Salt substitutes are alternatives to common salt (NaCl). In salt substitute products, NaCl is partially or totally replaced. Among several options, potassium chloride (KCl), in combination with magnesium sulfate have proved to be a key nutritional ingredient for this purpose. They provide similar properties like common salt (NaCl), but with several unwanted side effects. Despite its similar salty taste to NaCl, KCl is characterized by relatively offensive acrid, metallic, and bitter side tastes. Taste is not the only function that salt provides, and that needs to be replaced with a substitute product.
Importance of salt and potassium-based salt substitutes
Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a crucial food ingredient with several important functions that need to be replaced with the salt substitute:
– essential nutrient
– salty taste
– taste-enhancer and taste-modifier
– osmotic preservative for meat and some other food products
– auxiliary food processing ingredient for food dehydration, hastening/drying after salting
Taste improving agents are required with the use of KCl
For the successful use of KCl in salt substitutes at elevated ratios, effective taste-improving agents have to be introduced to overcome its sensory drawbacks.
Taste improving agents:
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Nutritional yeast provides a nutty, or cheesy flavour
- Liquid Aminos have a savory, umami flavor
- Seaweed Flakes deliver a briny, salty flavor
The term salt substitute is regulated by the FAO CODEX guidelines on nutrition labelling. It states that the sodium content of salt substitutes will be no more than 120 mg sodium/100 g of the salt substitute mixture. Most commercially available products are above this limit and are therefore marketed under other names, for example, “reduced sodium salt” or “low salt.” For the purposes of this blogpost, the term “salt substitute” will be used throughout.
A series of blogposts on different aspects of salt substitutes
- Why substitute salt? – Health Concerns – The 2013 WHO Initiative – The Controversy around Salt and Health
- Processed Food and the Food Industry – Home Cooking and Individual Salt Use
- Results of Salt Reduction Initiatives
- The Market of Salt Substitutes