Taste not only guides us to foods that are good for us, it has also evolved to avoid foods that might harm us; actually we have 20 more receptor to bitter than those we have for sweet. So taste shows the way to important nutrients, minerals, proteins and many other components of our body, it also helps in finding the energy to fuel all the functions and set in motion muscles, our heart; but it can also advise and warn to avoid substances that could damage or even kill us. Taste is in summary a powerful survival mechanism.
Not all bitter foods are as toxic as they might taste; today we have fallen in love with coffee, chocolate and beer and some bitter plants like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage contain chemicals such as sulfuraphane that could help prevent cancer.
There is yet another taste that can affect how we perceive the other flavors, that by itself is not pleasant and in quantities will be rejected, but in the right amount it can transform our perception of food: this is salt. It can make our food more palatable, more delicious, and this gives salt a powerful hold on us. We have evolved to love salt because it’s essential to life and perhaps because of where life started.
The biological need for salt has led humanity for ages to search for it in every corner of the world . Sea salt contains a higher degree of water and this humidity helps the flavor linger much longer. Unrefined sea salt contains a rich mixture of minerals like calcium and magnesium giving it a more complex flavor and fulfilling the need of two very important essential minerals both of which are frequently deficient in the US population. Salt help us keep within, the most abundant part of the body: water. Salt inside de body controls the amount of water in each cell, Sodium a major component of salt is crucial for the function of our nerves; it is the movement of trillions of sodium ions in our brains that allow us to think, move, and sense the world around us. Salt has also a remarkable effect in our taste buds; we are hardwired to handle salt and sugar separately but when we put them together something delicious happens because a tiny amount of salt actually makes sugar taste sweeter because along side our regular sweet receptors, there are other sweet receptors that are only activated when sugar and salt are present, so for a maximum sweet sensation the combination can be the best way to go.
We have all this receptors, but how we experience our foods is much more than just this 5 flavors, what happens in the mouth is only part of the story. We see and feel our food but also and very critically, we smell our food and smell is much more complex that taste alone. We may have only 5 taste receptors in our mouth, but our noses pack 400 different types. Our sense is so complex that we can identify smells in the trillions scale. All together we now have the potential of a group of sensations that together we call flavor.
…to create rich mouthfuls of flavor..