"Food tastes so good now!"
My wife Laura sees thousands of patients per year in her work as an eye doctor. Which means she gets to see, up close, some broad and meaningful anecdotal samples of peoples' behavior.
And lately, for whatever reason, she's had a bunch of patients make offhand comments about how they've cut salt out of their diets. Some did so on orders from their primary care doctor. Others were trying to manage borderline-high blood pressure by adjusting how they eat.
What struck Laura, however, was this universal reaction from each patient: They were all shocked at how good food tasted once they stopped consuming so much salt.
Food tastes so good now.
I'm admittedly speculating here, but I'd bet money that every one of these patients dreaded cutting out salt at first. I bet they assumed food would forevermore be bland, boring and tasteless. In fact, this is a common reason why people resist cutting salt despite the obvious health benefits.
But once they make the change, and once they get through a brief palate-adjustment period, they ended up happier with their food.
Look, salt has an important role in cooking, and sodium has an important role in the chemistry of our bodies. Used appropriately, salt can be a powerful tool to bring out stunning flavors in our food.
The problem is, the vast majority of the prepared foods available to us do not use salt appropriately. Most restaurants overuse salt. And nearly all processed foods overuse salt to the point of madness.
And, sadly, consumers have simply adjusted to it. Just as our palates adapt to cutting out salt, they also adapt to excess amounts of it. We get used to what we eat, so a habit of eating salty junk food desensitizes you towards salty flavors. Which just makes you want still more salt.
(There's more than meets the eye here by the way: salt conveniently makes people want to eat more. And drink more. Hence the existence of bars offering free salty popcorn or peanuts to boost beer and drink sales, and likewise the existence of salty snack foods that you can't stop eating until you mow through an entire bag.)
Thankfully, this salt-desensitization process works both ways. Therefore, the less salt you eat, the more you'll condition your palate to not need salt. The more distance you put between you and your salt shaker, the more aware you'll become of subtle flavors and nuances in your food. Try it--and I mean give it a real honest trial--and you'll see exactly what I mean. Before you know it, a little salt will start to go a very long way, and your food will taste bolder, more delicious and more nuanced than ever.
Which brings us back to where we started. If you want food to taste good, try cutting out salt. Try it for a week or two, let your palate de-program itself, and see what happens.
Pretty soon, you'll be saying it too: Food tastes so good now.
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