Water Is Good at Dissolving Other Substances

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Water forms hydrogen bonds not only with itself, but with other substances that have at least some electrical polarity, some unevenness in the distribution of positive and negative electrical charges. Of the other major food molecules, which are much larger and more complex than water, both carbohydrates and proteins have polar regions. Water molecules are attracted to these regions and cluster around them. When they do this, they effectively surround the larger molecules and separate them from each other. If they do this more or less completely, so that each molecule is mostly surrounded by a cloud of water molecules, then that substance has dissolved in the water.