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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Chat Leftovers: Salt goes down the drain

By Jane Touzalin
So who are you rooting for? Whether it's the Packers or the Steelers, the Food section's fifth annual Super Bowl Smackdown features fare everyone can agree on. This year, yielding to popular demand, Joe and Bonnie go head to head in the category of healthful game-day snacks. We've got dips, we've got spreads, we've got lots of vegetables for your guilt-free viewing pleasure. Also in today's section, we write about Jeff and Barbara Black, two Washington chefs who have found ways to keep life sweet for their child with diabetes; and we interview the General Store's outspoken Gillian Clark, a.k.a. "the chef people love to hate."


Read all about it, then tune in at noon for our Free Range chat, when the usual suspects will be joined by the Black family plus General Store owners Clark and Robin Smith. Bring your questions, and if we like them you might even win a book. Here's a good one left over from last week's chat:

How much sodium do I wash away when I rinse a can of beans?

Interesting! My first guess, which turned out to be wrong, was that not much is being rinsed away. I figured that if cooks could just wash off the sodium, there would be no need to sell reduced-sodium beans, which are available these days in several brands.

Bolstering my (wrong) opinion was an employee at Progresso who answered the consumer help line number I found on my can of Progresso chickpeas. "The salt is absorbing into the peas themselves, so I really don't think you're going to be rinsing off very much when you rinse off the peas," she said.

Ready for the right answer?

It turns out that two researchers at the University of Tennessee Knoxville have got this covered. In 2009, they reported the results of a study that tested five kinds of popular canned beans (red kidney, garbanzo, pinto, black, Great Northern) sold under multiple brand names. What they found: Draining the beans for 2 minutes reduced sodium by 36 percent; draining, then rinsing for 10 seconds and then draining again reduced sodium by 41 percent.

That's even more dramatic than results reported a decade earlier in the Nutrition Action Healthletter, which is published by the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest. The authors wrote: "We had an independent laboratory analyze the sodium content of three types of canned beans before and after we drained and rinsed them in a colander under running cold water for one minute. The results: On average, in the brands that started out with 230 mg to 360 mg of sodium, nearly a quarter of the sodium went down the drain. In brands that started out with 600 mg to 675 mg, rinsing washed away about a third of the sodium."

So there's the (to me) surprising answer to the question. Of course, the fact remains that if you're really looking to lower your sodium intake, low-sodium canned beans will be a better bet than regular. (Presumably, some of their sodium will go down the drain with rinsing, too.) And for the lowest-salt option of all, start with dried beans. That way, you have complete control over how much salt is in the beans -- and, thereafter, in you.

By Jane Touzalin  | February 2, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags:  Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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Next: Lunch Room Chatter: A pinot for your Lady Bird chili?

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