Why Does Salt Make Food Taste Better?


SciShow is supported by Skillshare. [♩INTRO] In the food world, salt is kind of a superhero. Without it, french fries are bland, potato
chips are boring, and chocolate chip cookies lose their pop. And that’s because salt doesn’t just make
things salty—it has lots of effects on flavor perception. In fact, if you’re thinking about using
a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, a pinch of salt might actually work
better. At the most basic level, humans like salt
because we need it to survive. Salt as we know it—which is usually sodium
in the form of sodium chloride—is an essential nutrient. You use sodium ions for everything from communication
between your neurons to managing your blood pressure. But your body can’t just make sodium from
scratch. It’s an element and you are not a star… So, you have to get at least some from your
diet. And since there isn’t usually much salt
lying around unless you live near the ocean, it makes sense that we evolved a taste for
it to make sure we get enough. In 2010, researchers confirmed that we mostly
taste saltiness thanks to epithelial sodium channels, which are basically pores that let
sodium ions into the taste receptor cells in your taste buds. Those cells then signal your brain that something’s
salty. But, weird as it might sound, salt actually
makes things sweeter because it reduces your perception of bitter flavors. Studies have found that salt is actually better
at reducing bitterness than sugar. Scientists don’t have the mechanism for
it completely figured out, but research suggests it involves both your tongue and your brain. Most of the bitterness-blocking happens in
your taste buds, where it’s thought the sodium might interfere with the binding between
bitter compounds and their taste cell receptors. Salt also reduces other unpleasant tastes,
so flavor chemists think it influences other taste cells too. Somehow. But researchers have also found that if you’re
given salt and a bitter compound in such a way that they don’t mingle on your tongue,
you still perceive the overall flavor as slightly less bitter. That suggests some of the anti-bitterness
effect comes from how your brain interprets multiple taste signals when they include saltiness. Salt may also enhance sweetness more directly. We know that in mice, at least, one of the
proteins that pulls sugar into taste receptor cells can’t do its job without sodium. So a dash of salt could mean an extra burst
of sweet. Salt can also make things taste better by
making them smell better. When you add salt, its ions are attracted
to some of the available water in the food. And that makes it easier for volatile compounds
— molecules that evaporate quickly and often contribute to something’s aroma — to escape
into the air. Those compounds may not hit your tongue, but
they still contribute a lot to your perception of flavor. Salt also seems to do other things to make
food more enjoyable … although scientists can’t really explain them yet. For instance, volunteers in a 1985 study said
salted split pea soup was not only saltier, sweeter and less bitter than the unsalted
version — it was also thicker and fuller, altering what food scientists call mouthfeel. That one single ingredient transformed the
whole dish! Though, honestly, I would not want pea soup
without any salt in it. That sounds bad. So, if you’re not happy with your dinner,
there’s a good chance that reaching for your salt shaker will help. But if you’re in the mood for more than
just plain old regular salt, you can also infuse salt with flavor to make your meals
even more exciting. In his Skillshare class, Infused Salts: How
to Add Flavor to Any Dish, Kevin Kawa goes over the three main techniques for infusing
salts — who knew there were three ways to infuse salts?!– and teaches you how to make
a different infused salt for each technique. Other students have also added their own infused
salt recipes after taking this class, so you get access to that shared knowledge and community
as well! You can check out those as well as thousands
of classes in cooking, art, technology and more for $10 month. The first 1,000 SciShow viewers to sign up
at the link the description will get their first 2 months for 99 cents, and you’ll
be supporting SciShow. Let us know how it goes! [♩OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “Why Does Salt Make Food Taste Better?

  1. Tip : If you drink insta coffee and find it really bitter, add like 10 grains of salt ( a pinch ) and it will reduce by a good amount the bitternes of it. Fats can helps too, like milk being used, but a pea sized butter droplet can totally make a difference.

  2. Here’s a mums hint with sugar, since this is a video about salt. A teaspoon or a couple pinches of sugar will take the sting out of spicy stuff just a bit without much affecting the taste or heat, and it’s also good to take the acidity out of a tomato dish, too.

  3. I'd figure the reason for this is because how water reacts with salt. It's like the difference between fresh water and salt water, Salt Water sinks and fresh water floats, case in point the dead sea, the SALTIEST place on earth, where it's nearly impossible to drown… yeah that's right you will float… I'd say grab a sample from 4 different places… 1 fresh water, the Sea, the dead sea, and a brine pool from under the gulf of Mexico, and test how thick they are, granted most will have lots of contaminants, but it shouldn't effect this test too much. Remember too much salt in your pea soup makes it more like pudding and as salty as the sea where the pea floats. Lol

  4. Hank! You are confusing us! There is a SKULL in the thumbnail of your other salt video! Please don't let science be influenced by advertisers or clickbait! https://youtu.be/YCZSh5hALPQ

  5. So as I was watching this video I just so happened to have brownies made with stevia they were crazy bitter. So I tried sprinkling salt on them and just like this video said boom. They taste much better thanks sci show!

  6. 0:41 "But your body can't just make sodium from scratch. It's an ELEMENT. And you are NOT A STAR" Ha ha ha ha ! This is so brilliant XD

  7. Every time that I see a title like this that makes me think, "Isn't the answer obvious?" I know that I have to watch it, because there must be something I am missing. Otherwise there wouldn't be enough to make a video on. Sure enough, I learned a lot. Great job.

  8. My mom and my older siblings tell me that adding salt to a curry when it's finished doesn't taste as good as adding the salt when it's cooking

  9. You forgot to talk about the possible high blood pressure problems associated with too much sodium in one's diet.

    Other than that, good video.

  10. now tell us why KFC chicken salt is so addictive (i literally spend $50 on a 1KG bag of KFC salt from my mate who works there every few months)

  11. @1:22 that is why people who do not know how to make tea will put a pinch of baking soda in the tea.
    It is simpler than that! Just do NOT boil tea! Boil the water stop boiling and add tea. Wait!

  12. You skipped the part where we never need to add salt if we eat a balanced meal (plants have all the salt we need) and that eating more salt than needed (which is little in the first place) is toxic and lead to many health problems like high blood pressure and excess weight.

  13. Funny I found this. I've been adding a tiny amount of salt to horribly made cheap coffee for years now because it works so much better than sugar at reducing bitterness. Now I have the partial science for why.

  14. Put a teaspoon of salt or baking soda on your tounge, swish it around on your tounge, and spit it out. Then swish your mouth with water. It will taste sweet. Now I know why.

  15. I was really confused about, why there was no talk, about how too much salt in the diet is the leading cause of high blood pressure… I figured when the advertisement in the end came.

  16. Coating fruits with salt and letting them rest for a time, then rinsing the salt off thoroughly has been shown to make the fruit taste sweeter and less bitter, even when you get enough of the salt off that you can't taste it. There's a theory that this is because the salt-as it's drawing out moisture-also pulls out certain substances within the fruit that make it bitter. I don't know how scientifically accurate that is, but there it is…

    Side note: I don't recommend trying this with watermelon. Stuff's so full of water the salt doesn't pull water out, the water pulls the salt in. So no matter how well you rinse it, you're going to have salty watermelon, which is…not pleasant. Yes, that's the voice of experience.

  17. And here's some real science on salt and how bad it is for us, at least the way we use it putting it in every meal, having saltshakers on the table….

    https://nutritionfacts.org/?fwp_search=Salt+&fwp_content_type=video

  18. I'M NOT A STAR?! I THOUGHT. I THOUGHT. </3

    Salt sounds great but Na. My doctor said I should limit my intake.

  19. I hate the taste of salt though if something is even the slightest of salty I can’t eat it. What could case that? I’m guessing it’s something to do with my ASD making me hypersensitive to taste

  20. Except humans no other organism take salt, biologically not required. Its present in water and plants etc.

  21. I wish I'd known before about salt making things sweeter. My soup was too sweet so I tried adding salt. At least pepper helped.

  22. I've tried miracle berries, for me and my mom and brother it made lemon juice taste like lemonade with sugar in it.

  23. One time I thought I was drinking regular coffee and it was decaf and it’s because the lady was put in a tiny amount of salt in it. I was so convinced that it was regular coffee I even got a little revved up as if I was drinking regular coffee. But I was not. So I asked what brand of coffee was this.Answer was that salt was put in there

  24. We adapted to eat salt but naturally there isn't much salt in whole foods. All the processed foods are high in sodium and its really easy to eat too much salt.

  25. Research suggests tasting salt involves both your tounge and your brain. The only two things Involved in tasting anything.

  26. Everyone goes gaga over sodium, but no one gives a damn about chloride. It's b#llsh!t. Chloride is an essential halogen that humans can't make on they're own, and a vital part of our diet.

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