Understanding The 5 Major Tastes That Make Up Our Food Experience: Food Expert Explains


Have you ever wondered why some people like the taste of karela, while others don’t? Likewise, you will find a group enjoying spice in their foods, and then some prefer their meals light and bland. Taste preferences are unique to each; in fact, it tops the list of what consumers care about when deciding what to eat or drink. Our genetic makeup and life experiences also have a lot to do with which tastes we find appealing and which ones our senses forbid. In this article, we plan to decode the science of our taste buds and understand why different types of foods taste different. Let’s elucidate further.

Also Read: The Secret To Umami’s Magic Chemistry On Our Taste Buds

Taste Vs Flavours: What Is The Difference Between The Two:

Food expert Krish Ashok, who goes by the name ‘masalalab’ on Instagram, shared a post explaining the difference between flavours and taste. According to him, we often use the terms ‘flavours’ and ‘taste’ interchangeably. But, if you dive in deep, you will find a striking difference between the two.

Flavour is a multi-dimensional experience, made up of taste, aroma, visual, sound and sensations. In fact, 80 percent of our perception of flavours is the smell. On the other hand, taste is a sense organ that contributes to less than 20% of the overall perception of flavours. “We can smell more than 10,000 aromas, but we can taste only five things – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami,” explains Krish Ashok.

He further explains that when a person says, “biryani tastes wonderful”, what he/she means is the look of the food, the aroma of the garam masala (in the dish) and the umami in the meat have made the dish flavourful.

The Science Of Taste: What Are The 5 Taste Sensations?

According to the Collins Dictionary, the taste of something is the individual quality, which a food has when you put it in your mouth. “It also helps distinguish one food from the other,” reads the definition. In other words, taste is the result of a substance landing on the receptors of your tongue, activating the taste sensation and signals in the brain.

Food expert Krish Ashok says that there are five specific types of tastes that our brain identifies – “sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami”.

Also Read: Author Krish Ashok Explains “Indian Food Terms” In An Oh-So-Relatable Manner

Taste 1. Sweet:

Sweet tastebuds detect sugar and sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose, which are artificial sweetening agents you find in different foods.

Taste 2. Salty:

Salt tastebuds detect sodium. They also respond to potassium, which is why you will find low sodium salt for high blood pressure containing potassium chloride.

Taste 3. Bitter:

Bitter tastebuds detect alkaloids, many of which, as per the food expert, could be poisonous. For instance, caffeine is an alkaloid, which makes coffee or tea taste bitter.

Taste 4. Sour:

Sour tastebuds detect protons. So, acidic things are sour. Take the citric acid in lime and amla and tartaric acid in tamarind for instance.

Taste 5. Umami:

Umami tastebuds detect glutamates, a type of amino acid. Foods like soy sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, meat, seafood and Ajinomoto or MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) contain glutamates, consumption of which activates both your salt and umami tastebuds.

Why Do Certain Bitter Foods Taste Sweet After Consumption?

If you drink water after eating amla, it leaves a sweet aftertaste in your mouth. Ever wondered why? Krish Ashok explains that amla is citric acid, which is water soluble in nature. So, when you drink water after having amla the acid is diluted and the sour tastebuds turn off, activating our sweet tastebuds. “So it turns out, acidic foods also help trigger sweet tastebuds,” he adds.

The science of taste is amazing. Understanding it well helps evolve your overall food experience; or as Krish Ashok says, “Your tongue is like the boss at work”. Enjoy your meal!

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