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How Senses Affect Food Choices?

How Senses Affect Food Choices?

What you eat or how much you eat are not only determined by your sense of taste. Usually, when selecting the next meal or snack, we tend to focus on the mix of 5 main taste indicators: Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, and Umami! but what about how a food looks on a plate? Or how it sounds when you bite into it? It appears that our other 4 senses are equally involved in meal selection, and they can either support or sabotage healthy eating goals, depending on how they are used. Next time you have a meal, focus on your surroundings and prepare yourself for a 5 senses experience!

1. SMELL

•Taste and smell are one of the strongest sensory links we have. In fact, smell is an important part of how we recognize a flavor.
•It has been predicted that humans can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 odors classified as fruity, floral, spicy, burnt, resin, and putrid.
•Research suggests odors have the potential to suppress sour taste or enrich the palate of sweetness.
•This link explains why people with upper respiratory infection or sinus problem tend to temporarily lose the ability to taste.
•Alcohol consumption seizes the effect of smell because it changes how the brain perceives the aroma of food. Specifically, it makes everything smell tastier. That’s why people tend to eat more when they drink.

2. SOUND

•Specific soundtracks can change the perceived texture of the food.
•Recently, researchers wanted to determine if there was a relationship between hearing and taste and the study showed that listening to the “creamy” soundtrack made individuals rate chocolate as more “creamy”.
•Another study was conducted to show how taste perception is affected by the differences in the sound that food makes while being consumed. After eating potato chips, participants were instructed to complete a questionnaire about the freshness of the chips. Interestingly, results showed that chips were rated as fresher with increased noise.
•We’ve all known that person who should be named The Loud Chewer, who usually reminds us to politely keep our mouths closed when eating. But here’s the surprising news: The sound of that chewing may be doing them a favor, it was noted that people are likely to eat less if they’re more conscious of the sound their food makes while they’re eating.

3. TOUCH

•When it comes to touch, sensory cues from childhood play a key role in willingness to eat fruits and vegetables. Activities for preschool aged children that involve touching fruits and vegetables are positively correlated with tasting offered items. Additionally, infants are more likely to be accepting of vegetables if they are able to feel the food item prior to consumption.
•Touch can be identified as chewing wisely too, but unfortunately, what we eat doesn’t get much time to be appreciated for texture, since most people tend to gobble up their bites far too rapidly. People should chew their food more, because not doing it, leads to digestive issues.
•Improper chewing also limits the intake of vitamins and nutrients, because the food isn’t broken down enough to be absorbed during digestion. So, that huge bowl of grilled salmon and steamed veggies is not as healthy as it should have been if you are chewing only 2 times per bite.

4. SIGHT

•As for sight, it has been proposed that the popularity of sharing images of food via social media increases exposure to food, therefore, leading to an increase calorie consumption.
•“Visual hunger” is defined as physiological, behavioral and neural response due to an unwarranted stimulation to food imagery. Although research tends to focus on calorie-rich foods, seeing healthy images can potentially encourage stimulus to improve nutrition if there is increased exposure to nutritious foods.
•Color is another significant part of relating sight and eating. It has been found that the color red on utensils is associated with a decreased intake versus the colors blue and white.
•Packaging also has a significant role in relating sight and eating. In a study testing the difference in emotional response to sweeteners, it was determined that when given a packet with brand name and packaging there was increased satisfaction.
•Concerning the connections between food and vision, size really matters! For example, larger spoons and bowls usually result in eating more, this effect is so well known in which bigger plates make a serving of food appear smaller, causing people to misjudge the quantity of what they’re eating.
•The shape of food can affect people’s perceived taste. A study was conducted, where people rated spherically shaped beets as sweeter than beets cut into triangular forms.

It’s important to get your senses in sync to get the most out of what you eat. We need to take the time to appreciate food by slowing down while eating, and considering how food feels, smells, sounds and looks! That is when, we will make better choices.

Christelle Bedrossian
Dietitian-Nutritionist
Beirut, Lebanon

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Christelle Bedrossian