Is soy sauce the key to cutting salt in our food?

Soy sauce could hold the key to reducing salt in your diet. Adding soy sauce to food could enable food manufacturers to halve the salt content in some cases, according to a new study.

Researchers experimented by replacing the salt in salad dressing, tomato soup and stir fried pork with Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce and found they were able to reduce the salt content by 50%, 17% and 29% respectively without affecting the taste or enjoyment of the foods.

“These results suggest that it is possible to replace NaCl (sodium/salt) in foods with naturally brewed soy sauce without lowering the overall taste intensity and to reduce the total sodium content in these foods without decreasing their consumer acceptance,” they conclude.

The news follows findings from the Royal Society of Chemistry that soy sauce is the secret ingredient to making the perfect gravy. As part of the society’s Year of Food, a programme to demonstrate the role of chemistry in providing healthy and sustainable food, the society said gravy should be made from the meat juices, vegetable, water – and a teaspoon of soy sauce which worked to bring out the umami, or meaty taste.

Reducing salt intake is a key concern for both consumers and food manufacturers. Although it is vital to our diet, medics warn too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which in turn is linked to a greater risk of heart disease and strokes. The World Health Organisation recommends a daily maximum salt consumption of 5g, but the western world’s average is estimated at 10g-12g.

The researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Food Science, believe soy sauce works by making food taste saltier than it really is. They found the five basic tastes – umami, salty, sour, bitter and sweet – interact with each other and that umami, a key component of naturally brewed soy sauce, increases perceived saltiness in foods.

Ben Briody, UK Sales and Marketing Manager of Kikkoman, which part-funded the study, said, “The implications of these findings for the food industry are huge. Health concerns over salt consumption have caused an increased demand for salt-reduced foods in recent years. But manufacturers have a huge challenge in trying to reduce the salt content yet still make their foods taste good.

“But this new research shows there’s no need to add salt to everyday foods such as soups, sauces and gravies, pasta and rice dishes and even boiled vegetables if you substitute measured amounts of soy sauce to season instead.”

Source: Journal of Food Science, “Salt Reduction in Foods Using Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce”
Authors: S. Kremer and J. Mojet of Wageningen University and Research Centre for Innovative Consumer Studies, The Netherlands; R. Shimojo of Kikkoman Europe R&D laboratory, The Netherlands

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