How Do We Taste Food?

Dec 20, 2019

Why do we like to eat certain foods? Why do some people like to eat spicy food? And what's up with kids not liking vegetables? Why does pineapple hurt your mouth when you eat too much of it? Why do we taste things and how? Why do different foods taste different? Do animals have the same taste buds as people?

In this episode of But Why we get answers to all of those questions from chef, author, and TV personality Chris Kimball, Dr. Leslie Stein of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, and Vermont-based chef and cookbook author Matthew Jennings.


"Why do different foods taste different?" - Kate, 9, Norwood, NJ

There are three main reasons why individual foods taste different from one another, according to Dr. Leslie Stein of the Monell Chemical Senses Center.  

"The first is, food is made of chemicals and each food is made up of a different mix of chemicals that activate your taste system in different ways. If a food has more sugar, it will activate more of your sweet taste. The second reason is that because chemicals in our food also activate our smell receptors. When you chew your food some of the chemicals go up from your mouth into your nose through a back passageway," Stein says. 

"In addition to taste, other chemicals in your food activate your sense of smell. Because each food is made of different chemicals each has a different smell that combines with the taste to make each food seem different."

Listen to the episode to learn more about how to think about "aquired tastes" and to do an experiment with your family that will show you the importance of a sense of smell to how you experience food.