Research from Washington State University has revealed that blends of different types of salt can deliver the desired taste without using as much sodium chloride. The study was published in the Journal of Food Science.
Using tasting panels and WSU's "electronic tongue," which can identify taste compounds at the molecular level, researchers tested how much calcium chloride and potassium chloride they could add to water or tomato soup before the taste became unacceptable. They found the ideal reduction was a blend of about 96.4% sodium chloride, 1.6% potassium chloride and 2% calcium chloride.
"It’s a stealth approach, not like buying the 'reduced salt' option, which people generally don’t like," Carolyn Ross, a WSU professor of food science, said in a university release. "If we can stair-step people down, then we increase health while still making food that people want to eat."
Reducing salt in processed foods and restaurant meals, including bread, pizza and soup, continues to be a challenge for manufacturers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average per capita daily sodium consumption is approximately 3,400 milligrams, or almost 50% more than the recommended level. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advised those 14 and older to cut back to 2,300 mg per day or less, which is the recommendation in the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration published draft voluntary targets to limit sodium consumption to 3,000 mg daily by 2018 and 2,300 mg daily by 2026. However, some food-related trade groups maintain that meeting the FDA's voluntary targets will be too expensive.
While too much sodium chloride consumption has been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, researchers pointed out that different types of salt — such as calcium chloride and potassium chloride — either have neutral health impacts, or, in the case of potassium, may actually help reduce blood pressure. However, some people don't like their taste.
As the WSU study shows, being able to reduce sodium chloride in foods by using different types of salt could be a way for consumers to enjoy more of the salty snacks they crave without as much of the downside. It could also help food companies, some of which are already reformulating products to reduce salt, to find creative substitutes to help cut down on the ingredient and still appeal to the public's taste.