While baked products aren't the largest contributors to sodium in the diet, marketable sodium reductions can be made. Even a small change can improve a product's healthful profile.
Consumer awareness, plus a push from public health organizations and consumer advocacy groups, suggest that the low-sodium change is gaining steam, reports consumer research firm Mintel. Evidence of this is reflected in the 115 percent increase in the number of food product introductions containing a low, no or reduced sodium claim that have entered the market between 2005 and 2008.
“The rapidly rising evidence in the past several years points to sodium as a major cause of hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney damage and stomach cancer,” says David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel. “Because of this scientific knowledge mixed with that of global health activists, there is a climate forming for rapid change. We are starting to see this information set into motion with a reduction in sodium on packaged goods and restaurant menus.”
The concern that Americans consume more sodium than recommended is evident when the average intake of about 3,400 mg/day is compared to the recommended dietary allowance of less than 2,300 mg/day.
What can bakers do to help consumers reduce sodium in their diet? Perhaps not as much as some food processors, yet those who use chemical leavening agents for products, such as muffins, cookies, cakes, quickbreads and biscuits, have the ability to make an impact.
Since salt (sodium chloride) is an obvious source of sodium, it is often considered a potential source of reduction. But, it can be more difficult to reduce basic salt in a formulation than one would think because of the significant role it plays. Salt impacts the development of gluten protein in fermented products, such as bread; helps control yeast activity; enhances flavor; and helps control water activity, which is important in minimizing microbial growth, notes Janice Johnston, Ph.D., salt applications leader, Cargill Salt, Minneapolis.
“When considering a reduction in sodium, the baker must consider which ingredients are contributing the sodium,” Johnston says. “The obvious candidate is salt, but there are other less obvious sources, such as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), baking powder (sodium bircarbonate and acidulants) and Vol (volatile salt a.k.a ammonium bicarbonate). In addition, the acidulants used in baking powder also may be in the sodium form, such as sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP).”
Bringing in the replacements
Chemical leavening agents react at some point during the overall baking process, before or after heat exposure, to produce gas, such as carbon dioxide, Johnston notes. This gas production is important to create desirable air cell structures in bakery products such as cookies and muffins. Sodium-free leavening agents are available, such as potassium or calcium. However, these compounds may have different reaction rates than the original sodium forms. This may be possible to overcome by changing the processing conditions, such as mixing times or temperature, she adds.
Slow acting calcium acid pyrophosphate/monocalcium phosphate (CAPP/MCP) has an identical reaction rate to that of SAPP 28, and can be used as a one-to-one replacement, notes John Brodie, technical service manager, baking, Innophos Inc., Cranbury, N.J. Faster acting SAPPs can be replaced with other forms of calcium phosphates, he says. Use of a sodium-free calcium leavening agent is an economical way to reduce sodium levels with the added benefit of additional calcium.
Our sodium free baking powder made with potassium bicarbonate, a sodium-free gas source, and CAPP/MCP, a sodium-free blend of leavening acids from Innophos, also provides an option for bakers, says Nita Livvix, R&D manager, Clabber Girl Corp., Terre Haute, Ind. “This product is specifically formulated to act as a drop-in replacement for SAPP-type baking powder that is typically used in industrial applications. The sodium is reduced, but there is no formula change for our bakery customer and the flavor profile remains consistent,” Livvix says. Bakers who produce products requiring chemical leavening systems can reduce the amount of sodium in their products by 60 percent or more by using sodium free baking powder, Livvix notes. “While the trend to reduce sodium continues to grow, it is becoming more important for the industrial baker to find ways to reduce sodium in products to address consumer concerns. Producing finished baked products that have significantly reduced levels of sodium is a definite competitive advantage for today's bakers,” she adds.
Even the smallest reduction in sodium may make a significant difference where the consumer is concerned.