How many flavors do we taste?

May 30, 20230
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If you Google this question on the internet, you will get a lot of different answers. According to Thomas Hummel, author of the book, “Taste and Smell: An Update,” there are between five and several dozen independently experienced sensations on the tongue. The five most standard, and common flavors in food that are directly detected by the tongue are: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and savory/meaty (umami).

Taste is one of your most basic senses. It helps you evaluate food and drinks so you can determine what’s safe to eat and prepares your body to digest food. It certainly helped our ancestors to survive.

Taste refers to the perception of the sensory cells in your taste buds. When food compounds activate these sensory cells, your brain detects a taste like sweetness. Flavor, on the other hand, refers to taste and odor. Sensory cells in your nose interact with odor particles and then send messages to your brain.

As mentioned above, there are dozens of others tastes…

Kokumi is a newer flavor that some say will become the sixth standard and common taste. Kokumi translates (from Japanese) to “mouthfulness, and heartiness. This taste has been proclaimed by researchers from the same Japanese food company, Ajinomoto, who helped convince the taste world of the fifth basis taste, umami, a decade ago.

Astringent is a taste that humans perceive. It contains tannins that constrict organic tissue. It causes a puckering sensation that might be described as rubbery, dry or rough. It may also be described as harsh when found in wines. An astringent flavor is typically found in unripe fruit, green apples, rosemary, and lentils.

Cool or hot sensations are not referring to temperature but rather to foods that chemically trigger a sensation that is similar to a cool or hot sensation. For example, a cool sensation may come from mint or menthol, whereas hot sensations may come from spicy peppers. These sensations come from a different set of nerves. In fact, the exposed mucous membranes in the nose and eyes are also affected by these.

A few new ones that are currently being researched by scientists are: alkaline, metallic, and water-like.

Check in to next month’s blog to learn more about the science behind taste and what can affect your sense of taste.


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