Why is salt so important for flavor?

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I’m a newbie cook and it just constantly blows me away how profound a difference it makes. I made some soup last night and it was pretty good but nothing special. Added an extra teaspoon of salt and it was like a different meal entirely — I could taste all the vegetables in the broth and all the spices came through so much better.

In: 7

A bunch of reasons:

– Salt just tastes good. We need salt to survive, so we evolved to find moderate levels of salt pleasurable so we can get enough to satisfy metabolic processes

– Salt also makes things sweeter. Our intestines are full of sugar sensors, and our mouth has some of them too. In fact, many humans’ organs have sugar sensors and their job usually is to process glucose and insulin in the blood. However, intestinal glucose sensor (SGLT1) has another job in our mouth: it pushes glucose into the sweet taste cell when it senses the presence of sodium in the food, thus “triggering the cell to register sweetness.”

– Salt reduces bitter flavors. Since bitterness (in excess) is unpleasant, reducing bitterness makes things overall taste better

– Salt also makes food smell better. The ions in the salt are attracted to some of the available water in the food. So adding salt to foods makes it easier for volatile compounds — molecules that evaporate quickly and often contribute to aroma of the food — to escape into the air. Since most of what we think is taste is actually smell (this is why food tastes bland when you have a cold) improving smell greatly improves taste.