canned and processed foods, instead of natural ones. Why is this dangerous? Simple: You
probably have limited space and funds available for your survival and emergency gear and food. Why fill up that
limited space and spend that money on food which will let you down when you may need it most? Also, canned food is
heavy! If you are on foot with a loaded backpack, forget cans, and pack some real food. Read on.
No canned food, no MREs? What kind of food can I store? I won't say no canned food or MREs, but limited.
Grains and legumes, as mentioned, can be the core of a sound food storage plan, and some canned foods might
be welcome. I realize that eliminating these much-hyped-and-profitable food substitutes might wipe out much of the
stored food in some people's emergency food stores. But I will tell you what you can store (and carry) that will
give you the best nutrition available on this planet. Foods that will store longer than canned goods, that
take up less space than cans, that cost much less, and they're lighter to carry. Given the
high profits from prepared dead food, I'm not surprised that they, and not real food, are so often pushed on
You are surely aware that wheat is often given celebrity status as a food that stores well for many years and
that most people are able to use. I agree. Many people who store wheat also have a mill, either manual or electric,
to grind the wheat into flour, because that's the way they are accustomed to eating wheat: baked into bread and
cookies or cooked in pancakes. Some wise and nutritionally-informed people have even suggested that you can soak
and sprout wheat (and other grass seeds, like rye, barley, rice, etc.) to produce food which is superior in
every way to flour-based cooked grains. They are right - sprouted wheat is not only better nutrition than cooked
flour (bread, pancakes...), sprouts are alive and full of the vitality that the body needs. Sprouts contain
vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients that were not in the dormant wheat - they are created only in the living
sprout from the food in the seed! This is true of all sprouts - they are more nutritious and easier to
digest than the seeds. Obviously, this increase in nutritional value cannot continue indefinitely, because the
sprout is using up some of the stored food to create its structure. A sprout is at its peak just before the first
true leaves appear (see below).
Sprouted seeds also have fiber, which develops as it grows. In fact, the nutrition in a sprouted seed cannot be
matched by any other food, period. Sprouts are such good nutrition, supplying everything the body requires,
that one can actually live on sprouts, eating them to the exclusion of all other foods! Yes, really.Try that
on canned food or on MREs or even a combination of the two and you will soon develop acidity, constipation, a dull
brain and nutritional deficiencies.
All viable seeds will sprout, but not all sprouts are edible or even tasty. If you have ever eaten wheat sprouts
- or tried to eat them - then you know that they are not delicious for everyone, and the thought of having
to live on them would leave many of us longing for canned goods and MREs! However unpalatable wheat sprouts may be
to some, just soaking wheat overnight will soften them enough to make them edible, even tasty. And if you were to
let them live a day or two longer, you will see tiny roots and a sprout poke out of them - in that state, they are
far more nutritious than bread and actually quite palatable, some would say delicious. Ever hear of sprouted wheat
bread? No, not the stuff on your grocery store shelves, the real thing, made from... you guessed it, wheat
sprouts and nothing else. That's right, wheat sprouts only, no water, no flour, no yeast... You have to try
this bread to believe that it is actually wheat bread, not cake. Ready?
Soak your wheat overnight as usual, and in the morning toss the water. Keep the swollen wheat moist, like in a
deep bowl with a wet cloth cover or a plate set so that some air can get in. Keep wet for three days, until you see
roots and stem sprouting out. The sprout can be 1/8" to 1/4" long; one inch is too long. Grind the sprouts into a
paste or dough, using a Corona mill or equivalent. If the dough is too wet, the sprouts were too long (juicy). Oil
your hands and form small, flat loaves. Bake in an oiled tray in a very low oven for 90 minutes or until light
brown, and the steam from the oven is less. They will not rise. They may ooze a bit of liquid, so peek in every 30
minutes. That ooze is sweet syrup, so enjoy it. Remove when done and let cool. You can eat this bread alone - it
requires no spread. Once you have tried the real sprouted wheat bread, you may not want to go back to the other
kind. It's that incredible.
Essene bread is made with the same dough but pressed into thin, flat cakes and baked in the sun until dry (or in
a dehydrator). These store well for a long time and are absolutely delicious. If you try to bake thicker loaves in
the sun, the dough will spoil (ferment). I've tried.
Fortunately, there are many other kinds of sprouts, and people have been sprouting them in the US for decades
for good reason - they are delicious and nutritious. Those popular seeds include: alfalfa, mung, aduki (or adzuki),
fenugreek, flax and radish (hot!). With such variety, you will surely be able to at least supplement your diet with
sprouts you like, if not live entirely on them. Sprouting instructions are so widely available that I won't include
You can begin preparing for an emergency, by removing all of the non-essential canned food from your diet as
soon as possible, thereby eliminating poor-quality nutrition, and replace it with higher-quality natural foods.
Also, eat or (better) give away the rest of your non-essential canned food in your survival food storage and don't
replace it with more canned food. Replace it instead with sproutable seeds - cheaper, more nutritious and they take
up less space. Gradually increase the amount of sprouts in your diet. Unlike dead canned foods and MREs, sprouts
will actually give you the nutrition your body needs. You will probably notice that your hunger is better satisfied
with sprouts than with dead food, and your health will improve. Going into an emergency, be as healthy and fit as
you can manage. Living foods, not dead foods, are part of your preparation.
But there is no reason to limit your sprouting selection to the popular seeds listed above. Why not double that
list? The king of sprouts for me is sunflower - one of the most versatile seeds I know. And one of the most
nutritious. You can eat sunflower seeds dry (not soaked or sprouted), and many people do, but you will get more
nutrition from them (and all seeds and nuts) if you at least soak them overnight in water. Why? Because in the
morning they will be alive, and live food is what our bodies need. Also, the food which was dormant in the seed
becomes hydrated and begins to be broken down for assimilation by the tiny plant, making it easier to digest.
The seed actually has a circulatory system, but it has collapsed in the dry seed. Add water and this circulatory
system again becomes filled with flowing juice, carrying food to the new plant. As the seed is awakened from its
dormant state and becomes alive, more of the stored food is prepared for the plant, by making it soluble,
effectively pre-digesting it for you. Try this experiment: take two tablespoons of dry seeds and soak them
overnight in water. The next morning, toss the water and chew the soaked seeds well. Notice how juicy they are?
Also notice that they make almost no impact in the stomach - about like a small salad. Now eat two tablespoons of
dry seeds, chewing well. See the difference? They are harder, less tasty and feel heavier in the stomach. They are
are also harder to digest than soaked seeds.
Okay, I have to say it: Avoid roasted seeds and nuts, including peanut butter. Sure, they might taste better
now, but when your taste buds adjust with simple foods, you will prefer raw. Oh no, don't take my peanut butter! I
know, many people like it, and on paper, it appears to be very nutritious. Roasting changes the way seeds
digest (or don't digest), so a lot of that on-paper nutrition will never be assimilated. It gets worse: The BBC did
a study many years ago on peanut butter from many companies. Are you sitting down? Good. They found that even major
brands have up to 25% insect matter content! Insect matter? Right. Think about it... Which peanuts would you
grind up and which would you sell whole and roasted? Exactly. You sort them and grind up the ones infested with
insects and maybe have some mold. The good ones you sell whole, because people will see them. You could compare
peanut butter with hot dogs. You know, all the parts of the cow that nobody want to see in the meat shop. Grind
them up and make hot dogs. Hold a jar of peanut butter in your hands and imagine that up to 1/4 of the jar is dead
insects. Okay, it might only be 1/10 - now that feels much better, right? Some people get allergic reactions to
peanut butter. I wonder why? Not exactly vegetarian, is it? Bon appetit.
One more reason to soak all seeds and nuts before eating is the fact that most seeds have an inhibitor in
them to prevent them from sprouting. What? Why would a seed not want to sprout? If a seed gets wet, for example
from dew or a short rain, there won't be enough water in the soil to keep the sprout alive until its roots reach
water deeper in the ground. It would sprout, then die. So seeds need a strong rain to allow them to swell and to
wash out the inhibitor. That ensures that the ground will still be wet enough for the sprout days later. This
inhibitor to growth is not considered good food for us. Soaking seeds and nuts overnight washes out this inhibitor
and prepares the seed for sprouting and for eating. Soak your almonds and other nuts overnight for a pleasant,
Sprouting sunflower seeds is an adventure you will learn to love. Soak the seeds as usual, overnight, and toss
the water in the morning. Now take a shallow tray, like a cafeteria tray, and lay a few sheets of newspaper flat in
it, covered by a layer of paper towells. Wet thoroughly with water, then tip up on one corner to drain off excess
water. Now spread the soaked seeds one seed deep on the wet towells. Cover with paper towells and a few sheets of
newspaper. Spray water to soak the top papers and towells. If you spray too much water on them, tip up the tray and
drain off excess water. Lay in a dark place and keep moist. You can either spray the whole thing or pour water over
it and drain as before. Keep wet, but the seeds must not stand in water. In a few days, you will see the top paper
rising up, pushed by the sprouts. When the paper cover is 'floating' on the sprouts, you can remove it carefully
and leave it off. Now just keep the base paper wet, as the sprouts have rooted in the towells. When the sprouts are
a few inches tall, you can put them in the light to encourage them to become green (chlorophyll and more vitamin
c). Harvest only what you can eat, by either snipping them in bunches at the base with scissors or by pulling them
off the towell. Snipping is easier, as they will not let go easily and will pull the whole bunch with them. Use as
greens in a salad or just munch as they are. Delicate and delicious. Make more than you think you want - you'll
That's just the beginning of the versatility of sunflower seeds. Another way to eat them - and you will love
this - is in a milkshake. That's right. Here follows the recipe I invented:
Sunflower Seed-Date-Carob Milk Shake (or Pudding)
by Martin Adams
1 cup Sunflower Seeds soaked 8-12 hrs (see below for other possible seeds and combinations)
1-1.5 Cups Pitted Dates (no air) or Date Paste, soaked
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)
2 Tbsp Raw Carob Powder
1-1.5 quarts water
small sliver of fresh Ginger (optional)
pinch of Cinnamon (optional)
Vita-Mix or equivalent power blender (referred to as 'blender' below)
Soak Sunflower Seeds overnight, drain off water, put in blender with 1 cup water. If using ginger, add here.
Blend on highest speed 60-90 seconds, adding only enough additional water from time to time to keep the material
moving around the blades. Stop when you have an almost white cream.
Add another cup of water, the Carob Powder and Vanilla Extract and the Dates (with soaking water), cover and
blend on high for a minute, again adding water only to keep the mix moving.
You should now have pudding - try it. If you like it as pudding, you're done. If you want a milk shake, add
water (dilute) with the blender on mediium speed until it reaches the consistency you like. The Vita-Mix pitcher is
two quarts (64 oz), and the above quantities will make two quarts of milk shake, a cup more if you prefer it
thinner. So you can simply add water to the mix until the pitcher is full. Refridgerated it will keep a few days,
but the sooner you consume it the better. Raw unsoaked seeds can be used, but soaked seeds are easier to blend and
are more nutritious (and alive). Be sure to 'chew' this drink, as it is very dense food and may feel heavy in the
stomach if you just drink it down like water. In place of Sunflower Seeds, Hemp Seeds work well, as do raw Peanuts,
Almonds and other mild-flavored seeds and nuts. They can be used mixed in any proportion. Sesame Seeds are also
excellent, but have a stronger flavor than others, so try substituting half (or less) of the Sunflower Seeds with
Sesame to see if you like it. Other seeds that work well in small amounts are Pumpkin, Pecan, Pine Nuts, and nuts
like Macadamia and Brazil. Experiment to find the proportions you like most. Dates can be increased to 2 cups for a
sweeter, lighter mix. Less dates gives a nuttier texture. Fresh ginger adds a spicy jolt (cream with the seeds).
Cinnamon, cloves and mint create other variations. Enjoy.
Dates are a fruit and a worthwhile food to store dried. They contain enough natural sugar to inhibit the growth
of bacteria (similar to honey), so they won't spoil. They are loaded with natural sugars, fiber, protein and are
easy to digest. And with a recipe for milkshake, who wouldn't mind having them around in an emergency? I have been
making this milkshake for over 40 years and have served it to countless people in perhaps 20 countries. Another
great feature of this shake is that it is so satisfying that if I drink a glass or two in the morning (nothing
else), I feel no hunger until 5pm. That tells me something about the quality of this drink as a great survival
food. There's more...
Who doesn't like energy bars? Well, I do, and if you do, here's how you can make your own. Keep in mind that the
real potential of a great energy bar is to replace an entire meal, not just the energy or calories of a
meal. The combination of sunflower seeds and dates is the basis of this bar, and if you look at the combined list
of nutrients, you will notice that you have a complete meal here. Canned beans? A two-year-old MRE? No thanks -
give me a great energy bar any day. So let's make some...
Make a small batch first, to get used to the chemistry of the foods, and to experiment. In a large bowl, toss in
a few handfulls (closed fist) of either quick-cooking oats or the old-fashioned oats that you have turned to crumbs
in a blender. Now add two handfulls of soaked dates (not the soaking water, keep aside), two handfulls of sunflower
seeds (put half or 2/3 in the blender first, until crumbs), a few teaspoons of carob powder, a teaspoon of vanilla
extract, a pinch of cinnamon, another of powdered ginger, and lastly powdered Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). With a
strong wooden spoon, mash the dates into a paste and mix everything well. If it looks too dry, add some of the date
water. You should get a stiff paste, like modeling clay.
Now lay a sheet of waxed paper on the table and tape in place. Dump a lump of mix on the paper and, using hands
oiled with vegetable oil, press into a layer about 1/2" thick. Use a butter knife to cut into bars the size you
like. Using the tip of the knife, lift up the extra mix that did not make it into a bar and return to the bowl.
Cover with a paper towell to keep flies off and set this batch in a warm place or a dehydrator on low to dry out.
Repeat until the bowl is empty. If you started sampling the 'dough' during this bar-making, the bowl may be empty
and you still have no bars! That's how good they are. The good news is that you really can live on these bars for a
long time, because they are a complete food. For variety, you can grind all ingredients fine first, then you can
soak a diced bar overnight to make... you guessed it, a milkshake! In other words, you can carry dry milkshake
bars, ready to turn into a satisfying drink any time. All you need is an empty soft drink bottle (Gatorade,
Powerade) to shake your shake.
Experiment by adding other ingredients you would like to put in a meal bar, like chopped nuts, raisins and other
chopped dried fruits, granola, coconut shreds, Grape Nuts cereal (crunch), etc. Be aware that the addition of nuts,
coconut and seeds with oil content will make these bars more prone to becoming rancid. Sunflower seeds also contain
oil. The ascorbic acid is a natural preservative, hindering the oxydation of fats and oils, so don't leave it out.
When completely dry, seal these bars in Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide or use Oxygen absorbers to limit the oxidation of
the fats and oils. Freshness and usability will depend on temperature and storage conditions, but you can expect
them to keep one year under favorable conditions. Note that seeds will keep longer whole, so if you store the
ingredients for meal bars, you can make them as needed, instead of trying to keep them fresh for long periods.
Another way I make bars is to mix all dry ingredients and put through a Corona Mill. The paste is easy to shape
into bars, yet dry enough to store immediately. In this case, use less oats and dry ingredients, so it all sticks
together. Or use honey or maple syrup as a binder, and then use fewer dates, which make it too sweet.
Other great seeds for sprouting: garbanzo beans, lentils, soy beans (actually most beans, excluding lima and
other flat beans - they are toxic), all grains, all edible seeds and nuts, amaranth, quinoa, green peas, spelt,
clover, buckwheat, millet, watermelon, cucumber, squashes, flax, kamut and even bird seed mix. Never eat green
(fresh) lima beans and other big, flat beans... poisonous!
You must know this about sprouts: Some plants and trees which grow from edible seeds are not edible. Why
is this important? As a sprout grows from its seed, at some point it begins to take on the chemistry of its parent.
For example, I suggest that you experiment with almond seeds - begin to sprout them until they grow a small white
root. They are delicious. However, at some point, that sprouting seed begins to transform into an almond tree,
which is not tasty at all. This goes for mung beans, sesame and for many other sprouts. The parent plant is not
edible, so be sure to eat sprouts before they become bitter or taste bad in another way. True grains are grasses
and are edible as plants, like wheat grass, but use caution with others, especially when they produce their first
For example, sunflower seeds are called dicots (from dicotyledon or two cotyledons), having two sides (leaves)
to the seed, each of which becomes a leaf in the new plant. It's nearly impossible to identify a plant by these two
leaves, as they are actually the original seed halves containing the food and bear little resemblance to the
plant's true leaves. The true leaves grow from between the original leaves and can be used to identify the plant
when they are larger. These leaves contain the chemistry of the plant and may not be edible, so limit sprout growth
to the first leaves which form from the seed halves. Monocots (seeds with one leaf, like corn) grow one leaf first.
If you grow sprouts in the dark, they will grow tall, without producing more leaves. They 'think' that they are
underground, reaching up for the light.
While in India, I observed a simple sprouting method requiring no sprouting jars or equipment. They take an 18"
square piece of coarse cotton cloth, and place a few handfuls of garbanzo beans in the center, and then either tie
the four corners or simply wrap some string around the 'bag' formed by the seeds. They drop the bundled seeds in a
bucket of water in the evening, and in the morning, they remove it and hang it on a nail in the wall, letting it
drip on the concrete floor, which has a drain in one corner. During the day, anyone in the kitchen who sees the
sprout bag drying out plunges it in water and hangs it back on the nail. After three or four days, there are roots
poking through the cloth, the sign that the sprouts are ready to eat. This system works well for large seeds, like
To conclude, if canned food and MREs have a place in your food emergency storage, it should be secondary to
quality nutrition, which only natural foods can provide. By 'secondary', I mean to be used as unnecessary-but-nice
foods, like canned olives (dried are better), tomato paste (or make it from dried tomatoes), coconut oil, etc. In
other words, foods that you might like to have to compliment your natural foods.
If the people writing books on emergency food storage were trained in human physiology, health and nutrition,
they would agree with what I have presented here, because nutritional science does. Follow your common sense, which
is probably reminding you that the more you mess with natural foods, the less nutritious they become. If you want
to preserve fruits and vegetables for storage, dry them in a dehydrator and store as you would other foods, by
limiting or eliminating Oxygen (using Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide or Oxygen absorbers) and sealing in airtight
containers. They will retain more of their nutritional value than by canning (boiling the life out). Canned food
proponents will argue on these facts, but science is on my side, and on yours. They have not done the research or
don't want to admit that canned food is poor quality nutrition, possibly because their profits are at stake. Your
health and possibly your life is at stake. Don't gamble with either.