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Ask Marilyn: Why Does Everything Taste Better With Salt?

Macon Craven of Powhatan County, Virginia, writes:

Marilyn: Why does everything taste ­better with salt?

Marilyn responds:

We have at least four tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, and salty. (Savory—the basis of mono­sodium glutamate—may be a fifth.) Only one refers to an essential dietary nutrient: salt. Without this mineral, humans cannot live. So it’s likely we’re hardwired to love it. Salt is so crucial that when people go on low-sodium diets, their intestines work harder to absorb sodium and their kidneys try to eliminate less. People who also take ­diuretics, which lower sodium levels, need to be monitored: If their blood ­sodium falls too low, seizures or a coma can result. Even people as healthy and fit as marathoners can get into this kind of trouble when they sweat profusely and drink only plain water to ­replace fluids during a race.



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