Pass the salt, but hold the sodium. That may soon be an actual mealtime request, now that scientists have found a way to make food taste salty but with less of the sodium chloride that can be unhealthy.
Washington State University researchers studied blends that include other salts like potassium chloride and calcium chloride. They’re meant to displace sodium chloride, which can increase blood pressure.
Potassium can help reduce blood pressure, but potassium chloride has a bitter taste. Salt substitutes are also a health imperative: Typical salt consumption in the U.S. exceeds recommended daily amounts by 30 to 70%.
The findings, published in the Journal of Food Science, also looked at a longtime meal dilemma. Cutting salt is beneficial to health, but for many people, food that lacks flavor also lacks taste appeal.
That’s where a panel of taste-testers, and an electronic tongue, came in. Using salt solutions and tomato soup with various salt combinations, the human testers and their electronic counterpart evaluated how much of sodium chloride could be displaced before the taste became unacceptable. The electronic tongue is capable of distinguishing minute differences in food and beverages. It has been used in other tests to evaluate wine and spicy cheese, among other foods.
Some tests produced an even larger reduction in sodium, with one combination replacing 22 percent of sodium with calcium chloride. Yet the final, taste-driven verdict was for a blend of 96.4 percent sodium chloride, traditional salt, with 1.6 percent potassium chloride and 2 percent calcium chloride.
For salt-cravers, that’s some food for thought.