When it comes to food and our nutrition as humans, we all need it, enjoy its existence and depend on it. All of that is great and scary at the same time! However, when it comes to the taste of food, is it supposed to taste good?
In this article, I will teach you about food and its taste, why do foods have taste, what makes food taste so good, among many other things that I’m certain you are most interested in reading about. As a chef myself, I’m excited to tell you about them! Before getting over our heads, is food supposed to taste good?
In short, humans enjoy the taste of most edible ingredients, foods, and spices even when they haven’t been cooked. When it comes to cooked food, humans like that even better. Therefore, food is supposed to taste good.
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there are 250,000 – 300,000 if not more edible plants in the world that humans can eat. Around 200 have been domesticated were from most people nowadays can enjoy form them. The rest, 99%, are ”wild foods” found in forests, jungles, deserts, and you name it.
Food is one of the most important parts of our human lives, and we have built everything around it from fast-food restaurants to culture heritages and everything between. In one of my posts where I went through why humans cook, we found out that one of the 5 reasons is enjoyment, making the food taste, feel, and digest better. In conclusion, it’s safe to say that food is supposed to taste good.
However, why do food taste good and what makes it so? That’s what I need to explain to you next!.
How Does The Food Get Its Taste?
Before thinking about why does food taste good, it’s important to understand why does food taste in the first place.
The way we humans taste the food is by feel, and chemical reactions in our mouths and tongues taste buds combined with the ingredients smell. This is how flavor is created and how we can taste.
It always blows people away when they hear how much our nose and odors affect the taste of food which we can determine. In fact, researchers believe that 75% – 95% of what we think of taste comes from the sense of smell, which really is surprising.
This leads us to flavor in a more in-depth way. There are five basic flavors, yet some researchers claim that there are more; however, the following 5 are the recognized ones: Salty, Sweet, Bitter, Sour, and Umami. Commonly, most people can easily recognize 4 of them; however, umami really confuses people.
Umami is known as monosodium glutamate, which means the essence of deliciousness in Japanese. The taste of umami is commonly told be taste meaty, savory, and deepened flavor.
When you eat food, there are different combinations of these 5 basic flavors, different amounts of each, and different odors and smells where you get the idea of what it tastes.
So why do we connect the food’s smell and taste to something good? That’s what you need to understand next.
What Makes Food Taste Good?
Let’s take things way back to the beginning, and I mean to the beginning. One reason why food tastes good or at least not bad, bitter, and dangerous is our natural protective mechanism. Our ancestors learned to eat certain foods by tasting them and learning what safe foods taste and what dangerous ones do.
This results from the 5 basic flavors, and the most inviting of them are salty, sweet, and umami. However, sour and bitter were a danger sign for early humans even when all foods and ingredients that taste sour and bitter aren’t dangerous.
In addition to flavors and odors, the texture also determines whether something is pleasant or disgusting to eat. Let’s take an example here. Imagine eating a pizza with a pleasant and crusty base and your favorite ingredients on the top with a great mouthfeel.
Now, imagine a rotten, mushy, and slimy apple. When you take a bite out of that, it will alert your brains that something isn’t right here, even when the taste of a rotten apple was to be removed. In short, the mouthfeel and texture tell a thousand stories whether the food is fresh, rotten, or something you shouldn’t in your mouth.
Let’s fast forward to the modern days where we live. Now that we have millenniums worth of knowledge on cooking, seasoning, and even processing deadly foods to edible conditions, we can taste so much more with confidence than our ancestors, giving us a wider and more complex range of tastes and smells, and smells, and textures.
It comes down to our protective mechanism, taste, smell, and texture, determining why something tastes good or bad.
Read also: Why Are Fine Dining Dishes So Small?
Do Foods Taste The Same To Everyone?
Read also: Why Is Vegan Food So Expensive?
As you might already know from personal experience, probably all of us, at least myself, knows that not all foods taste the same to everyone. Also, not all foods taste the same to you throughout your life either. Think about it, what foods you disliked 5 or 10 years ago that you now love? I have many of them, such as feta cheese, pickles, beetroot, tofu, strong cheeses, olives, mushrooms, beer, wine, and probably a dozen more!
Well, what affects the fact that others might like some foods that others hate? That’s a great question, and there is far more than one answer to that. Let’s take a quick list of some of the factors.
- Habits & customs
- Trying different things
- Personal DNA
- Regional evolution
- An unusual amount of taste buds
Let’s take these aspects into our quick review to 3 sections that you see devided above.
1. Culture, Breeding, Habits, Customs & Wide Experiences
The biggest determinator on how do we taste, what do we like, and what we can like as human beings comes from our culture, habits, parents rising, and the opportunities you had and have to try different things.
It’s needless to say how different the food cultures are around the world and between the continents. For example, sushi, cilantro, spiciness are a great divider between people where others can’t simply stand some of them, whereas others couldn’t live without one.
For example, I love spicy food so much that I add chili and pepper to really anything. However, my girlfriend can’t stand it one bit, which makes cooking together quite hard, but I always add chili, spicy sauce, jalapenos, and things like that after the shared dish is made. This is a universal thing, not just our household.
Breeding, habits, and where you have been used to are a big part of the puzzle as well. The chances are that if you have been fed certain foods from the time you were a baby, you are so costumed to it by now that you like it no matter what, even when somebody else would dislike it the most.
Also, if you have tried different things all your life, the chances are that you aren’t so easily wavers, and you aren’t so picky as someone that has had 5 meals through his life. In fact, you can even alter your own disliking to a point by trying it over and over again.
Read also: Why Is Restaurant Coffee So Good?
2. Personal DNA & Regional Evolution
As you might know already, each of us is unique in so many ways, and we are built differently from our core. Genes can determine our receptors that can detect the 5 basic flavors and the taste of fat differently than others. On average, humans have about 35 receptors that detect flavor, and our genetic DNA shapes certain receptors, which leads to different senses of taste.
Evolution is another process that shapes each person’s sense of taste. Evolution isn’t something that has happened fast, which has given time to different regional traits. On our planet earth, there are so many different regions, continents, and areas where evolution has shaped people to become slightly different in traits, including taste.
For example, people in northern Europe have different regional gene structures than people in Australia or South Africa; therefore, the sense of taste is different.
3. The Amount of Taste Buds & Supertasters
Finally, people have different taste buds, and naturally, the more you have them, the more you taste. In addition to that, each taste bud contains taste receptor cells which further enhances your taste. Let’s talk numbers.
Generally, there are between 2000 to 5000 taste buds located in your tongue. Also, each taste bud has 50 to 100 taste receptor cells, so in total, you could have between 100,000 to 500,000 taste receptor cells in your tongue. That is a 5x difference, so it’s a wonder that there are differences in how people taste and what they like. Also, these numbers are rough estimates, and the gap can be greater between two people.
In addition to that, some people can be classified as supertasters. Supertasters have heightened taste because of their increased number of fungiform papillae that house the taste buds. Shortly said, that leads to a far greater amount of taste buds.
This is a curse and a blessing at the same time because their taste is heightened. Supertasters require less fat and salt to get the same effect that you and I get from a higher amount. This makes them get more pleasure for good foods, yet bad foods are worse because their sense of bitterness is also heightened.
Read also: Why Are Restaurant Burritos Better Than Homemade?
Why is Junk Food so Addictive?
Junk food often contains a ton of fat, salt, or sugar where humans are super drawn to. When we eat junk food, it releases dopamine in our brains. Dopamine, also called the pleasure hormone, is a neurotransmitter that sends messages of pleasure between our nerve cells.
And as you guessed it, it takes willpower to turn down pleasure which is, in this case, junk food.
This is why junk food is so addictive because it gives us an unusual amount of pleasure that other foods don’t. Thus, we are prone to reach for greasy, salty, and sugary treats.
Learn more: Why Is Restaurant Food So Salty?
Why is Junk Food Not Filling?
When we are comparing a bag of chips to mashed potatoes, the filling difference is huge. This principle applies to all junk and healthy foods, but the question here is, why?
Junk foods are often low in nutrients, which means how many nutrients are there per calorie. As we all are familiar with, a bag of chips has many calories but quite a low amount of nutrients. This is why not only doesn’t the bag of chips make you as full as an equivalent amount of mashed potatoes, but you will become hungry sooner as well.
Learn more: Why Is Restaurant Food So High In Calories?
Can Healthy Foods Taste Good?
Healthy food can definitely taste good, similarly to junk food can taste bad. You can prepare a delicious meal from healthy ingredients if you know how to use the right ingredients, cook well, and season accordingly. If you don’t find healthy foods delicious, you should cut junk food out and see whether it improves on time.
There was a period in my life (not severe but still) where I preferred junk food over healthy foods. Even when I definitely didn’t find healthy foods disgusting, I went for the junk food, which then I later realized that junk food was making me feel that.
How do You Make Low-Calorie Food Taste Good?
As a chef myself and a person who likes to work out and eat semi-healthy, I know how to make a great dish with low calories. There are a couple of things in mind that you need to remember but take notice that you certainly don’t need to do all of these to a single dish, nor isn’t it recommended in some situations.
- Use various ingredients that go well together – Don’t be afraid to use many vegetables in your foods. Personally, I often mix +5 or even 8 different vegetables when making stir fry, etc., to make it interesting.
- Cook in the right temperatures – When you are cooking, you must cook it right to get a pleasant texture. Chicken is great when it’s crispy. Veggies can’t be mush. Rice needs to be fluffy, and so on.
- Use the right seasoning & Don’t be afraid of the season – Salt and pepper will go a long way, and don’t hesitate to use them! Also, garlic, ginger, chili, lime juice, and similar things will take your dishes to the next level.
- Use add-ons such as nuts, seeds, sauces, cheese, etc. – Springkil your salad with nuts, seeds, cheese, and adding a sauce to the side will do wonders. The same principles can be used in any dish. Teryaki sauce is my favorite!
- Use dips when you feel like it – Feeling snacky? Use salsa, hummus, guacamole, or other low-medium calorie dips and go nuts on carrots, celery, cucumber, or you name it. The principle can be used in every dish.
By no means does healthy food need to be boring. It always amuses me when someone laughs when talking about salads, smoothies, mashed potatoes, fruits, vegetables, or you name it. You can make really great dishes when you only use a little imagination.
Use great ingredients, season well, cook to the right texture, use toppings & addons, and use a dip or glaze your food.
When it comes to taste, whether you are looking at it scientifically, culturally, or in a hurry because you want to eat, it’s clear that food is supposed to taste good for us humans. There is so much to learn about taste, but the important thing is to keep a great balance between taste and what is good for your body!
I hope that you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it because I never get tired of talking about foods, flavors, and everything considering them. I’m confident that you got value from this post and next time you are eating, think about which flavors you can taste from the 5 basic flavors.