Can you tell the difference between a ham and tuna sandwich? You might believe you can do but a recent study has found we are often so rushed at mealtimes, we wolf down our food and don’t really taste it…
Now a campaign has been launched to encourage consumers to take the time to taste their food after scientific research showed that 79% of people were unable to identify even basic sandwiches and just 28% of a national poll admitted to savouring their food.
Busy, stressed workers are being encouraged to reawaken their taste buds by a leading psychologist after 60% of the population admitted to ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ tasting what they ate – 1,000 people were polled.
The majority (42%) of British workers admitted to eating at their place of work most days with just 13% leaving their place of work for lunch – almost half (44%) described their lunch as ‘a means to an end’ to refuel their body.
Incredibly, with Britain a multicultural melting pot of global cuisine, awareness levels around food nutrition and healthy eating never higher, and the widest range of great tasting food and flavours at the public’s finger tips, it seems the ability to actually taste food is under threat.
Food brand GLORIOUS! has launched the Flavour Map – a global, online, crowdsourced resource – to inspire as well as re-educate consumers about flavour and taste, as well as unearthing little-known global flavours to launch for the UK market.
The scientific research into the UK’s lunchtime eating habits was commissioned by GLORIOUS! (www.gloriousfoods.co.uk) and led by Dr David Lewis with scientists at Mindlab.
Participants were able to only correctly identify 35% of ingredients and most did not detect flavour swaps – 93% were unable to discern beef from Chinese pork, 92% couldn’t tell ham from tuna, 82% could not detect Quorn from chicken, while 78% could not distinguish pork from chicken.
Researchers found that, on average, 79% of people were unable to detect when basic flavours had been swapped, this rose to 88% when people ate whilst distracted, increasing to 93% for people eating under time pressure.
The interactive flavour map – a ‘Tripadvisor for taste’ – allows the public to pin flavours ‘from around the globe or around the corner’ such as meals, recipes, or natural produce.
Dr David Lewis said:”The abundance of great flavours food experiences have never been more diverse, yet our findings suggest consumers are lazy when it comes to tasting and appreciating their food.
“I doubt there’s ever been such a rich tapestry of food and flavour combinations at our disposal, yet we’re not savouring what we eat, which is not just a shame but a genuine waste of taste.
“Our lunchtime habits in particular show that workers consume food as a means to refuelling the body and most rarely, taste what they’re eating.”
Dr David Lewis continued: “There are other negative consequences of what Dr Brian Wansink has termed ‘mindless eating.’
“Because we eat inattentively the food is often insufficiently and inefficiently chewed. Mastication, the process in which the food in our mouth is broken into smaller fragments and thoroughly mixed with saliva, represents the first stage of digestion. Saliva contains a digestive enzyme essential for the proper absorption of the meal. If this stage is bypassed, as it typically is when consuming food inattentively, the results can range from indigestion and heartburn to an inadequate uptake of essential nutrients from the food.
“Poor mastication also means that we fail to savour and appreciate the true taste and texture of the meal. What we regard as taste is, in fact, mostly smell. As the food morsel is broken up in the mouth, molecules are released which drift upwards to a sense organ known as the olfactory epithelium. It is here that we recognise and enjoy the great taste of most food.
“The tongue itself contains thousands of conical shaped receptors sensitive to touch. It is these which convey the sense of texture that adds so greatly to our enjoyment, provided they are allowed sufficient time to do their work.
“Finally, rapid, ‘mindless’ eating means that the food goes ‘down’ so rapidly that by the time the stomach signals to the brain that it has ‘had enough’ we have, in fact, overeaten. The consequence is that we add unnecessary calories and so put on weight.”
“The GLORIOUS! Flavour Map campaign is helping to reawaken taste buds, encouraging consumers to take time out to savour their food and inspire new taste and flavour combinations.
A Dozen Top Tips To Wake Up Taste Buds:
1. Eat mindfully by truly focusing on what you are eating. Avoid distractions such as reading, watching TV etc.
2. Set aside time to enjoy the food without rushing. Leave at least 15 minutes for even a snack, a full meal should take 30 minutes of more.
3. Relax when you are eating. Do not keep glancing at your watch or thinking about all you have to do after the meal.
4. Chew the food carefully. Remember that chewing is the first stage of digestion. An enzyme in the saliva starts the process by breaking down the food morsels.
5. Take small mouthfuls. The larger what is termed the food ‘bolus’ the less effectively it is chewed and savoured.
6. Avoid talking while chewing. Not only does it prevent you paying full attention to your food but also causes you to swallow air, leading to a greater risk of embarrassing belches.
7. Efficient chewing not only allow you to savour the taste, aroma and texture of the food but also enables the body to adsorb the nutrients better.
8. Avoid drinking too much while eating. Fluid not only distends the stomach but also dilutes the digestive enzyme in the mouth and essential acid in the stomach.
9. Do not over salt the food. Not only does it spoil the taste but, with some kinds of salt, risks increasing blood pressures.
10. Eat with your eyes as much as your mouth. Anticipating how the food will taste not only adds to your enjoyment of the meal but also triggers the release of enzymes so ensuring good digestion.
11. Leave the food in your mouth for enough time to experience all the aroma. What we think of as taste is mostly smell. The tongue is only receptive to basic tastes, such as sweet and sour, the rest of the enjoyment comes from cells lining the nasal passages. Molecules of food broken down by chewing take time to reach these cells, so slow down and enjoy more.
12. By enjoying the experience of eating you will not only enhance the pleasure you derive from your food but also encourage a greater sense of overall well-being. That old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is not quite true. More accurately you are what you ingest and digest. Both these processes work best when they are allowed to work slowly.
Source: The GLORIOUS! Flavour Map