The key to creating a big, salty flavor with a fraction of the sodium is going small.
LSU Agricultural Center food scientist Marvin Moncada took a less-is-more approach in developing nanosalt, a powder made with salt particles about one-thousandth the size of kosher salt granules.
The powder coats more of a food’s surface than grains of salt, delivering the same powerful flavor with 25 percent to 50 percent less sodium.
“All your taste buds are responding to the saltiness because it’s everywhere,” Moncada said.
Moncada tested the product on cheese crackers. Most consumers said they’d buy the low-sodium version if it were available.
He said he hopes to market his invention after more lab tests and sees a lot of potential in toppings.
“In our culture in the U.S., we eat a lot of snacks,” he said. “When it’s football season, you eat a lot of Doritos and Cheez-It crackers.”
In 2015, U.S. sales of salty snacks reached $22 billion, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. But consumers want the snacks to be healthy, too, and manufacturers are trying to thread “the salty-but-healthy snack” needle.
That’s because too much sodium is bad for your health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. The average American chokes down about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, largely through processed foods like pizza, bread, cold cuts, cheese and bacon.
“For many people, reducing sodium can help lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke,” said Dr. Amanda Watts, of Baton Rouge General Physicians.
Heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than anything else, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It took Moncada three years to develop nanosalt, the first product of its kind. He is hoping his invention can help people reduce their sodium consumption.
Nanosalt offers consumers a natural way to reduce their sodium intake, rather than using salt substitutes like potassium chloride, he said. While using potassium chloride does reduce sodium consumption, too much potassium also can affect a person’s health.
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.