A salty pretzel, a sweet ice cream cone, a sour, vinegary pickle: most of us relish the variety of flavours we experience when we eat, courtesy of our sense of taste. What many don't know, however, is that the experience of taste is highly amplified for some members of the population, known as "supertasters." This may sound amazing, but supertasters actually tend to avoid certain foods due to their increased sensitivity to strong flavours, including anything bitter and many healthy fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, individuals known as "non-tasters" have significantly decreased sensitivity to flavour, making it difficult for them to taste food at all. Unfortunately, this can cause problems, such as when they cannot detect when food has spoilt or is unsafe to eat.
Thought for Food Blog
Since the discovery that dietary saturated fats increase plasma cholesterol levels, low fat foods have been an important area of research, mainly because a link was assumed between plasma cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk.
Recent studies have suggested that the connection between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular health is more tenuous than was previously thought. Despite this, advisory bodies, such as the British Heart Foundation, still recommend that people should avoid saturated fats as much as possible and eat small amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
Most people enjoy eating. In this age of plenty, food has become a source of pleasure to an extent that goes way beyond its ability to provide us with sustenance. However, this sense of pleasure is a complex issue. Take cheeses for example. Each has its own particular combination of flavour compounds and sensory properties – Brie is clearly distinguishable from Cheddar, ripened cheese tastes different to fresh cheese, and so on. But why does my husband have to leave the room, retching dramatically, when the rest of my family salivate in anticipation as we sprinkle parmesan on our minestrone?
In the sixties, a gloomy prediction was made: in the future, people wouldn’t eat foods, as such, but would rely on pills and nutrient-rich powders to provide them with sustenance. No longer would eating be regarded as entertainment. Future inhabitants of our world would eat to live, nothing else.
Thankfully, this turned out to be science fiction. Fifty years on, pills, powders and gels may be consumed as supplements, but the possibility that these could replace real food is still remote. Gastronomes are prepared to spend large amounts of money on fine dining in order to experience unusual flavour combinations. Chocolates full of sugar and fat are given as presents because we love them. Even the astronauts in the space station are provided with specially formulated foods (probably the closest we have come to the predicted powders) that have to be tasty and enjoyable as well as nutritious.
Most people obsess over flavour – everything from ice cream to cheese to chocolate. However, food professionals, from chefs to manufacturers, know that creaminess, crispiness and chewiness is just as important and crucial in making something appealing to consume.
Ingredion are a company whose Texture Centre of Excellence helps the food industry achieve the perfect consistency for their products - 'The magic begins here,' reads the website. Texture is big business and the science of food structure is known as food rheology.