Researchers taking the salt out of Canadian sandwiches

University of Saskatchewan researchers attempting to reduce the amount of salt in Canada’s bread and meats products. Eric Delmar / Getty Images

SASKATOON – Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) are attempting to reduce high quantities of salt in the Canadian diet.

The U of S Department of Food and Bioproduct Sciences will using funding from the Canadian food industry in an attempt to reduce sodium in bread and processed meats.

A diet low in sodium fights the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

According to a 2010 report by Health Canada, bread and baked goods are the largest sources of salt Canada’s diet and processed meats are a close second.

By 2016, Health Canada wants the average Canadian’s sodium intake reduced to 2300 mg per day. It says citizens are eating about 3400 mg per day, double what is required.

U of S researcher Mike Nickerson will lead a team to reduce one third of the salt in bread and baked goods.

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Nickerson says cutting salt is a huge challenge for bakers because it reduces stickiness and without salt, dough can foul-up equipment.

Researchers intend to shed light on how the ingredients interact to find out how sodium controls dough’s structure.

Meanwhile, a U of S wheat breeder is looking for varieties that perform best in low-salt recipes and beamline experiments are being performed at the CLS synchrotron to create gluten-free loaves.

Associate professor and meat scientist Phyllis Shand is tackling to other half of the salty sandwich dilemma.

“The salt in processed meats has very important technological functions that make it very difficult to take sodium out,” said Shand.

Salt helps preserve meat by killing off bacteria. It also interacts with the protein to promote structure and its water-holding ability.

Sodium alternatives like potassium chloride, enzymes and flax meal help stabilize the meat protein but fall short in taste and price.

Shand is optimistic in finding a successful combination of ingredients or new procedures such as pre-cooking certain meats before consumption.

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