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Flavour with less salt (Part 1)

July 28, 2011 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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When people are asked what factors influence their food choices, ‘taste’ is always among the top three responses. People like food that tastes good - this statement seems so obvious that I feel a bit silly mentioning it. What is less apparent is that when people talk about taste, they are really referring to flavour.

Humans are only able to detect five tastes - sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury (umami). In contrast, we are able to detect hundreds of different smells. Flavour is the combination of taste, smell and other physical sensations in the mouth. Salt is added to all kinds of prepared foods to improve their flavour. Salt strengthens the impression of smell and suppresses bitterness. When I used to work as a restaurant cook, the salt dish was always nearby and I was encouraged to season most cooked foods with some salt. Times have changed. The public is more health conscious now, and salt (sodium) reduction is being encouraged to improve the health of the population. As both a cook at home and as a dietitian,

I find myself looking for ways to cut back on the salt while maintaining the flavour of the foods my family eats. Cutting back on salt, like becoming vegetarian, encouraged me to experiment with other flavours and cuisines. The number one way that I cut back on salt is by making an effort to cook most of my family’s meals from minimally processed foods. Most of the salt in Canadians’ meals comes from processed foods, and from restaurants and take-out foods.  Eating more home cooked meals gives me more control over how much salt we eat.

Over the years I’ve found a number of ways to keep our meals full of flavour while lowering the amount of salt.

Watch for Part 2 on this topic for my tips list.

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