Sodium Reduction: Solving Your Salt Problem

January 28, 2011

Nine in 10 Americans eat too much salt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So what’s being done to change this?

Nine in 10 Americans eat too much salt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So what’s being done to change this?

Quite a bit, actually. Over the past several months, numerous major food producers have pledged to lower their salt use. And with a number of sophisticated approaches now available, you can do it, too. Check out some of your choices.

Potassium Chloride and Natural Flavors
One of the most common approaches to sodium reduction is replacing a percentage of a product’s sodium chloride with potassium chloride (KCl). But to some tongues, this substitute produces bitter and metallic tastes.

That’s where flavors and reactionary flavor technology come in handy.

Danisco (Copenhagen) offers SaltPro-an ingredient made of 50% sodium chloride, with the remainder comprising KCl and proprietary natural flavors-to combat those bitter notes. The company even offers variations with sea salt, without salt altogether, and without KCl. Cargill’s (Minneapolis) own KCl line can be enhanced with natural flavors using the company’s SaltWise line. WILD Flavors (Erlanger, KY) has its own offerings, too, with flavors and reactionary technology that can be complexed with KCl or sea salt (check out the company’s SaltTrim line).

Another corner of the natural flavor world grows out of yeast extracts, which provide their own unique flavor platforms. Sensient Flavors (Milwaukee) and Kerry Ingredients (Beloit, WI) are two leaders in this sector.

Magnesium
One team of researchers discovered sodium content could be reduced by including a mineral many Americans are deficient in: magnesium.

The end result was Smart Salt, a co-crystalized mineral salt based on magnesium and potassium. “We’re not replacing all of the sodium,” says Deborah Rolf, executive vice president of Smart Salt Inc. (Arnold, CA) in the Americas. “We’re balancing three minerals that are needed in the body: sodium, potassium, and magnesium.” Rolf says that over 50% of all Americans are deficient in magnesium intake-a deficiency that has been attributed to diseases like diabetes and heart arrhythmia.

Using a patented process and a precise selection of ingredients, the creators of Smart Salt managed to produce a clean-flavor salt made of some typically bitter ingredients.

Last summer, Scoular (Omaha, NE) became the exclusive North American marketer of this Generally Recognized as Safe ingredient.

Phosphates
Phosphates offer numerous benefits to food preparation. Luckily, not all phosphates require sodium. Reduced-sodium and sodium-free phosphates are available from companies like Innophos (Cranbury, NJ) for a variety of applications, including cheeses and baking. Research performed on the company’s phosphate ingredients for baking has shown comparable texture results can be achieved with no sodium at all.

Reshaping the Crystal
Advances in science have allowed for the actual manipulation of how strongly we taste salt. The theory is that if salt’s taste is more pronounced, less salt is needed.

Cargill’s (Minneapolis) longstanding Alberger brand salt flake is specifically designed with a greater surface area so that taste is better perceived, even with less salt. Changing salt’s shape isn’t an old-fashioned notion. Last summer, PepsiCo (Purchase, NY) said it developed its own improved crystal. The company claims it will lower the salt content of its Lay’s potato chips in similar fashion.

Did You Know?
Did you know that not all sea salts taste the same? Sea salt’s taste could actually depend on where it was harvested, according to research published last fall in the Journal of Sensory Studies.

A sensory panel of nine experts evaluated 38 sea salts from different parts of the world, only to find significant differences in mineral content and time intensities of salty tastes. Some sea salts were even characterized as having noticeable “earthy” or “smoky” flavors.

The taste trials, conducted through North Carolina State University, concluded that other minerals present in sea salts may create much of the difference