As a vegetarian I’m always looking for ways to get the umami flavor component into my food.
I have always liked smoked food — smoked cheese, smoked dulse, smoked anything, really, and for me this flavor really satisfies the umami problem.
Is natural smoke in food healthy (or at least not especially unhealthy) and what is in “smoke flavor”?
– Jennifer Armstrong
Saratoga Springs, FL
While I don’t suggest you completely abstain from eating smoked foods, I strongly urge you to minimize consumption as much as possible.
If you are buying them prepackaged, you will find sodium levels are quite high.
Take salmon, for instance.
A 3-ounce serving of broiled salmon only contains 52 milligrams of sodium. That same portion of smoked salmon? 666 milligrams!
If you are talking about natural smoke (i.e: charcoal grilling), the news aren’t much better.
Turns out this method of cooking adds carcinogenic compounds to food; some studies have linked consistently high consumptions of smoked foods with a higher risk of stomach cancers.
So, if you like your soy burgers REALLY charred, you aren’t doing yourself a great favor.
Smoke flavor, however, is pretty much harmless. It is usually created by simply burning wood chips (usually hickory, although others can also be used), trapping that newly-produced gas and then chilling it to liquid form.
One great bonus is that this process filters out impurities — including carcinogens.
Liquid smoke is also sodium (and calorie) free.