Whether it is memories of mummy’s cooking or the aroma of coffee, taste and flavour play an important part in our conditioning.
There is a lot of interesting research being done on flavours and the differences between the taste buds of children and grown-ups.
In the light of the rising incidence of obesity too, training our taste buds is becoming an area of interest. Most scientists agree that the body can recognise five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and astringent, which the taste buds on various points of our tongue can decipher. Children are born with far more taste buds than adults, making them more sensitive to tastes. However, as we grow older, our taste buds keep decreasing till they attain a fixed number in adulthood.
Infants display the maximum preference for things that are slightly sweet and usually avoid all other tastes. A preference for sour, bitter and salty foods develops as we grow older.
There are genetic differences in sensitivity towards tastes. Some people may have a supersensitive taste, which makes them better at identifying different tastes and flavours. While taste depends upon the tongue and receptors, flavour is the result of the combination of taste and aroma.
Although taste bud preferences are inherited to an extent, a large part also depends upon a person’s training and conditioning. And our taste buds seems to have their own memory – particularly for sweet foods. So, if we eat a piece of bitter chocolate and follow it up with a piece of pineapple pastry, then the pastry seems too sweet. But if we eat a piece of pastry first and bitter chocolate later, then we will find the bitter chocolate far more bitter.
Let taste buds keep you healthy
Most times, people give up on eating healthy, not because of what their stomach craves, but what their taste buds have been missing. The trick lies in retraining the taste buds towards new and healthy food without compromising on taste and flavour.
One of the practical ways to begin is to keep the ingredients healthy and fresh while adding spices, flavours and condiments to make the food delicious.
The second step is to gradually cut down on salt, sugar and oil in the food. When one cuts them gradually, the taste buds become more alert to lesser amounts and one begins to enjoy the food high on natural flavours.
The third step is to avoid foods with artificial flavours and tastes. Most foods with artificial seasoning and flavours are very strong on the taste buds and continuous use prevents the natural tastes from developing. It also dulls the taste buds.
As we move away from artificial food to natural food, we’ll see an obvious increase in taste and discover that the food is more satisfying and delicious.
From HT Brunch, October 6
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