In a recent study, to explore how the taste of food is detected by the brain, an individual was served two cups of coffee which were the same. When consuming the first cup of coffee, the person felt that it was more raw and bitter. However, with the second cup, he felt it be more delightful and fruity.

The individual was not aware that he was being served the exact same cup of coffee twice but ended up claiming that these were two kinds of coffee with a distinct taste. This wild claim of the individual that the same coffee had distinct tastes makes us wonder how taste is really perceived by the brain. Read on further to know the science behind taste and utilize this knowledge to eat healthy.

The Science Behind Taste

Let’s take the example of the same coffee. The molecules inside this liquid are recognized by the receptors in the tongue, aka the taste buds. It is then categorized under the five basic tastes of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and savory. The molecules in the air are also detected by receptors in the nose and translated into respective odors. The same goes for touch, temperature, texture, sound and more.

All of this information added together are detected by receptors and converted into signals between neutrons in the brain. Information is woven and integrated so that the brain finally recognizes that you had coffee and you liked it. After all, this happens, only do you consciously get to experience the cup of coffee.

The Bias in Taste

People think that this final experience of taste is the ultimate reality. But, this is not the case always. Like in the case of the above study where the same coffee was perceived as two distinct tastes. This occurs because certain physical stimuli are not strong enough the break the barrier and enter the conscious mind.

Some information also tends to get twisted to form hidden biases that dictate your conception of a taste. According to Steven Witherly, a renowned food scientist, food manufacturers use certain factors to induce food cravings. These include:

  • Dynamic Contrast – Combination of different sensations in food, eg – an edible shell that goes crunch followed by something soft or creamy and full of taste-active compounds
  • Rapid Meltdown of Food – Foods that melt in your mouth send confusing signals to your brain indicating that you are not full even if you are eating
  • Salivary Response – Foods that enable you to salivate more like butter, chocolate, ice cream, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Memories of Past Eating Experiences – When you eat something tasty, your brain registers that pathway and every time you see that same food, your brain triggers the same response and reinforces the pathway

Food companies today are largely using these biases to design food with addictive properties. So, how can you counteract this and eat consciously without any bias?

How to Eat Healthy?

The solution to control your tongue and resolve a better connection to your brain involves weaning away from junk food and processed food gradually. Eventually, you will develop a sense of conscious eating and derive the same pleasure as you would eating sugar-rich food. Here’s how you can break the barriers of bias:

  1. Five Ingredient Rule

Simply refrain from buying processed or junk food. If a food has more than five ingredients, then chances are that it is designed to induce a bias. Avoid these products and stick to more natural options. 

  1. Eat a Variety of Food

Your brain craves novelty. While you may not be able to create a dynamic contrast devised in certain junk food, you can vary your diet by experimenting with natural options. Finding novel ways to add new spices and flavors to your dishes can make eating healthy foods more desirable. 

Eating healthy foods does not mean your food has to be bland. Mix up your foods to get different sensations.


  1. Explore a Better Way to Deal With Stress

Many people tend to express their stress by overeating or binging on comfort food. This is because when you get too stressed the brain triggers the addictive call of sugar. But learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome this trigger. This could include meditation techniques, exercise or indulging in a hobby.

The secret of eating healthier is to develop a conscious experience of food. Understanding how taste is perceived by the brain and use this knowledge to develop building better eating habits. You can do it!



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