Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why We Crave Certain Foods

Tackling Taste Buds

Brain vs. Tounge vs. You

Have you ever wondered why it is you like certain foods? What is it exactly that makes you crave a juicy hamburger, a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie, or those savory salty chips. Well, it all has to do with your taste buds, and how they enteract with your brain.

The Tounge:

The tounge has hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny little bumps on it called taste papillae (or taste buds). These taste buds are a cluster of cells called receptors, which band together and support a prong like structure known as a microvillus. The microvillus is in the center of the receptor cells, and projects upwards, out of the taste bud (Think of a hair comming out of a folicle).

The microville is what recognizes the various chemicals found in foods, and transmits that information down into the receptor cells, which then forward it along various nerve fibers to the brain!

Once the signals hit your brain, they're divided into 4 main groups:
  • Salty
  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Bitter

Taste buds work collectively, as a group, to determine what food tastes like. So when the chemicals in food, chain together and form patterns, taste buds do too, and mimic the pattern which we know as the 4 basic flavors (as mentioned above.)

It are these flavors, and knowing how each one induces different reactions in the brain, that causes us to crave certain food types. When you combine sight and smell into the equation, the senses come full circle. Sight and smell also play an important role in how you react to food.
When you see a piece of warm fresh baked apple pie, you invision what it might taste like. The warm apples mixed with the fresh crust produces a type of imagery that makes it seem more appealing. Same goes with smell. The tempting aroma sends signals to your brain telling it, "Hey..this might taste good!" and kicks off the salivary glands. Then, when you finally taste the pie, and the receptors tell your brain how it tastes, it gets stored there for next time you see or smell pie again!

Healthy never tasted so good?

While culture, personal perception, and genetics can influence what you think tastes good, salty and sweet foods however usually win for best taste. Unfortunately, what is salty and sweet is not always the healthiest for us. While the old saying, "moderation is key" is definately fitting, drawing the thin line between what you crave and what you eat is very important.

While it may take some dedication and will power to draw that line, doing so will eventually pay off. What can help is the way in which those sometimes less than tasty foods are prepaired.

Things that can help:
  • Avoid Over cooking your vegtables! - Overcooking can remove the natural sweet taste many veggies have. Perfect the cooking and really enhance the taste.
  • Spice it up! - Forget the butter and oils. Add a dash of spice or seasoning to healthy foods to kick up the flavor.
  • Mix it! - Some foods are bland and tasteless alone, so combine them with others that might not be. Try throwing some of your leaste favorite veggies in with some tasty posta. You might find out you really like the combination!

Following these basic tips will help improve the taste of many not-so-tasty foods. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is essentail, but be creative in how you do it. Doing so will lead to a healthier body and mind.

Sour and Bitter Foods

Sweet and Sour may be delicious on chinese food, but sour and bitter on anything else definately is not. Foods that are sour and bitter, usually are perceived as bad tasting, and for a good reason. Bitter and sour foods can often be associated with toxic foods. Think of how rotten milk tastes. The extreme bitterness we taste is a built in function most people have to warn us that we are about to eat something potentially dangerous. While all things toxic or poisonous aren't bitter and sour, it is a good thing to look for and understand when eating certain foods.

Bitter and sour foods can also affect how your body digests them. If you eat foods that are tasty and you like, your body will secrete saliva and enzymes to help break apart and digest the food. If you do not like the food (such as those bitter or sour), your body will make it difficult for you to choke them down. Your mouth may dry up, and your stomach muscles may convulse in a mannor that feels like they are trying to get rid of them as quickly as possible. This holds true for toxic foods too. If the chemicals in toxic food that you perceive as bitter or sour, interact with your stomach enzymes, it might cause your stomach to expel (throw up) what you ate as a self protective mechanism. It could also be because your body simply doesn't have what it takes to digest whatever foods you just ate.

Now you know how our bodies perceive flavors and handle taste. You have some idea of the 4 major types of taste, and how our body interacts with them. Keep this article in mind next time you sit down for dinner, eat out, or grab your favorite snack. It just might help you!


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About The Author

I am a 24 year old college graduate from California. I am big into health and fitness, and feel everyone should get out there, be active, and live the best life they can.

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