Bakers Journal

The Final Proof: Is Sodium The New Trans Fat?

November 13, 2008
By Final Proof

Jane Dummer, a registered dietitian at Guelph Food Technology Centre, answers questions about reducing sodium in baked goods.

Jane Dummer, a registered dietitian at Guelph Food Technology Centre, answers questions about reducing sodium in baked goods.

Bakers Journal: What is sodium and why is it necessary to our diet as opposed to other substances such as trans fats and saturated fats?

Jane Dummer: By weight, table salt is 40 per cent sodium and 60 per cent chloride. Sodium is an essential micronutrient for humans. The dietary reference intake (DRI) established by the Institute of Medicine’s daily adequate intake (AI) for sodium for adults is between 1, 200 mg and 1,500 mg, depending on age. The AI of the DRI is enough needed for proper body functions such as maintaining the right balance of fluids and transmitting nerve impulses. However, research shows the average Canadian adult consumes in excess of 3,100 mg of sodium a day.

North Americans consume 75 per cent of their sodium from processed foods including baked products. One teaspoon of table salt weighs 5 g and contains about 2,300 mg of sodium and one teaspoon of baking soda equals 1,000 mg sodium. It is important to note other ingredients in processed products such as baking soda and MSG contribute to the total amount of sodium, which is declared on the package’s nutrition fact table (NFT). The percentage daily value (DV) number on the NFT is based on 2300 mg of sodium per day.

BJ: What are the health consequences of prolonged excessive sodium consumption?

D: The kidneys regulate the body’s sodium level and the volume of water circulating in the body. If excess sodium is not removed, such as when kidney function is impaired, swelling of body tissue may occur because sodium causes the body to retain fluid. When extra fluid is retained, blood volume increases, increasing blood pressure, making the heart work harder to move blood through the blood vessels. High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and renal disease. Research shows that lowering sodium consumption to optimal levels could reduce the incidence of stroke and heart disease by as much as 30 per cent.

BJ: What is the government of Canada doing to encourage Canadians to lower their sodium intake?

Blood Pressure Canada created a policy paper recommending Canadian adults reduce their sodium intake to between 1,200 mg and 2,300 mg per day by Jan. 1, 2020.

In fall 2007, Health Canada created a multi-stakeholder working group on sodium reduction. This group is made up of organizations including government agencies, the scientific community, health professional and health-focused non-governmental organizations. Their focus is to develop and oversee the implementation of a strategy to lower the sodium content of Canadians’ diets over the next decade.

BJ: Salt is a big part of the baking process. How can bakeries reduce the amount of sodium in their products?

D: Many efforts have been made from ingredient manufacturers and food companies to reduce or completely replace salt in food products. Remember, direct replacement may not be practical and there will be additional effort needed in the reformulation process in order to achieve the desired results. Some success has been generated using potassium chloride as a substitute. Manufacturers have reported success with as much as a 50 per cent potassium chloride, 50 per cent sodium chloride mix. Although potassium chloride has similar effects on the baking process to sodium chloride, the major problem with this salt is the introduction of a metallic taste, which cannot be easily masked in various foods.

Other salts that can possibly replace sodium chloride include magnesium chloride, magnesium acetate and potassium gluconate. Other low-sodium salt replacers are also on the market. These may include blends of sodium chloride with potassium chloride, magnesium sulphate and the amino acid L-lysine hydrochloride. Ingredient suppliers are actively involved in developing replacers; some are now available. These include Lo Salt, Saxa So-low, Morton Lite Salt and others.

Recently, Jungbunzlauer introduced Sub4salt Salt, an ingredient that is claimed to replace salt by 35 per cent in bread and other baked goods without affecting the taste and processing properties. In addition to salt replacers, flavour enhancers may be used, which work by activating receptors in the mouth and compensate for the salt taste reduction. Such enhancers include yeast extracts, nucleotides and a recently introduced Danisco ingredient SALboost. Monosodium glutamate is also used as a flavour enhancer, but it is not as desirable, as it contains sodium and its use is somewhat controversial.

Before venturing into replacements and/or using other salts or commercially available replacers and enhancers, make sure of the regulatory status of these ingredients for domestic use and the export market.

BJ: What has been the reaction to this information from people in the food industry?

D: All operations that process products are eager for this information. GFTC offers assistance for manufacturers, food service operators and retailers wanting to reformulate for low sodium. Those interested can get assistance on an individual project/product basis as well as by attending an industry course, Reformulating for Low Sodium, on March 31, 2009, at GFTC.

If you need help reformulating for low sodium, contact GFTC Technical Services by telephoning  1-519-821-1246 ext. 5033 or by visiting

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