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Low Sodium Diet - Impossible For Some?

By Edited Aug 4, 2016 0 0

The typical American diet contains almost 50% more sodium than health guidelines recommend, with the biggest culprit being processed foods. While sodium adds flavor and helps preserve food, too much can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other health issues.

Many have already tried a low sodium diet, but for some people cutting back on salt may be very difficult, if not impossible. Recent studies seem to show that some of us have a heightened sense of taste. - a so called 'supertaster'. Supertasters experience things like bitterness and saltiness at a much higher intensity then everyone else. The heightened perception of bitterness frequently leads to a craving for excess salt which helps cancel the bitterness out.

Scientists have known for a long time that each of us perceives taste slightly differently. At the low end of the scale are the 'non-tasters'. For them most foods are bland with little intensity. Supertasters, on the other hand, perceive everything as vibrant and bright.

In controlled taste tests with a mix of 'non-tasters', 'medium-tasters' and 'super-tasters', researchers were surprised to find that supertasters preferred more salty food items, even though they were more sensitive to salt. The supertasters also disliked the low sodium items the most compared to the other study participants.

No one is really sure why some people are supertasters and some not. One theory is that it depends on the number of papilla. Papilla are the taste buds on your tongue that contain the receptors for taste . Papilla can detect five distinct elements: salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and savory. Those with more papilla have more taste nerves which in turn send a stronger signal to the brain.

The inability of some to curtail their salt intake could have implications for the FDA's effort to cut the amount of sodium in packaged foods which make up the main source of sodium in our diet.

Some major food processors have voluntarily pledged to reduce the amount of sodium in their products, but only gradually over time. The sad fact is we have become so accustomed to high sodium levels in our food, our taste buds would be unable to accept a sudden reduction. For most of us, taste is the main reason why we eat what we do. An abrupt drop in sodium levels would render foods bland and tasteless. The only practical solution is to wean ourselves off slowly.

Unfortunately, the supertasters could find themselves looking for more salty alternatives to satisfy their cravings as sodium levels dwindle. For the supertaster it's a no win situation.

One option is to try substituting spices for salt to compensate for the reduced taste level. Garlic, basil, oregano and dill are all effective in enhancing the natural flavors of food while still providing the necessary taste stimulus the supertasters demand. But even with a full spice rack some will be unable to resist the need for salt. For them the low sodium diet will be impossible.

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