Your tongue can distinguish five basic tastes: salty, sweet, savoury, bitter and sour. And less understood is the ability to taste fat. The ability to taste sweetness, savoury and fat permits detection of nutrients. The ability to taste sourness and bitterness permits avoidance of toxins in food. There is no requirement for fat in the diet, but fats are nutritionally important in other ways.
Large amounts of sodium trigger the same “DO NOT EAT” response in the brain as foods that are bitter and sour, which helps prevent you from eating a dangerous amount of sodium. We are born predisposed to like sweet tastes and not drawn to the bitter. Acting as a mechanism against ingesting toxins and other harmful substances. From an evolutionary viewpoint we are prone to like sweetness because the brain prioritizes high calorie food as a survival mechanism. Sodium is an essential mineral to all animals, but it is recommended to not go beyond 2-3 teaspoons of salt per day.
It has been discovered that humans are more than likely to crave and enjoy the same kinds of flavours their mothers ate whilst they were pregnant with them. It is thought that this signals to the baby that if mom can eat it, it's good, safe nourishment.
Combining sour and sweet flavours on the tongue can be a bit confusing in the mouth, making it hard for us to distinguish the difference.
The brain is more or less reliant on a source of glucose and red bloods cells are completely reliant on glucose. This is a great excuse to eat the good sugars if you ask me. But careful not to over do it!
Fruit juices provide undesirable high level of sugars. The best source of sweet energy is from the whole fruit including fiber, helping your body absorb and use that sugar effectively.
It makes sense that we use sweet treats as a reward simply because the brain values these highly caloric foods. Artificial sweeteners do not enact the same reward response because our brain can tell it's not the real deal! Artificial sweeteners may be able to fool your taste buds but not your brain. And with sweeteners like raw sugar, agave and maple syrup showing up on restaurant tables there's no need to reach for the aspartame alternative!
Like all things we eat, moderation is key. Each of our mouths experience different tastes, likes and dislikes. Be creative with your flavors and explore something new! You may be surprised by what your taste buds tell you.
Written by Nicole Whitely and Amy Trachter