by Environmental Nutrition

Eating healthfully should never compromise flavor, even if your goal is to trim sodium. But, that may seem a tall order for Americans, whose average sodium intake is more than 3,400 milligrams (mg)/day -- that's over 1,100 mg/day more than the recommended USDA Dietary Guidelines for healthy people (1,500 mg/day for those at-risk, which is about half of the population). And a 2010 Institute of Medicine report linked high sodium intake to hypertension, calling for steps to reduce intake in the U.S.

Both a preservative and a seasoning, sodium often lurks in even the healthiest foods, such as canned beans and vegetables. Sodium content of canned foods can be surprising because we often don't notice it's there.

Convenient and nutritionally comparable (and in some cases even higher in essential nutrients) to cooked fresh and frozen versions, canned vegetables average about 240 mg of sodium per one-half cup serving.

Rinse and drain away salt

There's no need to strip the pantry of these otherwise nutritious staples. A 2011 study in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology by the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory analyzed the sodium content of three canned vegetables -- green beans, sweet corn and sweet peas -- comparing amounts in solids and liquids, drained solids, and rinsed.

Draining and rinsing reduced the sodium content between nine and 23 percent. A 100-gram serving (about one-half cup) of green bean liquids and solids, for example, ranged as high as 259 mg of sodium, while the same amount drained and rinsed came in at 178 mg.

It's even better for canned beans. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Culinary Science and Technology found that draining alone reduces the sodium in canned beans by 36 percent. Rinsing those drained beans removes the sodium attached to the beans' surface, reducing sodium even further, to 41 percent.

Supermarket sleuth

Impressive as these reductions are, being sodium-conscious still requires supermarket sleuthing. Canned vegetables and beans will vary in sodium content by variety and brand, so compare labels when you shop.

While you're at it, be sure you're looking at the sodium content for the correct serving size. Many people consume larger portions than the half-cup serving size listed on the label. If this is the case, be sure to recalculate the increased sodium to reflect it.

If you're concerned that reducing sodium means sacrificing flavor, don't be! Kick up the flavor of those drained and rinsed canned vegetables and beans with spices -- try fresh garlic, ginger, herbs, dried chilis and lemon -- to pleasure your palate without adding salt.

(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit


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"Rinse Canned Vegetables to Cut Sodium"

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