Let's talk about how our bodies understand taste and how we interpret the flavor of the foods we eat. So, here is a diagram of one on my children. I won't say which one. So, nobody will get offended if my drawing skills aren't that great. Since we're talking about taste, I'll draw in the part that most people most commonly associate with taste. And you guessed it, it's the tongue. It's actually the strongest muscle in the human body. I learned that playing Trivial Pursuit. It helps to move food around in the mouth. It also helps us to coordinate swallowing, by pushing down a flap here called the epiglottis, epiglottis, down over our windpipe which is also called a trachea. And hopefully that way food will never go into the trachea. Although it can on occasion and that usually makes us cough quite a bit to try and get it out. But instead the food is supposed to go into this muscular tube behind the trachea called the esophagus. Okay, now the oral cavity is roommates, let's say, with the nasal cavity. And this is why we can breathe through our mouths if we have a stuffy nose. And this is also why the food that enters our mouths also gets smelled while it's being tasted. And all of this information is sent to our brains where it is integrated or decoded so that we suddenly become aware, aha, I am eating strawberry ice cream or some other recognizable flavor. So this is how it works. In the tongue, we have receptors that look like this. I'll zoom in. They're basically cells that receive messages and send them to the brain. So, here they are heading off to the brain in our zoomed in version. And here they are heading off first to a part of the brain called the brain stem in our zoomed out picture. And this is the brain stem, and this is a part that I'm just drawing in for completeness, called the cerebellum. It doesn't have anything to do with taste directly, but it helps us get the fork into our mouth. It has to do with coordination and, and balance. So when a food approaches and then enters the mouth, information is carried to the smell and taste centers in the brain to give us more information about what we're eating. So how does that work? When food enters this taste pore over here, the receptors fire. And there are receptors for a bunch of different tastes. Everyone is pretty much in agreement about sweet. There are receptors for sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and a fifth one called umami, which is sort of savory flavors. Some people also suggest that there are receptors for something called pungency, which would include like sensing the hotness in spicy food. And even that out tongues sense the fat content in foods, and also the temperature of foods and that is, contributes to what we perceive to be the flavor of that food. So it gives us information about what we're eating and what we're tasting. Now, this part might surprise you. Our sense of smell is actually responsible for about 80% of what we taste in foods. So how does that work? Well, there are also sensory cells at the top of the nasal cavity and these cells actually pass through a thin layer of bone. And then they connect with other cells that transmit messages from those sensory cells to the brain. And little odor particles will tickle these sensory cells and cause them to send those messages that then get transmitted to the brain. Okay, now listen to this. In college I had a friend who had been in a motorcycle accident. He'd suffered a pretty serious concussion and he was lucky to be alive, but when he'd struck his head, these nerve cells had been sheared right across by the bone and this guy could not smell his food anymore. So, he also couldn't distinguish between, let's say, the flavors of raspberry and strawberry. Although he could still tell, because his taste receptors on his tongue were still intact. He could still tell sweet, salty, and sour, and those basic tastes. So, why am I telling you this? Why am I talking about taste in a class that has to do with nutrition? Well firstly, I think it's really interesting. But also taste provides us with information about what we're eating. It, it gives us information about the nutritional content of the foods we're eating. We instinctively are kind of hard wired to prefer foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat because our bodies need those for survival. Although we're kind of now learning that too much of a good thing can actually threaten our survival. Taste also is a way in which we decide on our preferences. And we sort of have a library stored in our brains of favorite foods that might trigger memories through taste and smell. Taste can also warn us. For example, excessively bitter foods we will probably spit out because we associate excessive bitterness with poisons or toxins. But also, when we're cooking healthy foods, we can use this knowledge to our advantage. For example, if we can choose the freshest, the, the most locally grown, and, and seasonal vegetables, and other ingredients that we can afford, if we emphasize quality over quantity of ingredients, then it's more likely that our children will have a positive experience with regard to the taste and the flavors that they perceive in those foods. Secondly when we flavor healthy foods with reasonable amounts of things that are sweet, a little bit of salt, perhaps something sour, maybe something bitter, umami if you like it, even a touch of fat like a little bit of butter on some, some steaming broccolli and even some, some spices that make something a little bit picante. That can really add to the experience of those flavorful, healthy foods. And finally, I think we have to not be afraid to experiment with fresh herbs and spices. These things can really make the experience of the food much more pleasant. And then our children will love to eat the healthy foods. Unlike the processed food manufacturers, we have the best interests of the consumer at heart. So if we use reasonable amounts of these sorts of flavorants, for lack of a better word, then we can really have a fine balance that will leave our children healthy and develop their taste for real whole foods. I have an example for you. I have a favorite salad dressing. It's made with a little bit of vinegar or sometimes you can use lemon juice. There's the sour. A little bit of oil. I use olive oil usually and there's a little bit of my fat content. A touch of mustard, which would be bitter. Some salt, obviously salty. And a little bit of pepper, which you could say would hit the pungency receptors, if they exist. And then a bit of garlic for the umami flavor. And a touch of honey to balance the sour out and add a little bit of sweetness. If I put that dressing on basically anything colorful, any kind of colorful vegetable medley, it usually goes over well with the children. So understanding how taste works can actually inform the way in which we cook.