NutriPro The pleasure of eating & drinking - The science of the senses

Monday, January 8, 2018

Taste. Over time, we’ve developed complex perceptions of flavor to help us get the nutrients we need to survive.

  • Sweet :The flavor of milk and ripe fruit, both tremendous sources of energy and nutrients.
  • Salty: The taste of foods that can ensure proper electrolyte balance (crucial for maintaining heart and brain function).
  • Umami: The flavor enhancing taste profile from amino acids naturally found in proteins.
  • Sour: The mouth-puckering taste of acid foods. Sometimes you can reduce salt in foods by adding a bright flavor spark from acidic foods instead.
  • Bitter: The sense of bitter sometimes can be used to provide a warning against potential toxins or unripe foods.

According to Nutrition and the Brain, published by the Corporate Wellness Unit of Nestlé, these divisions existed long before scientists had a name for them. By sensing the five taste modalities, our sensory apparatus acts like an analytical chemical laboratory making independent measurements of ionic equilibrium, toxicity and nutritional value.

Did you know?

Babies can discern flavor in utero. The amniotic fluid surrounding a baby in the womb is flavored by the foods and beverages the mother has eaten, and after 21 weeks the developing child swallows several ounces each day

The surprising influence of other senses

The way we experience flavor can be impacted by a food’s smell, texture, temperature, color and appearance. Even the room temperature, the lighting, and the comfort of your chair can play a role in the pleasure of eating. Consider these interesting findings:

  • Sound:

    Excess noise can elevate blood pressure, increase breathing rates, intensify the effects of alcohol, depress the appetite and make sleep difficult—even after the noise ceases.
    The average noise level of a typical restaurant during a dining rush is 80 dB (some reach as much as 110 dB), the equivalent of a road construction site or a lawnmower.
  • Smell: 

    Much of what we call taste is actually smell. A piece of apple and a piece of onion can taste the same if you hold your nose while eating them.
    The 2004 Nobel Prize was awarded to scientists who found that smell helps us detect all the good qualities we attribute to good taste.
  • Sight: 

    Research in the late 1970s showed that we eat with our eyes first: When we find food more visually appealing, we enjoy it more and absorb more nutrients from it.
    Preparing the environment properly is an important part of providing an optimal dining experience. Here are some strategies to try:
    Green, brown, and red are the most popular food colors. Red is often used in restaurant decorating schemes because it is an appetite stimulant.³ Different lighting levels can set different moods. While orange or yellow tones can create a warm environment, dim lighting or candles can create a romantic atmosphere.