French fries. Chips. Popcorn. Everyone loves that salty flavor, but too much sodium has been linked to a host of health problems, from high blood pressure to stroke and heart disease.
Good news: scientists have discovered a way to make food taste salty, but without dangerous levels of added sodium chloride.
“It’s a stealth approach, not like buying the ‘reduced salt’’ option, which people generally don’t like,” said Dr. Carolyn Ross, a food scientist at Washington State University who helped to create the salt mix.
Ross and her team set out to create a salt mix that contained less sodium chloride – the salt linked to health issues. Most table salt is sodium chloride, and most foods with a salty flavor contain it. So do many other foods that aren’t especially salty, like bread.
The mix Ross’ team created does contain some sodium chloride, but they found they could replace up to a quarter of the table salt with calcium chloride, which has not been linked to any health issues.
They also considered using potassium chloride, but found it to be a poor substitute for the salty flavor people were looking for.
“Potassium chloride, especially, tastes really bitter and people really don’t like it,” Ross said.
For the study, participants tested the salt mixtures alone, in water, and in tomato soup. The team was trying to discover how much of the dangerous sodium chloride could be replaced before participants noticed the change in salty flavor.
The mix they settled on, with a quarter calcium chloride, passed muster with taste-testers. Adding potassium chloride or replacing more than about 22 percent of the sodium chloride with calcium chloride brought unfavorable reviews.
“If we can stair-step people down, then we increase health while still making food that people want to eat,” Ross said.
The study has been published in the Journal of Food Science.
By Kyla Cathey, Earth.com staff writer