SALT REDUCTION- Health Risks and Possible Alternatives Published on: 26 Sep, 2021


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During the past several decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the production of more and more processed food, rapid urbanization, and changing lifestyles making impact on the transforming dietary patterns among people. Availability of highly processed foods are increasing and becoming more affordable. People around the world are consuming more energy-dense foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats, sugars, and salt. Salt is the primary source of sodium and increased consumption of sodium is associated with hypertension and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. At the same time, their eating patterns shift, people are consuming less fruit vegetables and dietary fiber (such as whole grains) that are key components of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain potassium, which contributes to reduce blood pressure.

Common Perception about Salt:

Salt (sodium chloride) has its own taste that we are all very familiar with and is classified as one of the five basic tastes (sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami). Although other chemicals can also give a salty taste, sodium chloride is generally recognized as a pure salty taste. Salt, like the other basic tastes, forms the foundation for the overall flavor response, created by a combination of the basic tastes, odour volatiles and trigeminal (irritant) response. Salt is also important as a flavor enhancer in foods, in particular for savory foods, but also in sweet foods such as chocolate. Removal of salt may make foods bland and unappetizing. Salt also tastes sweet at low concentrations suppress bitterness, gives fullness / thickness in foods and in some products is important for its visual crystal appearance. At higher concentrations salt stimulates salivation. Salt in the diet usually comes from processed foods, because they are particularly high in salt (such as ready to serve meals, processed meats like kebabs, cutlets, processed fish products, meat products cheese, salty snack foods, and instant noodles, among others) or because they are consumed frequently in large amounts (such as bread and processed cereal products). Salt is also added to food during cooking or at the table (soy sauce, fish sauce and table salt). However, some manufacturers are reformulating recipes to reduce the salt content of their products and consumers should read food labels and choose products low in sodium.

About salt, sodium and potassium

  • Sodium is an essential nutrient necessary for maintenance of plasma volume, acid-base balance, transmission of nerve impulses and normal cell function.
  • Excess sodium is linked to adverse health outcomes, including increased blood pressure.
  • The primary contributors to dietary sodium consumption depend on the cultural context and dietary habits of a population.
  • Sodium is found naturally in a variety of foods, such as milk, meat and shellfish. It is often found in high amounts in processed foods such as breads, processed meat and snack foods, as well as in condiments (e.g. soy source, fish source).
  • Sodium is also contained in sodium glutamate, used as a food additive in many parts of the world.
  • Potassium is an essential nutrient needed for maintenance of total body fluid volume, acid and electrolyte balance, and normal cell function.
  • Potassium is commonly found in a variety of unrefined foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
  • Increased potassium intake reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults.

Reducing dietary salt is recommended by the recent United Nations Summit to prevent non-communicable diseases and the World Health Organization to improve population health. Excess dietary salt increases blood pressure causing approximately 30% of hypertension and is a probable pro carcinogen for gastric cancer and is also associated with kidney stones and osteoporosis. Where assessed, the salt consumption is more than 5/g day, maximum quantity recommended by WHO. African descent people are particularly susceptible to the adverse blood pressure effects of excess salt. High levels of blood pressure is a contributory factor in at least 40% of all heart disease and stroke which represent 45 % of NCDs. Hypertension is a major health risk globally, it is estimated that between 20-35% of the adult population has elevated blood pressure. Salt reduction has been embraced by the food industry for a considerable time and many solutions have been developed, often specific to a certain product category, reflecting the product specific challenges for food producers with no one-size-fits-all solution as yet available. Further investigations are continuing to take place by ingredient suppliers and food manufacturers. Whilst reformulating food products, it is important to understand the ingredient interactions within the product and to consider the sensory perception, food safety, and processing and quality aspects.


There are many salt replacers available. Of these, the most widely and most commonly used salt replacer is potassium chloride, and many products that are on the market use this as a partial replacer. However, potassium chloride does not have the same flavor profile as sodium chloride, particularly as it gives a bitter taste perception when applied at higher concentrations. Another approach to salt reduction is to use salt enhancers. Salt enhancers are substances that do not have a salty taste in them, but enhance a salty taste when used in combination with sodium chloride. A range of ingredients are reported to act as salt enhancers including amino acids, monosodium glutamate, lactates, yeast products and other flavorings. Taste enhancers work by activating receptors in the mouth and throat, which helps compensate for the salt reduction and enhances flavor. Flavor manufacturing companies have been actively researching the effect of salt in different application areas. When the salt is reduced, some flavors can effectively build back the aspects that are missing. It is also possible to use other fermentation–derived materials to boost richness and depth of flavor when sodium is lacking. Another approach to salt reduction could be odour induced saltiness enhancement by a salty-congruent odour. Selected odors can be used to compensate for salt reduction. The five human senses that we use for food evaluation (sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing), interact with each other and can trick our senses in their perception of certain stimuli. It has been suggested that saltiness could be enhanced for example by cheese odour (Pioneer et al., 2004) and Soy sauce (Djordjevic et al. 2004). In some cases, the ratings of saltiness of food products are affected simply by the names of the food products, even prior to tasting.


Potassium chloride salts are one option, but many people prefer herb and spice blends. If you have high blood pressure, scaling back the sodium in your diet is a smart move. Excess sodium (a main component of salt) makes the body hold on to extra water, which can elevate blood pressure. And most of us consume more than double the limit of 1,500 milligrams per day of sodium recommended by the American Heart Association. Because salt-laden processed foods are by far the biggest sources of salt in our diets, eating home-cooked foods is the most effective strategy for cutting back. In the kitchen, swapping regular salt for sodium-free or lower-sodium alternatives can also help. Another option is potassium chloride salt, either alone or mixed with regular salt (sodium chloride). If you don't mind the flavor (some find it to be slightly metallic or bitter) the extra potassium these salts provide is usually fine, since most people don't get enough of this essential nutrient in their diets. However, extra potassium can be a problem for people who are on medications that can increase potassium in the bloodstream (such as potassium-sparing diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin-receptor blockers) or for those who have diabetes, kidney disease, or blocked urinary flow. You can also find reduced-sodium salt that's made into flake-shaped crystals, which are less dense and therefore lower in sodium by volume (Diamond Crystal Salt Sense). Note that both sea salt and kosher salt have about the same amount of sodium as regular table salt.

  1. Iodized salt:The most common kind that is used, iodized salt, often known as the table salt, is the most easily available type of salt. This is because this form of salt gets easily dissolved in food. Deficiency of iodine leads to thyroid gland issues, hence, this salt is important but in measured quantities. According to WHO, iodine is essential for healthy brain development of children. The recommended consumption of iodine in adults over 18 years of age is 150 mcg everyday.
  2. Kosher salt: Important for Jewish religion, Kosher salt is flaky and has longer grains. One major health benefit of this kind of salt is that it does not contain any additives like iodine. Once this gets dissolved in our food, its taste is not any different from regular salt. Using kosher salt to cut back on your sodium intake is recommended by many studies, as it can help prevent blood pressure and heart disease. As recommended by the U.S department of agriculture, consumption of kosher salt should be limited to below 2,300 mg.
  3. Sea salt:Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater. This type of salt does not get dissolved easily and can cause issues with the final flavor of a dish. Sea salt is rich in minerals from the sea and contains magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and iodine. Sea salt is recommended to be added to foods before and after cooking or to your water bottles. Since it is full of minerals, the ideal consumption of this type of salt is 1 teaspoon every day.
    4. Low sodium salt:The key ingredient in this kind of salt is potassium. Regular salts are rich in sodium and hence, low sodium salts are helpful for those with blood pressure problems. Low sodium salt contains 30 per cent less sodium than normal table salt. However, using low sodium salt has its own set of pros and cons, as we tend to add more quantity due to its low quantity of sodium.
  4. Pink salt:Himalayan rock salt is known as pink salt because of its pale pink color. Himalayan pink salt has a high mineral content and hence, people prefer it due to its health benefits. Owing to its mineral content, it drastically helps reduce muscle cramps. Consumption of pink salt promotes circulation as well as stabilizes pH balance within the cells. Not only for consumption, but pink salt is also used for detoxifying baths.


Note: (The author is an Aspiring Food Technologist/Writer and opinions expressed in this article are based on scientific research evidences carried by scholars, Academicians, Organisations like WHO, FAO; and has nothing to do with the organization he works for).


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