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The More You Know: How Does Texture Affect Taste of Food?

 How many times have you heard the kids complain about the texture of food? When you come to think about it, they rightfully do so. Would you settle for limp carrots? Soft potato chips? How about a horrid powdery apple, or an even worse grainy watermelon? Just like eating sand. Let's inspect: how does texture impact taste?
 
woman eating hamburger

 

As you know, we eat not only with our mouth but also with our eyes and nose. The food has to look appealing and smell enticing. Our sense of taste is greatly affected by the sense of smell. But did you know we also eat with our ears? Yes, the texture of food is determined by both the sound it makes and the sensory receptors in our mouths. That's why pop rocks are such fun - they stimulate (almost) all the senses!

The sensitivity of children to texture is the product of experience and expectation. They're still collecting data about the world. They can expect the food to be crunchy when it is creamy instead, and that will be unsettling.

So why do some of us hate slimy foods? You're more likely to avoid seaweed and oysters, and even vegan options like tapioca if you didn't grow up eating them. Although these have great nutritional value to us (they're mostly rich in antioxidants), their texture isn't appealing to everyone. The fault, as usual, belongs to our ancestral instincts: rotten moldy food often softens up and becomes slimy, so our guts tell us to avoid. The slimy sound also impacts the sensory experience. 
man eating salad

Why do we globally like crunchy food then? That's simple: the crisp texture is associated with freshness, contributing to our overall satisfaction. But there's more to it. The sounds you hear inside your head and the force
you put in your jaw, send stimulating signals to the brain. It is a parade of electricity inside your skull and it can even help in the development of children's brains, once they grow the teeth for it.  

But wait, there's more. You know how the little ones love chewing and biting their toys. This habit isn't exclusive to toddlers. Chewing is one of the few sensory pleasures that last throughout our lives. In other words, we enjoy chewing as much as the children do. It's not without reason that living on a diet of juices can be so depressing for the elderly.

The chewing action increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn increases brain function. This is one of the many reasons we feel and think sharper after a light meal. A Swedish study from 2012 suggests that elderly people who could chew hard foods were less prone to cognitive impairment!

French fries
I'll finish off with a crunchy tip. When you make fried (could be any fries: classic potatoes, sweet potato, kale-leave fries, or even beet or carrot stick fries), let them sit in cornstarch for 10 minutes, and for the last 2 minutes in the oven, set it to Turbo. Crunch guaranteed. 
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