Seeking Salt: Add salt without sodium

(WFLX) - You add it to popcorn, fries, veggies and just about every breakfast, lunch and dinner. But did you know just one teaspoon of salt has 24 hundred milligrams of sodium? That's more than the recommended amount for an entire day!

With so much attention focused on lowering sodium intake, food scientists are creating a healthier replacement for salt.

Charles Culliver has become an expert in reading food labels. Last November, doctors diagnosed Culliver with heart disease and prescribed a radical change in diet. "No bacon. Then, they said, no sausage, no packaged meat."

And absolutely no table salt! "High amounts of sodium can raise the blood pressure which indirectly effects the heart which has to pump harder,"explained cardiologist Dr. Vikas Rathi.

Experimental psychologist, Paul Breslin studies human perceptions of taste at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Breslin says a pure salty taste may be hard to replicate. "There really are no salt substitutes at all."

Part of the problem: Researchers aren't exactly sure how the human tongue detects salt. Another challenge, for some products, is salt does more than just improve the flavor in cooking or baking. Salt is also used to make bitter foods taste better, food to last longer, and dough to be stronger.

Breslin says the best solution may be to discover a way to change salt receptors making low-sodium foods taste saltier. "There are ways of modifying the protein to allow a little bit of salt to go further."

So, instead of adding another dash of this, a saltier taste could be created in the food itself.

Several food product companies say their scientists have been able to pinpoint the receptors responsible for tasting salt, but they have kept that information secret.

Experts say new information about salt taste biology continues to emerge, and that information may speed the development of saltier-tasting, low-sodium foods.

Copyright 2010 WFLX. All Rights Reserved.