There are different types of salt, but people use sodium chloride for food or cooking. We use sodium and chloride ions to keep our cells inflated, regulate blood pressure, and convey electrical nerve impulses throughout the body. We need to consume about 6 grams of sodium chloride per day to maintain it. Sodium chloride can chemically block bitter taste receptors and amplify senses.
Why does salt make food taste better? (Biological Process)
To have a salty taste, you have to have sodium ions present. When sodium ions are present inside the mouth, it finds gustatory cells to let sodium in. These gustatory cells have special channels that let sodium enter the cell.
When sodium goes into basically any cell in the body, it will cause the polarity to go more positive or towards zero. It happens with a voltage change and action potentials. So once a greater potential happens, the voltage-gated sodium channel will open, letting more sodium diffuse. After that, a voltage-gated calcium channel will open, letting calcium diffuse.
When calcium comes into a cell, it causes vast changes inside the cell. It will bind to vesicles containing ATP, and it’ll cause their snare proteins to be active. The calcium will also buy snare proteins on the edge of the gustatory cell and activate those snare proteins.
The snare proteins of the gustatory cell will intermingle to fuse the vesicle and the gustatory cell membranes. It will result in dumping the ATP molecules outside the gustatory cell.
When the ATP contacts that neuron, it is then triggered to create an action potential, which then travels to the gustatory cortex of the brain. It tells you that you are eating a bunch of salt. The taste buds then feel salty, which helps to release serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for feeling good. So salty food tastes better for this.
Saltiness is one of the five primary basic tastes the human tongue can detect. Salt, bitter, sweet, sour, and umami are those five tastes. If you’re unfamiliar with this one, it is from glutamic acid found in many foods, particularly some meats. Also, it is the basis of the flavor enhancer. Monosodium glutamate is known as MSG. It is a flavor enhancer responsible for cranking up the sensational umami flavors on our tongues.
The extra salt has other effects outside of simply making things saltier. Particularly adding salt to foods helps with certain molecules in those foods more easily released into the air. Thus it helps the aroma of the food, which is important in our perception of taste. Adding a bit of salt won’t increase salty taste perception and suppress bitter taste perception in any food. It helps balance the taste a bit by making the perceived flavor.
Read more: Why is salt white color?