Scientists find a way to make food taste salty without salt

Scientists find a way to make food taste salty but with less of the sodium that can cause high blood pressure

  • People may pick up reduced salt snacks as a way of cutting their salt intake 
  • Scientists wanted to find a blend that tastes like salt to improve snacks
  • It could even improve health, as potassium used can reduce blood pressure
  • Adults should have only 6g of salt a day, but Britons have 8.1g a day 

Reduced-salt foods may be healthier, but they aren’t known for being tasty because they are low in sodium.

But scientists now claim to have found a way to make keep the taste of salt – without actually containing too much of the bad kind.

Tasters agreed the mix, which contains less sodium chloride, was just as enjoyable and similar to the traditional salt blend.

The new mix is made up of almost of a quarter of calcium chloride – which is not thought to be harmful to human health.

Scientists at Washington State University have found a way to make crisps taste salty – without the salt. It could be the end of bad tasting reduced-salt crisps 

Too much sodium can raise blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is not a direct cause of obesity.   

Carolyn Ross, a food science professor at Washington State University, created the salt mix with a team of colleagues.

She said: ‘It’s a stealth approach, not like buying the “reduced salt”‘ option, which people generally don’t like.

‘If we can stair-step people down, then we increase health while still making food that people want to eat.’

Professor Ross and her team looked at salt blends that use less sodium chloride, which is the main mineral in the salt people use every day.

They looked at other salts like calcium chloride and potassium chloride, both of which have no known adverse health effects.  

Potassium can help reduce blood pressure but food manufacturers have for years been wary of using it because of claims it isn’t as tasty.



Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around 1 teaspoon.


The maximum amount of salt children should have depends on their age:

  • 1 to 3 years – 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
  • 4 to 6 years – 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
  • 7 to 10 years – 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
  • 11 years and over – 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)


Babies shouldn’t eat much salt, because their kidneys are not fully developed to process it.

Source: NHS 

‘Potassium chloride, especially, tastes really bitter and people really don’t like it,’ Professor Ross said. 

For the study, some tasters tried a variety of salt solutions, or salt in water, while others tested different salt combinations in tomato soup.  

The team wanted to assess just how much they could add of the replacement salts before people found the the food was no longer tasty. 

They discovered the tasters enjoyed a combination of 78 per cent sodium chloride and 22 per cent calcium chloride.

‘This combination of the two salts did not significantly differ compared to 100 per cent sodium chloride,’ Professor Ross said.

But she added ‘consumer acceptance decreased’ when potassium chloride was thrown into the mix. The results were published in Journal of Food Science. 

The average person in the UK is thought to eat around 8.1g salt a day, despite NHS recommendations of no more than 6g a day. 

But people have started to eat less salt over the last decade, thanks to the food industry gradually reformulating the products on shelves.  

Gradual reductions in salt over a period of years has been found to be the best way to reduce salt consumption.  

Action on Salt claims that for every gram of salt removed from the average UK diet 4,000 lives can be saved from heart disease.  


The vast majority of packaged foods in the UK come with nutritional information printed on the label. 

The main things to look for are fat, saturated fat, salt (which may be called sodium), fibre and sugar – which is often listed as ‘of which sugars’ beneath carbohydrates.

Generally speaking, foods with higher fibre and lower saturated fat, salt and sugar are healthier. 

Some supermarkets also label nutritional value with a traffic light system, in which more green points to healthier food.

The NHS advice on what is high or low is as follows:

Total fat

High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g 

Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

An adult’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fat is around 70g.

Saturated fat 

High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g 

Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g

An adult’s RDA of saturated fat is around 20g.

Sugars (aka of which sugars)

High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g 

Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g

An adult’s RDA of sugars is around 90g.

Salt (aka sodium) 

High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) 

Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

An adult’s RDA of salt is 6g or less. 

Source: NHS Choices  

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