Making Life A Little Sweeter & More Palatable
For most of us, the taste of cardboard is a step up from the bland tuna and simple oats that we consume as part of our daily bodybuilding/figure/fitness diets. A cheat meal is all too inviting with the change of flavor and texture. It is possible however to alter the simple things we do and make many of our low carb, low calorie foods taste better.
Let's face it; if you like what you are eating, then you are less likely to cheat. Most of us crave bold foods with a lust for sweets that remain high on our list. Learning more about how we actually taste foods offers a simple, but useful approach to making our meals more appealing and keep us on track to that winning physique.
Our bodies love sweets. We are geared towards finding them in our daily diets and they provide us with lots of satisfaction, but attached to them are calories that result in unwanted pounds.
Using artificial sweeteners has been around since the 20's. Most artificial sweeteners were discovered accidentally. There are several options on sweeteners and some contain calories and others do not. Always check the nutrition label for artificial sweeteners to determine the actual caloric involvement.
Keep in mind that certain items like fructose can be very devastating to your low carb meal since sugars like that will quickly absorb into the body, but do not require insulin for absorption. That means there is no buffer and it will absorb and likely have the excess converted to fat storage.
How We Taste
Along the course of eating we achieve our TASTE from five basic sensations:
- Umami (ew-nam-e)
The blend or ratio of the previous taste offers our final perception of any thing we put into our mouths.
We are going to take a closer look at these mechanisms and discover how we come to flavor our foods and what we can do to help us achieve foods that we will eat yet stay lean and hard.
Factors Of Taste:
Salt is usually Sodium Chloride, but any ionic bonded molecule is a salt. Our bodies are specific to Sodium (Na+) and using Potassium (K+) or another salt substitute is usually not as effective. High levels of potassium are blocked by high levels of hydrogen.
Adding salt to any food will intensify the flavor. The salt acts as a buffer to prevent the change of loose hydrogen ions (H+). This stabilization will prevent ions from interfering with the flow of other ions thus maximizing the particular reaction or taste sensation.
Sour taste is all based on acid. The amount of free protons (H+) determines how sour something tastes to us. Often times we will add other taste to change the pH of our food and remove the sour taste. The lower the pH of food, the sourer it will taste to us. Salt often acts as a buffer to control pH in foods.
Sweet taste is all about sugars and their binding to a receptor located on the tip of your tongue, which activates adenylyl cyclase, this results in elevated cAMP and results in a phosphorylation of K+ channels, which then allows calcium to enter the taste bud cells and we sense that as sweet.
As you can see this is a very complicated process and we will consider this again when we look directly at artificial sweeteners.
Bitter substances cause the second messenger (IP3) mediated release of Ca2+. The elevated levels of calcium make us taste bitter. It is just like when something is too sweet we often feel it becomes bitter, which is why many artificial sweeteners taste bitter to some people.
(ew-nam-e) Umami is the taste of amino acids to us. When we take in proteins we will activate G-protein and this elevates our intracellular calcium. A prime example of this taste is Monosodium glutamate (MSG), added to many foods to stimulate the perception of the umami receptors on the tongue.
Scientists questioned if we can actually taste unami. This was answered by the fact that various taste buds are in the mouth and actually are set up to receive the sense of amino acids.
The balance and ratio of all of these simple taste, provides us with the perception of various types of food and then depending on our genetic make up and our trained response to a certain taste, we will either eat something or spit it out. Most often if something is sweet we will consume it since our brain runs exclusively on glucose, hence the need for sugar or sweet things.
Let's face it; do you really think you are thinking your best on a low carb diet? No, you usually are irritable, forgetful and lack coordination. Most of us are driven by sweet taste and our need for sugar (carbohydrates).
A quick look at the tongue shows us that we have specific areas designated towards the sensing of various taste. The tip of the tongue is sensitive to sweet taste and that part of the organ is loaded with taste buds designated towards sensing sweets. The sides of the tongue are associated with bitter taste and the middle is usually made for salt sensation.
Where you place food on the tongue has an effect on what you sense for taste. Sweets on the tip of your tongue will provide the sweetest sensation; however, that same food on the back of the tongue will not appear as sweet. Some foods, which contain protein, salt, sugar, etc., are best enjoyed by rolling them around in your mouth, like beer.
What is amazing is that the different types of taste buds have a unique form and shape. Genetically we have various forms of taste buds and in set ratios. Some individuals have more sweet taste buds, while others have more of the sour taste buds. This variation of ratios of taste buds is why certain foods taste differently to different people.
To change your taste is quick. The average life span of a taste bud is only 7-10 days, depending on which version of Guyton's physiology you read (inside chiropractic physician's joke). So to change your taste around takes literally about ten days to a couple of weeks. You have seen this by changing your diet and then you get used to eating bland food, then spicy food will almost gag you.
The unami taste buds are scattered and do not hold any specific area on the tongue.
Some Like It Hot:
The effects of temperature also play a key role in our perception of food. The warmer or colder that is served at has a perception of flavor. This is a scientific chemical reaction, which makes hotter chemicals absorb quicker and react more with the tongue.
The other effect is more active molecules in the air which allow you to smell the particular food. Think about it, can you smell ice cream? But we can taste it. If we made it too cold, then you couldn't taste it at all. Is pizza better cold or hot? What about your fish? Do you like your steak cold or sizzling hot? Chances are you have a favorite food and the flavor is different to us at various temperatures.
The Nose Knows:
What happens when you hold you nose to eat food? Whatever is in your mouth taste like cardboard. We can't taste it, or can we? Almost 80% of our flavor of food comes from smell. The little molecules and atoms floating around in the air actually make up our ability to determine what we are eating.
In other words, each odor or smell has the same chemical picture in the air. The small molecules enter your nose and they are absorbed in the mucosal membranes of your nose. The brain then quickly recognizes the smell. The average human nose can detect over 10,000 individual smells.
How can we do this? Anything that smells has an odor, which means the scent has the same volatile chemicals evaporating from the food. These chemicals are called Esters. All of these esters are the same chemical and can be reproduced in a lab.
Scientist looking at those esters can re-make them to form artificial scents and flavors. When you mix, taste, smell, texture you derive flavor.
For example the smell of orange is Octyl Acetate and has a chemical formula of CH3COOC8H17. The ester that gives us the smell of banana is isoamly acetate and has the chemical formula of CH3COOC5H11. Finally the scent of chocolate has this chemical name of isoamyl phenyl acetate, with a chemical formula of C13 H18 O2.
Take a look at what the orange ester molecule looks like (courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
Our noses have about 5,000,000 receptors in each nostril. Blue-Tick (Bloodhounds) Dogs have 10 times that amount, those dogs only need five of your foot steps that are less than one week old and they can track you forever. If you have to know, the rabbit has the most. Too bad rabbits don't track raccoons very well. Cats and rats are also high on the list, but they don't track very well either (More southern humor).
- Women smell better than men (duh).
- Women, who are menstruating, have a keener sense of smell. (hummm, no comment)
- Men smell better at night (Again no comment)
- Children have less a sense of smell and it peaks about age 3-4. Ever try to get those kids to eat anything at that age?
- Most elderly over the age of 80 loose their sense of smell. We also will require more potassium at an older age, so pile on the potatssium after 65.
Another interesting thing about your nasal mucosa is that various animals have different pigments associated with them, which means that some animals actually smell better according to specific temperatures. That makes sense, since some animals hunt at night, while others hunt during the heat of the sun.
Some Simple SMELL Facts:
Why All The Fuss About Noses?
Most of us can detect around 10,000 smells, known as our odor code. The affects of these smells directly affects our moods, metabolism, memory, sex drive and our hormone levels. There is a smell of victory and defeat. We have over 80% of our memory tied up into smell and scientist who are currently working with Alzheimer patients to help them remember with the simple use of odors.
So simply put, if you smell the right things you will feel better or worse, depending on your conditioning. If chocolate makes you happy, but you can't eat it, simply smelling it will in most cases, satisfy your cravings. It is a chemical reaction that is very real and you can hopefully have enough self discipline to not eat the calorie weighted food.
Choosing to smell the chocolate in your protein drink offers the benefit of not only smelling the food, but then also enjoying the taste, texture and temperature.
Scientist reproduce the chemical picture of the smell of any particular item and replicate the molecules and angles of the atoms to trick our bodies into thinking that a particular smell exists.
Using the factors of flavor and their stabilization, many foods can be made lower in calories, but still be recognized by our bodies to replicate any particular food. When we receive enough stimulation, our bodies produce peptide reactions, just as if we were smelling the real thing.
Now that you are beginning to appreciate the complex nature of flavor and food, let's take a look at some sweeteners and how they are made and how they make you think they are sweet. Some are just as bad as sugar and others are ideal for you to cheat your way to better tasting foods and keep you from cheating on your diet.
The Sweetest Things In Life
As I said, artificial sweeteners have been around for over sixty years. Some are more satisfying to our palates and others are loaded with calories.
Now the first thing is to dispel the notion that artificial sweeteners cause CANCER.
The Trillion dollar industry of sugar has locked onto the artificial sweetener and promoted the idea that it will somehow harm you. So let's go to the experts and ask them directly.
The following text block is taken directly from the NIH and NCI's website:
The National Cancer Institute & National Institute of Health:
Artificial Sweeteners & Cancer: Questions and Answers.
- Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (see Question 1).
- There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners on the market in the United States are related to cancer risk in humans (see Question 2).
- Studies have been conducted on the safety of several artificial sweeteners, including saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, neotame, and cyclamate (see Question 3).
Follow this link to the actual website.
Now that we know artificial sweeteners are safe, but certain people can have a hyper sensitivity to any product. Long term exposure to any product will affect your health. Some sweeteners like Stevia are naturally occurring and a better choice.
View Top Selling Stevia Products Here.
Kids & Artificial Sweetners
A quick word about children and artificial sweeteners: I get concerned with children who are given artificial sweeteners. The facts are that the use of artificial sweeteners is considered safe for children, but children also need more calories to grow than do an adult.
My point is a healthy diet and inclusion of normal playful activity will balance out the higher caloric input and result in a healthy child. Should your child be overweight, then consult your physician and dietician for suggestions. Eating more "lower calorie food" can still make your child fat. Have your child learn to control their weight by eating less food and making the right choices about what they eat.
The Sweetest Things In Life Are Free
The different artificial sweeteners are:
- Acesulfame potassium
Now some sweeteners are not artificial, like Dextrose and Fructose and other naturally occurring sugars.
- Use Of Nutritive And Nonnutritive Sweeteners.
- Can Sugar Make You Sick?
- Sucralose: Is This Sweetener Right For You?
- Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame
- Other Sweetener Articles...
These sugars are easily identified by one simple fact, they all contain calories. For a lower calorie diet, choose sweeteners that are zero calorie. All artificial sweeteners have some effect on your glycemic index, even if they don't contain any calories. This results in a slight effect on your insulin levels.
STEVIA is the only sweetener that has no effect on your glycemic index. Stevia is natural, and is not produced in a lab.
Now that we have helped explain all the factors involved with food and taste, let's ask the experts what we can do to help maximize flavor and minimalize calories.
Expert Help For Maximal Flavor & Minimal Calories
Ginger Redeker, National Figure Competitor,
Author Of "Ultimate Lean Cookbook"
Follow this link to Ginger's online cookbook: To get Ginger's recipe book with nutritional breakdown and lots of great cooking tips email her at GingerRedeker@hotmail.com or visit her shorter version online.
Prepare foods differently; such as, grilling, baking, broiling, steaming, searing, and using a crock pot. Using these methods will allow for a better taste for some foods and will help by altering the flavor and texture of the foods.
Using sodium free seasonings and marinades such as Mrs. Dash.
Use vinegars (Golden Balsamic, fruit infused and regular).
Make use of fresh herbs and spices. MIX IT UP! Using fresh herbs like dill or oregano, vanilla bean, orange zest or lemon juice, not only add flavor, but have the benefit of medicinal properties.
Use syrup flavoring and even maple syrups that are sugar free. Use artificial sweeteners such as Stevia-my personal favorite, because it doesn't contain dry man-made-chemicals. Stevia is natural and is made from the leaves of a plant and have been used for hundreds of years. www.stevia.com
EAT FOR FUNCTION, NOT FOR FLAVOR !
Bret Freifeld, Bodybuilder & Executive Chief,
Damon's Rib Restaurants And Amateur Bodybuilder.
Use fresh herbs and spices.
Adding fresh fruits to dishes. Gives the dish flavor and natural sugars.
Using stocks (vegetable, beef, chicken, fish) to enhance sauces, and other dishes.
The use of liqueur in cooking. The alcohol is burned off, but the flavor stays.
Deane Cobler, MEd,
Associate Professor of Hospitality Management,
Columbus State Community College
To truly enjoy the eating experience, foods must taste pleasing. But there is more than just the taste of foods that accounts for our choice of what we eat; all of the senses must be satisfied.
First is sight - if foods look appealing then there is a more than likely chance we will select them to eat. A variety of colors, sizes, shapes and arrangement all enter into how food looks. Imagine a white, fine china plate with sliced turkey breast meat, steamed cauliflower, white rice or mashed potatoes - the individual items taste good, but it is oh so boring!
Next, in the order of investigation of whether we would eat a particular food, is smell. Does it have a pleasing aroma? Incidentally, the sense of smell is most closely associated with memory more than any of the other senses.
Smelling a certain food can instantly remind one of their grandmother's house at the holidays. Or try thinking of a pleasant event in your life and you can almost smell the aromas. Does it smell good? Yes, I think I'll give it a try! No, thanks, I'll pass.
Take A Bite:
Once we get past the sight and smell test, we try a bite. This is where the other senses come into play. Obviously, taste and smell are vital, but what about the sense of feel - that would be texture. Is your rice crunchy? It is undercooked and immediately rejected for a second bite.
Is it mushy? Overcooked and rejected. Does it have a pleasing firm texture? Bingo. Are the chunks of celery in the chicken salad crunchy or limp? Are the rolls soft and yeasty (soft rolls), or chewy and pleasingly sour (ciabatta) - good. Crunchy and dry - good only for bread crumbs or bread pudding.
The long and the short of it is - make your foods appeal to all of the senses. Don't try to overcompensate on one area, sweet or salty, at the expense of the whole dining experience. Balance, balance, balance.
Well there you have it advice from the stars of cooking. They are the cutting edge of the culinary community and decide what many of us will be eating either directly or indirectly. I hope this article has inspired you to determine the better ways to prepare your meals and lastly I will say: "Bon Appetit."