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A New Alternative to Sodium: Fish Sauce

Vietnamese fish sauce could provide a healthier option while maintaining the perceived good taste of salty foods

Institute of Food Technologists

A fish sauce factoryA fish sauce factory in Phú Quoc, Vietnam.Photo credit: Stefan, Wikimedia CommonsCHICAGO— Cooks, chefs, and food manufacturers are looking for natural ways to reduce sodium in recipes in nearly every culture. A big challenge to doing that is taste. Consumers typically describe reduced-sodium foods as lacking in taste and flavor. Findings of a study in the January issue of the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that Vietnamese fish sauce added to chicken broth, tomato sauce, and coconut curry reduced the amount of sodium chloride by by 10-25 percent while still maintaining the perceived deliciousness, saltiness, and overall flavor intensity.

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Fish sauces are a standard condiment and ingredient in various Southeast Asian cuisines that add an umami element to many foods. Fish sauce is made by combining sea salt and long-jawed black anchovies in large vats to slowly ferment for 8-12 months, during which the protein breaks down to free amino acids and increases the umami taste. It is used as a readily available source of protein and seasoning in the Asia region.

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This researchers, a team of researchers (Linh Hue Huynhm Robert Danhi, and See Wan Yan) from Taylor’s University in Malaysia showed that fish sauce may be used as a partial substitute ingredient for salt as a means to reduce sodium content in food without diminishing palatability. These results could aid chefs and food manufacturers in creating foods lower in sodium content that would meet the needs of consumers, healthcare providers, governmental organizations, and consumer advocacy groups without compromising taste.

Read the article in the Journal of Food Science here