Cutting the sodium content of baked foods involves more than just taking out the salt. Barbara Bufe Heidolph, principal, marketing technical service, ICL Performance Products, St. Louis, MO, explains choices in chemical leavening components that enable sodium reduction — and may allow some salt to stay in the product for flavor’s sake.

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Baking & Snack: Why should leavening be considered for the health quotient of its components as well as the way it helps raise bakery products? How is sodium involved?

Barbara Bufe Heidolph: Baked goods are generally leavened. Two types of leavening are used: yeast leavening and chemical leavening. When it comes to “healthy” formulation, the primary concerns focus on reduction of components like sodium, fat and sugar, and inclusion of positive drivers like whole grains, fiber and enrichment, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins.

For yeast-leavened products, sodium is sourced predominantly from salt or sodium chloride. In chemically-leavened products, the functional leavening system also can be a source of sodium. For chemical leavening, formulators must consider sodium from salt (sodium chloride), carbonate sources and the leavening agents. Approximately 30 to 50% of the sodium is from the salt. Soda contributes 20 to 40%, and the leavening acid may contribute up to 25% or more of the sodium.

Chemical leavening is based on an acid component reacting with a carbonate/bicarbonate source to cause the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the desired phase of the baking operation. 

When it comes to the carbonate source, bakers are limited to sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate and, for commercial operations with appropriate environmental controls, ammonium bicarbonate. (Because of the evolution of ammonia gas, the baking/oven line must have control of the exhaust air to prevent risk of exposure to ammonia gas.) For sodium reduction, a formulator may consider a partial or complete substitution of sodium bicarbonate with potassium bicarbonate. This substitution comes with some considerations, including:

  • Cost
  • Flavor
  • Appearance: color and texture.

The other part of the leavening system is the leavening acid used to cause CO2 to evolve when targeted (during mixing/nucleation, on the bench, early oven spring, heart of the baking or late in the bake to maintain volume and height). There are many choices for the leavening acid, which are zero- or low-sodium and have equivalent functional performance to sodium-based leavening acids. 

How do chemical leavening ingredients help the formulator reduce the sodium content of baked foods and snacks? How does their use change the finished product’s sodium content?

Sodium reduction can be achieved by taking out key sources of sodium, including salt, leavening acids and baking soda. When formulators remove sodium via the leavening system, it may allow them to maintain higher levels of sodium chloride, which can have a direct positive impact on the sensory aspects of the finished product.

When it comes to leavening, the first consideration should be the leavening acids, specifically if SAPP is present. Replacing it with Levona CAPP can deliver up to a 25% reduction in sodium with equivalent functional performance and enough calcium to make a claim.

Levona and the other calcium phosphates have a zero-sodium contribution. Ingredients like Levn-Lite SALP and Sodium Aluminum Sulfate (SAS) also provide opportunities for sodium reduction because they are high-intensity leavening acids, have a neutralization value greater than 100 and include less than 8% sodium. SALP and SAS can be used to achieve leavening while still achieving or maintaining a significant reduction in sodium. 

When replacing baking soda, generally a partial substitution is considered with potassium bicarbonate for sodium bicarbonate, once all other sodium reduction strategies have been examined, including reduction/replacement of salt, for example with a low-sodium sea salt like Salona, or replacement of sodium based leavening acids such as SAPP with Levona. Typically only a partial substitution of sodium bicarbonate, 20 – 25%, is employed to achieve final sodium level targets.

Are there sodium-bearing leavening ingredients that the formulator should consider retaining? What impact do they have on the finished product’s sodium numbers?

The Levn-Lite SALP and the SAS are both excellent leavening acids that have high neutralization strength and can be used at low levels to deliver leavening with minimal sodium contribution. 

What should a formulator know about these materials and their usage levels? Are there limits to their use? How must they be labeled in the ingredient listing on packages?

With chemical leavening, the timing of when the gas is delivered is probably the most critical consideration when selecting a leavening system. The timing of the CO2 release will impact baked volume/size. It also can impact the texture. Appearance, both color as well as cell structure, are impacted by the leavening system’s timing and ultimate chemical reaction — pH of finished product. There are no formal regulatory limits to the use of the leavening system other than good manufacturing practices (GMP), so use is driven by function. 

In terms of labeling, they must be listed as the individual components, or they can be listed as baking powder or leavening with a parenthetical summary of the components.  As with other ingredients, they are listed in order of declining level.

If changing leavening ingredients, what factors must the formulator consider to ensure success with the new leavener?

Leavening changes must take into consideration the timing of release of the gas. If the current formulation is using a heat-triggered leavening acid and it is converted to a time delayed system such as going from SALP to CAPP, the process parameters may need to be modified. Smaller batches may be needed to avoid changes in the dough or batter on the line. 

Using potassium bicarbonate may also create changes in browning, finished product moisture, pH and flavor. Adjustments may be needed in order achieve similar shelf life.

With sodium reduction, a general approach is to consider all sources of sodium, then decide on an organized/step-wise reduction via removal/substitution for sodium contributors. Initially looking at leavening acid substitution, followed by reduction of salt and partial replacement of baking soda can deliver a product that achieves the targeted sodium level while still delivering the sensory and functional performance desired.

What chemical leavening ingredients does ICL Performance Products offer for bakery and snack applications?

ICL has a complete line of leavening agents. Leavening comes in three categories:

Fast: most of the leavening reaction takes place in the bowl

  • HT MCP
  • Py-Ran AMCP
  • Adipic Acid, an organic acid with minimal flavor impact.

Time delayed: most of the leavening reaction takes place later in the process

  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (SAPP), a complete line of SAPP products from slowest SAPP RD1 to fastest SAPP 43
  • Levona Calcium Acid Pyrophosphate, a complete line of CAPP with controlled release options. The line includes Levona Allegro (like SAPP 40), Levona Brio (like SAPP 28), Levona Mezzo (like SAPP 26) and Levona Opus (like SAPP RD1)

Heat triggered: most of the leaving reaction occurs only after reaching its temperature of activation

  • Levn-Lite Sodium Aluminum Phosphate
  • Sodium Aluminum Sulfate
  • Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate.

Blends: These are designed to provide release, which are ideal for multiple products, and are Pan-O-Lite and Stabil-9.

With leavening components, the selection is driven by delivering the functional performance (volume, texture, appearance and flavor) and achieving healthy targets (sodium and calcium). Leavening can assist the formulator in achieving results like greater aeration to increase volume while reducing mass; or the ability to incorporate more whole grains or fiber with acceptable sensory characteristics.