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How Stuff Works: Salt

Salt is salt, right? When you go to the grocery store to replenish your supply, you probably expect to see just a few varieties, like iodized salt (what most of us use as "table salt") and kosher salt (a coarse salt popular with chefs). But you might also find things like "sel gris" and "fleur de sel." Some gourmets claim that these salts taste different from iodized salt and give additional flavor to foods seasoned with them.


Even if you try not to use much salt, it’s almost impossible to avoid it. There are five tastes that all people are able to experience — bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami (meaning "delicious and savory taste" in Japanese). Only "salty" is directly related to a substance that we need to consume in order for our bodies to function correctly. Because of this need, humans and animals have a built-in taste for salt.

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