Soy sauce may help with salt reduction in foods: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soy sauce, Coeliac disease

Adding soy sauce to certain foods may enhance perception of saltiness and enable food manufacturers to cut salt content without affecting taste, according to new research from Japan.

Soy sauce was capable of reducing the salt content of salad dressings, soup, and stir-fried pork by 50, 17, and 29 per cent, respectively, without affecting the overall taste intensity or product pleasantness, according to results published in the Journal of Food Science​.

Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, and the World Health Organization recommends that per capita daily salt consumption should not exceed five grams. However, with the average daily salt (NaCl) consumption in the western world estimated to be between 10 and 12 grams, consumers and some governments have imposed pressure on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content in their formulations - 60 to 80 per cent of salt consumption comes from packaged foods rather than salt added at the table.

The new research, led by Stefanie Kremer from Wageningen University’s Centre for Innovative Consumer Studies, suggests “that it is possible to replace NaCl in foods with naturally brewed soy sauce without lowering the overall taste intensity and to reduce the total NaCl content in these foods without decreasing their consumer acceptance”​.

The study, which involved scientists from Kikkoman Europe, proposed that soy sauce may work by enhancing the perception of saltiness, the so-called odour-induced saltiness enhancement (OISE).

“[However,] it might be expected that the association between soy sauce odour and saltiness in a population of almost completely nonusers of soy sauce might not be very strong. In that case it will take probably more than 1 or 2 sessions to establish an association between soy sauce odour and saltiness,”​ wrote Kremer and her co-workers.

Study details

The Wageningen and Kikkoman researchers formulated salad dressing, soup, and stir-fried pork with increasing levels of soy sauce and decreasing levels of salt. Consumers were then recruited to test five samples of each product and rate the pleasantness and other sensory attributes.

“The results showed that it was possible to achieve a NaCl reduction in the tested foods of, respectively, 50 per cent, 17 per cent, and 29 per cent without leading to significant losses in either overall taste intensity or product pleasantness,”​ wrote the researchers.

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

Source: Journal of Food Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01232.x
"Salt Reduction in Foods Using Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce"
Authors: S. Kremer, J. Mojet, R. Shimojo


Reader comments

I'm all for reducing salt in food -- but the use of soy sauce as an alternative is a nightmare for the portion of the population that suffers from celiac disease or is gluten intolerant, because (easily 99% of) soy sauce generally contains wheat. Already, there are so many foods on the market that could otherwise be gluten-free, EXCEPT for the SINGULAR addition of wheat-based soy sauce. It is actually quite a big (and bad) deal. Now, not all soy sauce is wheat based -- Kikkoman is, La Choy is not -- but when one sees "soy sauce" on the ingredient label of just about any food, "wheat" is also part of the mix.
Suzanne Rampton,
Rampton Research,
Indianapolis, IN.

Related topics: Science, Preservatives and acidulants

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