Taste and smell aren’t the only senses involved in how we enjoy the flavor of good food. Scientists have determined our eyes help us “see” and enjoy the way food tastes, contributing as much as our tongues and noses.
The findings, contained in a new study presented by food scientists at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans this week, suggest the appearance of food may be the most important factor in its appeal.
“Years ago, taste was a table with two legs — taste and odor,” said Terry E. Acree, a Cornell University food scientist who conducted the study. “Now we are beginning to understand that flavor depends on parts of the brain that involve taste, odor, touch, and vision. The sum total of these signals, plus our emotions and past experiences, result in perception of flavors, and determine whether we like or dislike specific foods.”
Acree said diners can actually can “see” the flavor of foods, and the eyes have such a powerful role that “they can trump the tongue and the nose.” For instance, Acree noted people served a glass of Sauvignon Blanc white wine that has been tinted to the deep red of merlot or cabernet report that it tastes different.
Acree said understanding the effects of interactions between smell and vision and taste can open the door to developing healthful foods that look and smell more appealing to finicky kids or adults.
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