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The nutritional values of products

Milk Street Radio received the following question from Brendan Heinichen in California:

“My question is about the nutritional values of products. For example, the can of cooked chicken and tuna has high sodium content, is that including that soaking liquid? So is it reduced once I drain that away? Also, bacon, is that calorie and fat content including that grease that’s left over after it’s cooked?”


We reached out to Helen Rasmussen, PhD, RD, of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University for an answer. Here's what she said:


“1. Regarding sodium levels of canned goods: does rinsing the contents affect sodium amounts?

Yes. In a research study done at the Nutrient Data Laboratory at the USDA’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, canned foods were drained for 2 minutes into a sieve, they were rinsed with 3.5 liters of tap water and allowed to drain for an additional 2 minutes. The results showed that draining and rinsing reduced canned foods can reduce the sodium content ranging from 9 to 23%. Caveat: rinsing may decrease vitamin C.


Haytowitz, D.B. Effect of draining and rinsing on the sodium and water soluble vitamin content of canned vegetables. Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville HNRC, Beltsville, MD.


2. Re the fat and sodium content listed on bacon packages–does this change after cooking it?

The cut used to make bacon comes from the side, or belly, of the pig. When it is cured, and smoked, it becomes bacon. Curing generally involves a salty brine. Reading the ingredient list of a package of cured bacon will give the consumer an idea of the amount of sodium in the curing process of the bacon. On one such product it states: “bacon cured with water, salt, sodium phosphate, sodium erythrobate, sodium nitrate.” The package reports 380 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of saturated fat.


Comparing 3 slices of raw, cured bacon versus 3 slices of broiled, pan-fried bacon gives the following difference:

Raw bacon: weight: 68 grams, 21.5 gm water, 466 milligrams sodium, 39.1 grams of fat.

Broiled bacon: weight 19.0 grams, 2.5 gm water, 303 milligrams sodium, and 9.4 grams of fat.


Cooking bacon and discarding the fat will reduce the fat and sodium amount (“bacon grease”) that were ingredients in the curing brine.


USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 1 April 2018”

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