Please pass the salt


To some, the label “reduced sodium” may as well say “reduced satisfaction.” Those people are genetically geared to seek out that salty taste because it offsets other unpleasant flavors they find in food, according to a recent study by Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences.


“Supertasters,” as dubbed by food psychologists, experience flavors such as the sourness of lemon, the bitterness of cheese or the zing of soda more intensely than “non-tasters” and use salt to mask the potency.

While food brands are offering more reduced-salt versions of household favorites to lower Americans’ risk of high blood pressure and stroke, supertasters, who make up an estimated 25 percent of the population, may be slow to make the salt sacrifice. The findings of the study may tell manufacturers which foods are worsened when they skimp on salt. Low-sodium cheese, for example, was reported as too bitter by supertasters who normally depend on salt to dull its sharp taste.

John Hayes, assistant professor of food science at Penn State, advises supertasters to mind their sodium. Salt often sneaks into processed food where we wouldn’t expect to find it, such as cereal and bread. Hayes suggests checking labels to be sure each serving does not exceed 480 milligrams of sodium.

“Think of having a certain salt budget to spend,” Hayes says. “Spend it wisely on things you need.”

The Institute of Medicine suggests a sodium budget of 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day, half of what is found in the average American’s diet.

Can the supertaster become sodium-savvy? Yes, but it may take some discipline if the need for salt is in your genes. Still, “biology is not destiny,” Hayes says. “Food is a choice.”

(c) Chicago Tribune —MCT