The Forgotten Senses of Flavor

blindfold_taste_test

This article was published on FoodandNutrition.org.

Chefs rely on frequent tasting of sauces and stews to ensure the flavor of their dishes are just right. While taste is an important aspect of flavor, research shows the keys to a memorable meal go beyond that. How food looks, smells and even sounds can make all the difference.

Sight

People can “see” flavors before actually tasting a food or beverage, says food sensory analysis expert Rena Shifren, PhD, president of ProSense Consumer Research Center in Tucson, Ariz.

To prove her point, she had a room of attendees at an Institute of Food Technologists meeting identify a variety of different-colored jellybeans — first with their eyes open and then with their eyes closed. Flavor identification was easy when they could see the jellybeans, but more difficult when they had to rely solely on smell and taste.

Smell

People first smell the aroma of a food or beverage in anticipation of the flavor they are about to taste. Once consumed, vaporized volatile organic compounds from the food or drink are released and travel up the retronasal passage to the olfactory bulb, where the compounds are translated to flavor by the brain — “I’m eating a strawberry!” the brain thinks. But, if the sense of smell isn’t working — say, due to a cold — that process breaks down and foods can taste bland.

Hearing

While it may seem a bit outlandish, the sounds that a food creates during the process of eating can also enhance or detract from flavor. Just think of the last time you heard a crunch or a sizzle from your food and how it affected your desire to eat it — or eat more of it. Sound gives our brains clues to the texture of a food, which might translate to freshness or quality in our brains. A bite of crisp, juicy apple or one that’s soft and mushy — which would you prefer?

Experimental psychologist Charles Spence, a professor at Oxford University and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, believes sound is forgotten as a flavor sense. “What we hear while eating plays an important role in our perception of the textual properties of food, not to mention our overall enjoyment of the multisensory experience of food and drink,” Spence told Food Navigator.

In his laboratory, Spence evaluated how subjects perceived crispness and freshness by manipulating the sounds of noisy foods using headphones. Louder and higher frequency sounds were associated with fresh, crisp foods, while quieter and diminished frequencies were linked to stale, soft foods.

The sound of food is an area that food marketers could take advantage of for improving the overall eating experience, especially for aging adults, Spence advised.

So there’s more to eating than just the taste of food on our tongues. We also eat with our eyes, our noses and our ears! Together the five senses act like a symphony in our brains and make eating a pleasurable act.

Invest with Nutrition Now to Age Better Later

 

Avoid accelerated aging with diet. Photo Credit: Stone Soup

Avoid accelerated aging with diet. Photo Credit: Stone Soup

You can also view this article on the Food & Nutrition Magazine blog, Stone Soup.

From the moment of conception, the human body is aging. And while it cannot be stopped, it’s possible to influence how quickly the body ages. One of the most significant ways is through diet. Think of every bite as a deposit into the bank of health, with nutrient-rich foods being valuable currency. And remember: It’s never too late to make contributions. Here are some tips for each decade of life that promote healthy aging.

Twenties

With the “need it now” mentality fueled by social media and technology, 20-somethings are accustomed to quick and convenient, especially when it comes to food. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean healthy. Convenience foods can be high in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Few provide the right amount of quality protein — an important nutrient for this age group since muscle mass peaks in this decade. A Journal of Gerontology study showed that lean mass, and the muscle that comes with it, could decrease by up to 40 percent from age 20 to 70. Eating a high-protein diet together with exercise can counteract this loss. Include protein-rich foods like lean meats, dairy, fish and lentils with each meal.

Thirties

Many in their 30s enjoy good health and are untouched by the visible signs of aging. Unfortunately, many also are preoccupied with work and family and neglect their health and take for granted their body’s resilience — a resilience quickly chipped away by poor diet. Enter multivitamins. A survey from the market research company NPD Group suggests that the average American adult meets dietary guidelines just seven days out of the year. Almost all fall short of the estimated average requirement for vitamin E, and more than half don’t meet needs for magnesium, folate and vitamin D. Taking a multivitamin helps supply the nutrients needed to support healthy aging.

Forties

In this decade, the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese sharply rises, and with it comes health risks, mostly notably type 2 diabetes. The Obesity Society reports that almost 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Weight gain is largely preventable by following a healthy diet. For those in their 40s, it’s important to avoid foods high in refined sugar like soda, candy and pastries. Instead, eating balanced meals with complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber can help manage blood sugar and weight.

Fifties

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, trumping cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being over the age of 50 increases the risk. Add other factors — African-American ethnicity, a family history of heart disease — and the risk increases even more. While some factors cannot be mitigated, diet and exercise are effective tools for preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week (or taking a daily supplement) to increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Sixties and older

The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, and most individuals with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older. The likelihood of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65. While there is no cure, research has focused on delaying, slowing and preventing symptoms, and nutritional interventions show promise. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests 2,000 IU of vitamin E as part of a comprehensive care plan that helps slow dementia. More research is needed, but there’s no denying the benefit of a healthy diet and lifestyle to support brain health.

No matter the decade of life, the goal should always be to invest wisely with nutrition.

How much protein should I be eating?

1336457773_flexing muscles god change brain

A protein-rich diet isn’t just for those who like to show off their “guns”.

Protein has become buzzword in the nutrition world. It is popping up on the front of food packaging and health magazines. I am usually a skeptic when it comes to the latest food craze—and with good reason—but I have to admit that research backs this one up.

From stimulating muscle growth to boosting satiety and improving blood sugar control, a diet higher in protein can help you reach your health goal whether it is to drop a few pounds or age healthfully. In fact, evidence shows that we may need more protein than previously thought.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein has been set at 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults 19 and older. That means a person who weighs 150 pounds (or 68 kg) would need 55 grams of protein per day. However, that number is required to prevent deficiency, or levels where health complications may develop. A higher protein intake may not just keep you healthy; it may substantially improve your health and well-being.

The Institute of Medicine’s Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is from 0.8 to at least 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. For the same 150-pound person, the range of protein intake would be  between 55 and 170 grams of protein per day.

Note: To put things into perspective, a six-ounce steak is 40 grams of protein, three-ounce chicken breast is 30 grams, and one large egg is 6 grams.

A diet higher in protein is no longer just for bodybuilders who are looking for a bulky and toned physique. Many studies have shown that a protein-rich diet is key for weight loss and maintenance. One of the main reasons is that eating a high-protein diet can increase satiety so you are fuller, longer. Also, stimulating muscle growth an increase your metabolic rate, meaning you will burn more calories.

Another thing to consider is that as we get older, we gradually lose muscle mass. Eating a diet higher in protein can slow this process so you can have mobility and optimal health as you age.

Convinced that you need to bump up the protein in your diet? Here is how, from breakfast to dinner:

Breakfast:

  • Scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon or turkey sausage
  • Greek yogurt with almonds and berries
  • Cottage cheese with fruit and nuts
  • Whole-wheat toast and nut butter (I like almond best!)
  • Smoothie with whey protein powder and fruit
  • Steal-cut oatmeal with non-fat milk and dried cranberries

Lunch:

  • Grilled chicken salad
  • Tuna sandwich (Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo.)
  • Turkey, Swiss cheese, and vegetables in a whole-wheat wrap
  • Mexican salad with chickpeas, black beans, and avocado (Salsa makes for the perfect dressing.)

Dinner:

  • Tofu stir-fry
  • Grilled salmon or other fish with bakes vegetables
  • Roasted pork tenderloin (a lean cut of red meat) and dinner salad
  • Ground turkey sautéed with herbs and spices for lettuce wraps

Choose lean proteins and don’t forget about complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. A balanced diet is a healthy diet!

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What I Ate Wednesday

Some times all you need is a little inspiration to show you that eating healthy can still be delicious. Check out my eats for the week:

{“Blanched” Green Beans: A cooking technique where you boil vegetables until they are tender, then place them in an ice bath, followed by sauteeing, grilling, or even boiling again. Using this method keeps veggies crisp rather than soggy.}

{Yummy Mexican salad with tortilla crusted tilapia from Costco, fresh salsa for dressing, Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, and a little splurge with a Corona Light.}

{A great snack for on-the-go, the creamy texture of V8 juice fills me up. I also enjoy an afternoon mocktail–pour V8 over ice in a glass, add olives and a dash of pepper. Delish!}

{Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I LOVE cereal. Instead of being tempted by sugar coated treats, go with a low-sugar, whole-grain, high-protein cereal and throw in fresh fruit to punch up the flavor. Blueberries are my favorite.}

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Staple Items in a Nutritionist’s Fridge

There are a few items that I always have in my fridge….

1. Cut-up Veggies: Easy to take to work or have as a snack with hummus

2. Fresh Berries: My favorite cereal or yogurt topper

3. Cottage Cheese: Perfect side to a sandwich or turkey burger (my go-to dinner)

4. Greek Yogurt: Packed with protein and very filling

5. Eggs/Egg Whites: 1 whole egg and egg whites on an english muffin with fajita seasoning is to. die. for.

6. Whole Wheat English Muffins: to go with my eggs or with almond butter.

7. Lunch Meat: easy lunch. I usually go with turkey, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard.

8. Water Alternative: I get sick of drinking plain ol’ water all the time. Sparkling water or  a 1/2 water 1/2 gatorade concoction is what E and I enjoy

9. Minced Garlic: I put garlic with basically anything that I sauté.. I could eat it by itself–definitely my favorite cooking flavor

10. Yellow Mustard: Low in calories and high in flavor 🙂

11. Salsa: On eggs, with blue corn tortilla chips or as a salad dressing, you just can’t go wrong.

12. Isagenix Cleanse: I love my Isagenix products and always have a bottle of cleanse on hand for those much needed detoxification Monday’s

13. Left Overs: I could probably make a cookbook with all the delicious meals I have created using leftovers. Perfect to take to work for lunch

14. 1% Milk: For my cereal, of course. I can’t do skim milk… too watery for me.

15. Wine & Beer: OK, I’m a dietitian, but you have to have some leeway.

………..

What’s in your fridge?

No Excuses! Helpful Diet Tips

Switch to Small Plate

Falling off the “health wagon” is fairly easy to do. Eating out, exhaustion, and excessive portion sizes can wreak havoc on your diet. Here are some tips and tricks to help you stay aboard!

Google Search: Before heading out to a restaurant, search online to find the nutrition information of the menu. Many times foods that sound healthy, such as salads, can have more calories and fat than you would think. Create a cheat sheet on your phone with healthy options so you can refer to it in the future. As a general guideline, aim for less than 600 calories for dinner.

Fruit & Veggie Reminder: Eating the recommended 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day can be a fairly difficult task. One way to ensure that you are getting the necessary nutrients is to wear 10 stretchy bracelets on one wrist and transfer to the other for each serving you consume. If you aren’t into the jewelry idea, try keeping a tally on a Post-It note or use magnets on the fridge to signify the amount eaten (This can also be a fun activity for kids). By eating 10 servings of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables per day, you will be satisfied and less likely to binge on fatty snacks.

Switch Plates: Use your main dish for vegetables and salad and your “salad” dish for side starch and protein. Research shows that eating on a smaller plate reduces the amount eaten by helping to control portion size and encouraging mindful eating. With this method, there is no need to buy new dishware, and it promotes eating more nutritious and belly-friendly vegetables.

Meal Prep: The number one reason that we choose fast food over home-cooked meals is exhaustion. After a long day of work, the last thing we want to do is slave over the stove. Avoid this by having meals prepared ahead of time. The best time for meal prep is on the weekends for most people. When you get home from the store, prepare 2 or 3 meals than can easily be stored for later on in the week—chop up vegetables, make a salad, cube meat, boil noodles, make dressings. To add to the ease, through the ingredients in a cock-pot before you leave for the day. A delicous meal will be waiting when you get home! Exhaustion will no longer be an obstacle for eating healthy.

What diet tips do YOU use??

Be Well!

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The Fountain of Health

Hydration

Summer is coming and temperatures are rising. Whether you are training for a marathon or simply enjoy hiking once in a while, it is extremely important to stay hydrated during these blistering Arizona months.

Fast Fact: There is a 10% decrease in your mental performance when you feel thirsty.” -Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation

Water makes up about 70% of total body weight. Exercising in the heat can cause the body to lose excessive amounts of water, leading to rapid onset of fatigue, swelling, joint pain, dizziness, cramps, nausea, headaches, confusion, and more.

Here are some tips on how you can make sure your body is getting the hydration it needs:

  1. Follow a schedule: Do what works best for YOU. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning and right before bed. Drink before, during, and after exercise.
  2. Recognize the early signs of dehydration. DO NOT rely on thirst; by that time, it’s too late. Check the color of your urine. The less clear it is, the more you are in need of hydration. Are your lips dry and cracked? If so, grab a bottle of water.
  3. Get a water bottle/jug that displays measurements on the outside. By having a water bottle that shows exactly how much you are consuming, you are more likely to actively stay hydrated.
  4. Eat foods that have a high water content: Fruits & vegetables are great carbohydrate snacks and are packed with water. Pair with protein such as peanut butter, beef jerkey, hard boiled egg or string cheese for a balanced snack.
  5. Freeze your drink. Put bottles of water in the freezer overnight to allow the drink to stay cold longer.
  6. Make water tasty. Fill ice cube trays with fresh lemon or lime juice to make delicious frozen cubes to throw in a glass of water. It’s an easy and healthy way to add some flavor.
  7. Weight yourself. Chart your weight before and after exercising to see how much weight you lost– this is mostly due to water loss. After activity, drink 24 oz for every pound of weight loss (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics-Sports Nutrition). Remember that it is dangerous to overhydrate as well.

water bottles

So how much water should you drink each day??

0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces: For example, a 130 lb adult would require about 65 ounces of water per day.

To put things into perspective, standard water bottle is about 16.9 ounces. So a 130 pound person would have to drink about 4 standard water bottles per day to reach adequate hydration.

Fast Fact: If you are intensely exercising (especially if it is in extreme heat) for 60 minutes or more, a sports drink may be beneficial in helping with electrolyte replacement. 

I like this idea for keeping track of how much water you drink throughout the day:

water measurements