It is possible to replace some of the salt in foods with other taste or flavor compounds or through other flavor strategies or techniques. Some of these compounds or strategic elements may be added by the processor, chef, or consumer, whereas others may be created during food preparation, such as cooking.
A prominent example of an added compound involves glutamic acid (an amino acid). Combining glutamic acid with sodium creates the wellknown flavoring compound monosodium glutamate, or MSG. MSG imparts a savory taste (called “umami”) as well as a salt taste to food. Some studies have shown that it is possible to maintain food palatability with a lowered overall sodium level in a food when MSG is substituted for some of the salt (Ball et al., 2002; Roininen et al., 1996; Yamaguchi, 1987). In these cases, less MSG is added back to the food than is removed by using less salt. Other possibilities for the use of glutamates are included in Appendix D, Table D-2. It should be noted that although the use of MSG is controversial (Fernstrom, 2007), it is a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance.2 Beyond MSG, quite a wide number of naturally occurring or traditionally prepared foods exhibit these same “umami” qualities (e.g., mushrooms, tomatoes, vegetable extracts) that might displace some of the need for added sodium in food preparation or manufacturing (Marcus, 2005).
For surface applications of salt to foods (e.g., on potato chips), changing the size of salt particles can make it possible to provide the same salt taste with a lower amount of salt. Dissolution of salt in the mouth is needed to impart a salt taste, but ordinary salt particles often do not dissolve completely. Changing the size of salt particles can help improve dissolution and thereby increase the salt taste of the salt (Kilcast, 2007).
Changing the crystal structure of salt may also produce the same salt taste from reduced amounts of salt in the product (Beeren, 2009). Additional technologies being investigated to provide salt taste with less salt include mock salts and multiple emulsions. Mock salts are starch particles coated in a thin layer of salt. For topically applied salt applications, these particles can create surface coverage with less salt (Kilcast, 2007).