To fully enjoy food, you have to be able to taste it – really taste it. However, several factors can affect your sense of taste, which in turn adds to or subtracts from the pleasure of eating food. If you want to get the maximum joy from eating good food, here are some things to think about:
1) Looks matter. What you see is what you get – or what you think you will get. How food looks sets the bar for your expectations on how it will taste.
2) Hunger makes food taste better. Research suggests it's true. The first bites of a food or dish deliver a more pleasurable flavor than the tenth bite into it. Order or prepare smaller portions. Think quality over quantity. You'll be more satisfied.
3) Less of some foods may improve the flavor of others. Wine and beer complement the flavors of many foods, but drinking too much alcohol while eating acts like an anesthetic (numbing agent), thereby dulling your sense of taste. Overdoing it on sugary drinks isn't helpful either. One study found drinking two sugary drinks a day for several weeks dulled sensitivity to sweetness. That may lead you to seek out more intense, sweet flavors to satisfy your sweet tooth.
4) Time your teeth-brushing. A chemical in many toothpastes called sodium lauryl sulfate may cause a temporary insensitivity to sweetness. (Have you ever eaten right after brushing?) It's still important to clean those pearly whites, but you may want to adjust the timing.
5) Clear your nose. Much of your sense of taste comes through your sense of smell. Colds and allergies that leave you stuffed up reduce your sense of smell and therefore your sense of taste. Note: Reconsider using zinc lozenges or sprays when a cold hits; some forms of zinc can affect some people's sense of smell and taste.
Contributed by Sue Moores, M.S., R.D., Kowalski's Nutritionist