Salt is a much dreaded food adjunct because of its association with high blood pressure and CVD conditions in humans but it is also an essential nutrient mineral without which human body cannot carry out many metabolic and physiological functions. Realizing the role played by Sodium in diseases of modern day, many countries as well as international agencies are undertaking preventive policy measures that can have an impact on salt consumption amongst the population. While it is conceded that a major part of salt intake comes from processed foods, especially in developed countries where substantial consumption of manufactured foods takes place, daily diets in many parts of the world do contain salt significantly. Developing salt substitutes that can result in reduction of sodium consumption is a major objective of research efforts but success is far and few. One such attempt focusing on some sea based plant sources has been recently reported which appears to be interesting.
"To develop the salt substitute with low sodium content, 13 plants were extracted and their sensory perception was analyzed. After the sensory evaluation, three plant aqueous extracts, representing salty and umami tastes, were selected and powdered using a spray dryer. The three extracts, selected for their high salty taste were Saliornia herbacea L(saltwort), followed by Laminaria japonica (sea tangle), and then Lemtinus sedodes (mushroom).These three extracts were subsequently mixed to make a plant salt substitute (PSS), which was then tested against sodium chloride for salt intensity and sodium levels. The relative saltiness of the plant salt substitute to sodium chloride was found to be 0.65 – meaning that one per cent sodium chloride was equivalent in saltiness flavour intensity to 1.55 per cent of the plant salt substitute. But, the sodium levels of PSS were observed to be almost one-third to that of sodium chloride, "As a result, the sodium level of PSS in similar saltiness is 57 per cent of that of sodium chloride." Prof Lee concluded that the spray-dried powders, collectively termed as plant salt substitute, may be used in processed foods to reduce sodium levels without reducing salty tastes that may influence consumer preferences".
Though the development team that discovered the suitability of plant extracts from 3 sources for use in culinary preparations in place of common salt are upbeat about the promise of these substitutes, how far they are acceptable to the industry in manufacturing commercial foods remains to be seen. Generally plants originating in sea have a distinct taste, not often liked by vegetarian consumers and the extracts obtained from these sources also may have traces of the typical flavor due to which the food industry is unlikely to patronize these extracts in a big way. Probably specialty health foods may be the right candidates for use of plant extracts in place of salt partially or completely.