What the food industry needs to know about sodium reduction

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Sodium is an essential micronutrient, but the amount we need is small. Three slices of bread or a teaspoon of table salt will suffice, and chances are your daily sodium intake will be much higher. More than 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, which can lead to hypertension, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Most excess sodium comes from processed and packaged foods, so the food industry and food scientists are constantly looking for ways to reduce sodium. A new article from the University of Illinois offers a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on sodium reduction strategies in food production.

“Overconsumption of sodium is a huge health problem, and the FDA has been recommending sodium reduction in foods since the 1980s, but we haven’t gotten there yet. Although the unit volume of salt in the food supply has not increased, the amount of sodium consumed has increased, because we simply consume a lot of food,” says Soo-Yeun Lee, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) at the U of I and co-author of the article.

We only need about 450 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, and the maximum recommended amount is 2300 mg, or 1500 mg for those at risk for high blood pressure. But the average consumption exceeds 3,000 to 3,500 mg per day – or 50% to 100% above the upper limit. Over 70% of our sodium intake comes from processed and packaged foods, primarily deli meats, breads, cheeses and soups.

The researchers conducted a scoping review that included primary studies, literature reviews, book chapters, and patents covering sodium reduction in food products. They focused on studies that included sensory data with human subjects, as palatability is critical for consumer acceptance.

“In this review, we looked at different food systems. How you would reduce salt in a solid system, such as topical application on snacks, such as salted peanuts or salted chips, would be very different from application embedded in semi-solid foods like cheese or bread. . And in a liquid system like soup, where it’s completely dissolved, it would be really different in how we could reduce the salt while still delivering the taste it gives,” Lee says.

“We hope this work will provide insight into the wide variety of salt reduction technologies that exist. This can help food companies be better informed to use different strategies than they have done before,” she adds.

The researchers identified five main strategies: salt reduction, salt substitutes, flavor modification, physical modification, and functional modification.

“The most obvious is to eliminate salt from the recipe, and it’s a key part of all strategies when sodium reduction is the goal,” says Aubrey Dunteman, FSHN graduate student and lead author of the paper. .

But it is not possible to completely eliminate sodium, since it has both sensory and functional properties. For example, it is used for preserving meat and for raising bread dough.

“Many of the studies we reviewed combined more than one method, such as salt removal with salt substitutes and flavor modification or salt removal and physical modification,” Dunteman says.

Many studies have used salt substitutes such as potassium chloride, calcium chloride, or other acidic chlorides or salts. However, these substitutes tend to taste bitter, so they are often used in combination with flavor modifications, such as umami substances or bitterness blockers.

“Another method is physical modification. For example, you can encapsulate salt crystals, which changes the way salt is dissolved in the mouth. This can alter salty perception allowing a reduction in the amount of sodium needed to create the salty taste. You can also create an uneven distribution of salt in a product which can further help to enhance the salty perception of the food product through taste contrast,” says Dunteman.

“Finally, there is the functional modification. For example, you could move away from a sodium-based preservative in deli meats, perhaps using celery powder preservative instead of sodium nitrate.

Functional modification is less represented in the scoping review because this type of sodium reduction research typically does not incorporate a sensory component as a primary assessment method, Dunteman notes.

If consumers want to reduce their salt intake, the best strategy is to cook their own food and limit their consumption of processed and packaged foods. You can also wean yourself off salt with practice, essentially following a “salty diet”.

“If you’re cooking at home, you can intentionally reduce the salt and you’ll appreciate the reduced perception of saltiness over time. People can adapt to the reduced salt level, but it’s a learning and adapting process. You can also add flavor enhancers such as herbs and spices,” suggests Lee.

“If you are a consumer of canned soup, for example, you can buy a lower sodium version and add salt. Then you can gradually change the amount of salt you add, so that you can make it palatable,” she notes.

Reference: Dunteman AN, McKenzie EN, Yang Y, Lee Y, Lee SY. Compendium of sodium reduction strategies in foods: a scoping review. Comp Revi Food Sci Food Safety. 2022;21(2):1300-1335. do I:10.1111/1541-4337.12915

This article was republished from the following materials. Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For more information, please contact the quoted source.

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