Particular tastes are often associated with strong emotions, which can be sweet or bitter, such as a bitter pill, sour grapes, or precious nothing. These tastes describe not only the flavours, but also the pleasure as well as displeasure. This intense link that connects taste with emotion is a part of our evolution. In earlier days, our taste buds helped us test the food we were consuming; for instance, a bitter or sour taste indicated poisonous inedible plants or rotting food. Alternatively, sweet and salty was seen as a sign of food rich in nutrients. This is how particular natural flavours have helped us to survive so far.
Taste, Smell and Flavour
Taste is not usually any particular natural flavour but a bundle of different sensations such as the smell, texture and temperature of a meal. It is only when a taste is combined with a smell that a particular flavour is produced. That is why you will find that a stuffy nose often dulls a perception of taste.
Similarly, the smell is also linked to our emotions, as both these senses of taste and smell are connected to the involuntary nervous system. This also explains why a bad taste or odour sometimes induces vomiting or nausea. On the other hand, delicious flavours increase the production of saliva and gastric juices, thus giving a “mouth-watering” sensation.
Sense of Flavour
We understand a particular flavour through the information that is transported from the tongue to the brain. Based on that, there are five essential qualities of flavour. But many dishes can also be a combination of different flavours like sweet-sour or salty and savoury. Many food flavour manufacturers use a variety of such flavours to enhance their food items. The primary classification of the flavours is given below:
Our perception of sweetness is caused by sugar and fructose or lactose. However, there can be other substances such as amino acids and alcohols in fruit juices or alcoholic drinks, which can also activate the sensory cells that respond to sweetness.
Generally, acidic solutions like lemon juice or organic acids taste sour. This sensation of sourness is caused by hydrogen ions that get split off by an acid dissolved in a watery solution.
Salts are made up of salt crystal, which consists of sodium and chloride. Mineral salts like potassium or magnesium salts can also cause a sensation of saltiness. We can understand the salt in our food if there are table salts in it.
The bitter taste is brought about in a complex way because of 35 different proteins in the sensory cells responding to bitter substances. Bitterness was thought to be associated with poisonous plants, and recognising them was a matter of survival.
Many food flavours manufacturers in India use glutamic acid or aspartic acid as flavour enhancers and make the taste of savoury more intense. These two amino acids, such as glutamic acid, are found in ripe tomatoes, meat and cheese, while asparagus contains aspartic acid.
Factors Determining Which Food Sets Which Mood
Infants taste their first food; usually, milk, thus unconsciously creating a good memory for it, which is the taste of sweetness. On the contrary, the taste of bitterness is associated with unhappy memories. As a kid, you must have taken bitter-tasting medicines while you were sick and unwell. Thus, such common perceptions that sweet is happy, bitter is sad, is created.
Social influences such as the opinion of people surrounding you or your peer group also have an essential impact on your mood about a particular food. Similarly, culture also has an essential impact on defining the mood of the flavour. Cultures that have strong roots in their traditions and have high importance for traditional foods have observed that these flavours of the food create a sense of respect and happiness on specific occasions.
It is known that beverages and juices have high sugar contents, which instantly lifts the mood and are thus associated with happiness. Some foods have natural ingredients similar to mood-stabilising drugs like tea, chocolate, etc. These are our go-to food for comfort. Omega -3 fatty acids have also shown a positive impact on mood, found in various berries and foods. These findings are useful for food flavour manufacturers.
In a Nutshell
The connection between different flavours and moods is quite intense. We have seen how various flavours trigger memories from the past and affect our mood. But overall, research is being done by many food flavour manufacturers in India to diversify the flavours and provide a pleasant sensation to the consumers.