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Salt and Your Taste Buds

November 29, 2011 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Salt and Your Taste Buds

You may have heard that on average “over 75% of the sodium (a component of salt) that we eat comes from processed foods.”  If you are good at math, you might think that this is a rather large proportion and conclude that a pretty direct way to reduce your sodium intake is to eat fewer processed foods. I would agree with you on that point. But what if you are amongst the majority who find processed foods to be pretty convenient, tasty and incorporate them into many of the meals you eat with your family? Wouldn’t it be easier if the food processors just stopped adding salt to their food products, or at least added much less than they do now?

If only it were so simple. In addition to playing an important role in food preservation, salt plays a significant role influencing the flavour of foods. Taste tests have found that added salt influences the flavour of foods by:

  • Enhancing sweet tastes
  • Improving the intensity and balance of overall flavour
  • Increasing the sense of fullness and mouth feel
  • Increasing the taste of saltiness
  • Masking bitter tastes

When food processors reduce the amount of salt that is added to food products the flavours may change as a result. One of the challenges faced by food processors is to create food products that have less added salt but still taste good to a society that is used to a high sodium diet. While food processors continue to look for solutions to this challenge you can take steps to reduce the amount of sodium in the foods that your family eats. I would love to hear what steps your family has taken to lower the amount of sodium in family meals.

~ Dean

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Comments (6)


Posted on Wednesday November 30, 2011 a 8:56am

I have been following your series on sodium blogs for awhile now and I try to always look for the recommended %DV of sodium (like you say 15% or less!!) on packaged food. I was shocked to find that most packaged food is usually 20% DV or higher! So now, I take the time on the weekends to plan out my weekly meals and have started shopping for fresh/natural ingredients so I can make my meals at home. I find that the best thing about using a recipe is that I have started to use a variety of spices and herbs that I have never used before and love now that my meals have more flavour!

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HealthyFamilies BC

Posted on Wednesday November 30, 2011 a 5:02pm

Thanks for following our blogs chrissyb! I love hearing stories from people who have made really positive changes in their lives. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can really relate to what you said about meal planning and using recipes. At home I find that I often tend to make meals that are familiar, quick, nourishing and based on whatever I have in the fridge and pantry. When I take the time to do some meal planning and browse my collection of recipes I find that I tend to try new dishes with new flavour combinations and ingredients. I love making new meals! I think that when our new baby joins the family the change will help to shake me out of some of my cooking habits, and encourage me to do some menu planning and recipe browsing. Cheers, Dean Simmons


Posted on Friday December 2, 2011 a 10:28am

The fact that the RDA is between 5 & 15% and most processed and packaged foods contain more builds a good case to doing more cooking and preparation of whole foods.


Posted on Sunday December 4, 2011 a 5:57pm

One thing we do is use a little unsalted butter on air popped corn and sprinkle it with dill weed. It has lots of flavour and I think if children get used to a lot salt diet it may become a lifestyle for them.


Posted on Saturday December 17, 2011 a 8:28am

i love your blog sure wished as consumers we could do something about the large quantities of sodium used in product.we try to purchase no salt added products in we need to purchase canned food-there so many available now and have learned to cook with herbs and spices kind of fun to experiment.


Posted on Saturday December 24, 2011 a 9:12am

What a polite way of saying that processed food is garbage made palatable by tons of salt (and sugar). Even 15%DV is incredibly high when you consider that most people eat double the suggested serving. Hopefully within the next few decades, salt and sugar will be seen as addictions similar to tobacco and alcohol. I'm not holding my breath. Philip-Morris fought the villification of tobacco and now they sell us a ton of salt and sugar.


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