Have you ever thought about taste?
As in the sensation produced when a substance in your mouth reacts chemically with the taste receptors on your taste buds? Actually taste determines the flavours of food and drinks, so every time you eat or drink something you use your sense of taste.
The sensation of taste includes five established basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami. These five basic tastes activate your taste buds in your mouth and if they are all used in a meal your taste senses will be activated and you will feel more satisfied and satiated. So you can actually say that the taste of the food and not necessarily the amount of food you eat is what leaves you feeling happy and full after a meal.
70% of what we taste we recognise through smelling, and the human brain can remember thousands of aromas. You can say that the aromas add the nuances to the basic tastes, which is very important to remember when you cook. Let’s say, for example, that your sauce is missing a bit of sweetness. You could, of course, add some refined sugar—but you could also use dark rich muscavado sugar, a sweet chutney or some honey, sweet wine or fruit juice.
A sweet tooth
Many of us have a sweet tooth! You probably enjoy a sweet treat during the day. Maybe you prefer some sugar on your oats for breakfast or a glass of fruit juice to get you started in the morning. You might eat a piece of candy after lunch or add some sugar to your coffee. You probably also enjoy an ice-cold soda once in a while.
If you do, you are just like most other people on the planet, who regard sweet tastes as a pleasurable experience, something nice that makes us happy. This is no coincidence.
Several studies show that our responsiveness to sweetness has ancient evolutionary beginnings. New-born babies actually prefer very sweet concentrations, like breast milk. So you could say that humans are born with a sweet tooth, even before they get any teeth.
As mentioned above, humans have a natural preference for sweet tastes. We can detect sweetness at around 1 part in 200 of sucrose in a solution, making sweetness the basic taste with the highest taste recognition threshold. In comparison, bitterness appears to have the lowest detection threshold, at about 1 part in 2 million for quinine in a solution. This stems from ancient evolution, where sweetness indicates energy density, while bitterness can indicate toxicity. Thus, human beings are programmed to prefer sweet foods since they offer more energy.
But what makes our food and drinks sweet? Among common biological substances, all the simple carbohydrates are sweet to at least some degree. The prototypical example is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar. Sucrose in a solution has a sweetness perception of 1, and other sweet substances are rated relative to this. In comparison, fructose is rated as having 1,7 times the sweetness of sucrose. Another natural sweetener, stevia, is roughly 250 times sweeter than sucrose.
Talking about sugar
When talking about the taste of sweetness, most people tend to think about sugar. Sugar can be divided into natural sugars, which are known as intrinsic sugars, and free sugars. Intrinsic sugars are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and milk. These sugars are absolutely fine, and there is no reported evidence of any adverse effects from consuming them.
Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods and beverages for various reasons, such as preservation, improved taste, etc. However, free sugars are also naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. These free sugars can be bad for your health, so you should try to limit your intake of them.
In adults and children, the World Health Organization recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake and preferably to below 5%.
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, choose other sweeteners and aromas instead, such as bananas, fresh berries, sweet peppers, tomatoes, cinnamon, coconut, nutmeg, vanilla, almond extract and peaches.
Did you know
That humans have up to 10.000 taste buds in their mouths? Taste buds look like little onions, and contrary to what many people think, they are spread out all over your mouth
That eating sugar can give you wrinkles because sugar can affect the elasticity of your skin?
That sugar can be used as a food preservative? High sugar concentrations cause bacteria to lose water through a process called osmosis – and without water, bacteria cannot grow or divide
That sugar is addictive? Quitting sugar abruptly can cause pain, nausea and flu-like symptoms.