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Plant extracts may act as low-sodium salt replacer.

A low-salt substitute sourced from plants could reduce levels of sodium in foods by more than 40%, without impacting salty taste. The aim of Korean scientists was to develop a healthy, intense-tasting table salt substitute from plant extracts. They found that certain salty and umami-tasting extracts from saltwort, sea tangle and mushroom plants could be combined and used as a low-sodium salt substitute.

Our physiological need for sodium is only around 0.5 gram per day. Excessive sodium intake has been implicated in such conditions as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Because sodium is ubiquitous in foods, reducing its intake is not easy. The palatability of many foods is associated with salt. In the past, there have been efforts to reduce salt levels in food while keeping the intensity of salty tastes. This has been achieved using salt substitutes, by creating texture-taste interactions, and by boosting intensity with flavor boosters or salty aromas.

Although herbs and spices can substitute for salt in the diet, they do not provide a salty taste. So it's necessary to develop healthier substitutes that provide that taste. To develop a salt substitute with little sodium, the researchers selected three plant aqueous extracts representing salty and umami tastes. The extracts--Saliornia herbacea L (saltwort), Laminaria japonica (sea tangle) and Lemtinus sedodes (mushroom)--were powdered using a spray dryer and then mixed to make the substitute, which was tested against sodium chloride for salt intensity and sodium levels.

The scientists found that 1% sodium chloride was equivalent in saltiness intensity to 1.55% of the plant salt substitute. But the sodium levels of the substitute were only one-third that of sodium chloride. As a spray-dried powder, the substitute could be used in processed foods to reduce sodium levels without reducing a product's salty taste.

Further information. Gyu-Hee Lee, Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, Woosong University, Office #042-630-9740, 17-2 Jayang-dong, Dong-gu, Daejeon, Korea 300-718; phone: 42-630-9740; email:

When the degree of saltiness between plant salt substitutes and sodium chloride is the same, plant salt substitutes contain 43% less sodium than sodium chloride, making it possible to use them to reduce an individual's sodium intake, while retaining the salty taste of sodium chloride.
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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