THE SIX BASIC TASTES

ALTHOUGH WE OFTEN USE THE WORDS "TASTE" AND "FLAVOR" INTERCHANGEABLY, THEY ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING IMPORTANTLY DIFFERENT. TASTE REFERS TO THE PERCEPTIONS WE EXPERIENCE THANKS TO CHEMICAL REACTIONS THAT TAKE PLACE ON THE TONGUE WHEN FOOD ENTERS THE MOUTH. FLAVOR IS THE RESULT OF AROMAS FOUND IN FOOD, AND CAN BE INCREDIBLY COMPLEX. TASTE IS ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ABOUT 20 PERCENT OF WHAT WE PERCEIVE IN A BITE OF FOOD, BUT IS STILL A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE EQUATION. HERE, WE LIST THE BASIC TASTES, AND DESCRIBE A FEW "HONORARY" ONES, AS WELL.


BITTER
Bitterness is the most sensitive of all tastes because it's the most likely to save your life. Nearly all toxic substances have a pronounced bitter taste, so your sensitivity is a safeguard against ingesting poison. With that said, some bitterness is desirable as in coffee-tea-plants in brassicaceae family-olives-some nuts-cocoa.


SOUR
Sourness can be an indication of spoilage or under-ripeness, and thus a sign that a food should be avoided; but like bitterness, certain sour tastes in food can also be desirable, especially in dishes where a bit of tartness can counteract richer tastes like sweet or fat.


SWEET
Our bodies like sweetness. When we detect it, it means that a food contains simple carbohydrates, sugars that can quickly be converted to fuel for our brain and muscle activity. The sensation of sweetness also sets off a series of chemical reactions that releases dopamine in the brain, which is why sweet treats literally make us happy.


SALT
Salt receptors play a role that reaches well beyond the mouth. Without salt, cells can't function properly. Yet too much or too little, salt can have negative effects on our bodies, ranging from mild muscle cramps to kidney failure. Thus, as your body senses salt intake, it sets off signals to regulate fluids accordingly. Salt also "wakes up" the taste buds in your mouth. Enhancing your perception of other tastes.


UMAMI
Our bodies' fifth taste receptor, for the taste known as UMAMI, was discovered around 100 years ago by a Japanese chemist, and has gained widespread recognition in America over the past eight years. UMAMI (commonly translated as "pleasant savory taste") is detected by dedicated glutamate receptors on the tongue, and while it is generally associated with mono-sodium glutamate, or MSG, which comes from the naturally occurring amino acid glutamic acid. MSG may be added to foods to enhance flavor, and it is naturally present in foods like

 

FAT

The idea of fat as a taste, rather than simply a texture, remains somewhat controversial. Fat is easily recognized in the mouth because it coats the tongue and provides a feeling of unctuousness. If this were the only way we perceived fat, counting it as a taste would qualify all textures as unique tastes, blurring the definition of taste to the point of meaninglessness. However, recent research has found that the tongue can perceive free fatty acids, the compounds that make up dietary fats. There has been a documented receptor cell response to fatty acids--and historically, receptor cell detection in the mouth has been the criteria for defining tastes. So while research is still ongoing, a growing number of signs point to fat as the sixth taste.