I don’t now about you, but I’m suffering an overload of COVID-19 news and warnings. They’re getting repetitive, now, and I thought we’d all enjoy a post about something completely different. So here’s news about a breakthrough – of sorts – in the quest to ‘reform’ unhealthy Deli Meats…
A classic Charcuterie Platter: Can science make this traditional delight healthier?
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMassA) wondered if they could come up with a way to reduce the Salt content of Deli Meats – one of our society’s worst offenders in the Dietary Sodium sweepstakes. And they discovered that consumers’ distaste for low-Salt foods is all – or largely – in their minds.
Study Senior Author Dr. Amanda Kinchla notes: “The U.S. significantly overconsumes sodium from so many places. We know this, but we aren’t changing. Consumers don’t want to buy food with known reduced salt, because they think it’s going to taste yucky.”
What they did
Knowing that the over-Salting of Deli Meats results from the diffusion of Salt into the meat during the curing process, researchers wondered if changing the type of Salt used in processing to one that penetrates the Meat less thoroughly could result in an acceptable product. They made up separate batches of Deli Turkey Meat processed in regular Salt and several different ionic variants of Salt that have Larger molecules and are less liable to penetrate the Meat as much as regular Salt. They hoped that the larger molecules would stay on or near the surface of the meat and, so, hit diners’ taste buds first, priming their tasting experience.
“We processed a portion of turkey breast in traditional sodium chloride [table salt] and in these other salt species and measured a lot of different things: the morphology, texture and the sodium diffusion rate in the meat with different variables, such as processing time, temperature and salt conditions,” Lead Researcher PhD Candidate Janam Pandya explains.
The team recruited 46 people on the UMassA campus to taste test three samples, two of which were low-Sodium.
What they found
The overall favorite was the turkey processed with a 50-50 blend of sodium chloride and disodium phosphate. It had 20 percent less Sodium than the full-Salt control, compared to 41 percent less Sodium in the sample processed with disodium phosphate alone.
“Sensory results reported that the turkey prepared in a blend of two sodium salts was perceived to be as salty as the control while providing juiciness and texture scores that were preferred over the control,” the study states.
“This isn’t the holy grail,” says Kinchla. But it’s definitely one of, “several small ways across the food supply to lower sodium without compromising the quality of the product.”
Research will continue.
I’m all in favour of healthier, lower-Salt Deli Meats. So-called ‘Cold Cuts’ are a staple of the western lunch box, and the Charcuterie Platter is once again in vogue for parties and buffets. Any process that reduces the Salt in Deli Meats significantly can’t help but contribute to the overall health and welfare of masses of North American and European consumers. Now, let’s see what we can do about reducing the Fat in Deli Meats…
~ Maggie J.