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Here’s Why Some People Salt Their Fruit

A person sprinkles salt on a watermelon

With spring here and summer on the horizon, fresh produce is likely to make it on your meals and snacks list as the weather warms. If you want a new way to experience fruit, adding seasoning might be the answer.

Salt can enhance your fruit’s flavor, and while it might sound odd, it’s worth a shot.

If you’re ever seen friends or restaurants add things like chili powder, Tajin, or salt to fruit, there’s a scientific reason why. It’s all about how your taste buds respond to the mix of salty and sweet. Guy Crosby, a former science editor for America’s Test Kitchen, said the reason is a slight mystery, but the flavor enhancement is happening on a cellular level thanks to the way salt interacts with our taste buds. When salt meets those receptors, it enhances the sweetness.

One study, though, from Monell Chemical Sense Center has a more definitive answer. According to the research, our taste buds have taste cells in them that are sensitive to sweetness. In fact, they’re known as sweet-sensitive taste cells. Those cells are home to sensors, and when sugar meets the sensor on its own, it tastes sweet (duh). However, they can also detect salt, and when that happens, these sensors bring even more sugar flavor which results in a sweeter taste.

The next time you see someone adding salt to watermelon or chili to mango or even wrapping melon with prosciutto, this taste bud reaction is the reason why. If you were thinking of adding more fruit to your diet this year, this might be the trick to doing so.

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