I have never been much of a fan of salt substitutes. This is partly because most people can cut back on their salt consumption by simply not eating junk food and being more careful with their diet. I received a product sample from a company based in Washington called AlsoSalt (www.alsosalt.com). Is it any good?
For the most part it's processed foods like fast food, snack foods, crackers and chips that contribute to the health issues from a high sodium diet. There is no doubt that a lower sodium diet prevents disease.
People who already have health problems, like high blood pressure and heart failure, who make changes to their diet often have an easier time with their conditions by being careful with their salt intake. Making better choices, like not eating processed foods, is one way, and learning to measure salt carefully is another. We know from research that the salt taste buds will learn to need less salty foods when someone eats a lower sodium diet.
So is there a place for salt substitutes? Previously I would have said no, but with AlsoSalt I will say definitely maybe. There's no funny metallic aftertaste that characterizes most substitutes I have tasted, and the product works quite well sprinkled on food. For instance, when shaken over no-sodium frozen peas, tasters couldn't tell much difference in saltiness between the AlsoSalt and regular salt. The same was true with a fried egg.
But it's not so successful cooked into dishes. The best example was with rice. Cooked rice needs salt for flavor. It's just bland without some added sodium. Rice cooked with equal amounts of table salt and AlsoSalt were clearly different in blind taste testings with the regular salt version tasting fine and the AlsoSalt dish being bland.
So is there a role for this product? I think so. Even though it's quite expensive, at about $4.00 for a small shaker, those who are really addicted to the flavor of salted food would do well to use this at the table instead of the salt shaker and add less (or no) table salt in cooking.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
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