The Real Reason Salty And Sweet Go Together So Well

One of life's hardest decisions is trying to distinguish whether you're in the mood for something salty or something sweet. Do you want chips or do you want candy? Do you want Cheez-Its or do you want a pint of ice cream? How is one to choose?! Fortunately, you don't have to. Chocolate-covered pretzels, salted caramel, kettle corn, peanut butter and jelly, even Reese's cups with potato chips — everyone knows that salty-sweet snacks are the real MVP (aka most valuable pairing).

The combination of salt and sugar is so good, in fact, that it can feel addictive. You — and more specifically, your tastebuds — just can't get enough. You know it's a match made in foodie heaven, but what makes the salty-sweet flavor profile so particularly mouthwatering? It isn't just your lack of willpower that has you reaching back into the snack bowl for more and more. Turns out it actually has to do with the chemical makeup of your brain and body.

There's some real science behind it

The reason you feel like you can't stop eating those French fries dipped in a milkshake or peanut M&Ms is because of how our brains are wired. According to Eater, we crave sugar — which is straight carbohydrates — because it's the most basic form of energy for our bodies. On the other hand, we crave salt because it's a micronutrient that we need to perform normal bodily functions. The pairing of the two together satisfies both of those biological cravings, so it makes our brains especially happy. "Salty and sweet combinations are basically a primal instinct that our bodies are designed to crave," James Briscion, director of culinary research for the Institute of Culinary Education, told Eater.

How Stuff Works adds that the salty-sweet combo also helps our brains avoid what's called sensory specific satiety. This occurs when we eat the same taste over and over again and eventually, we don't want anymore of that specific flavor. But when we eat something that's both salty and sweet, we never get tired of it.