Don’t be so salty

By Megan Illingworth

Salt. Why does it taste so good? It is undeniable that the addition of salt to virtually any food will intensity the sensory output, doing wonders for our taste buds. Salt provides a rapid burst of taste which can just as quickly decline again, detected by receptors throughout the oral cavity. Salt, however, imparts more than just it’s obvious taste. It enhances sweetness, masks metallic flavours and leads to the thicker perception of foods. This is done via sodium in salt reducing bitterness, therefore enhancing other tastes. Although the direct mechanism for this is yet to be well understood, it is suggested that sodium migrates through epithelial sodium channels and into the taste cells. Further, this results in neurotransmitters signalling that delightful salt taste to the brain.

Although salt increases the palatability of foods, after a certain point this is no longer the case. I’m sure many of us have added that bit too much to our chips and pondered as to why we destroyed a delectable snack. This “bliss point” may vary between individuals.

But importantly how much should we be eating? The NHS recommendation for adults is 6 grams, which amounts to about a teaspoon. The scientific quantification being 2.4 grams of sodium, equal to that of about 6grams of salt. But why is having more than this so bad? Put simply the more salt you consume, the more there will be in your blood. In turn, the greater the osmotic gradient and the higher the pull of water out of the cells into the blood, raising your blood pressure. This can have a whole host of negative impacts on your body, particularly for the kidneys. All in all, keep that salt intake at a teaspoon a day.

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