How colors affect taste

green steak

Two recent articles struck us as working together in a somewhat ironic fashion. FoodBuzz has 24 Foods That Shouldn’t Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day while The Guardian reports on How we taste different colours. The former is a compilation of foods that have been dyed green – and definitely never should have been.  Their photos of bacon, steak, eggs, grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, etc. illustrate the point perfectly.

The Guardian‘s article addresses the surprisingly strong effects that colo(u)rs have on our taste senses. It’s not only true that color can be classified as appetizing, or unappetizing – it’s also true that actual flavor can be impacted. They note the fairly famous tests where wine experts have been tricked into tasting fruit flavors like strawberry when drinking white wine that has been dyed red, and that mixed colors will encourage eating more than a single color (think of a bowl of M & M’s).

What is also interesting is that this association appears to be a learned reaction. It used to be that blue was a strong turn-off for food, since so few foods come in that shade. Yet now that blue has been associated with raspberry flavor in candies and soft drinks, that no longer holds. However, on the other end of the spectrum, “earthy and dark hues that were previously unappetising have become fashionable” since they  are now associated with “natural” food.

And maybe that’s the important lesson to learn from both these articles – natural is best.

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  • wester  on  March 14, 2013

    It's still true that blue is a turn-off for food. Look closer at those photos: the really unappetizing ones all have a blueish tinge, while the ones in apple/spinach green can be imagined as tasty if you can let go of what food it actually is. For instance, if you can "see" the bagels as weirdly shaped apples, they don't look bad.

    And green eggs and ham is a classic!

  • colin.purrington  on  March 14, 2013

    Blue is rare in nature, and when it occurs in plants and such it is often a signal of something horribly distasteful if not plain toxic. It's the reason (I think) that rubber/latex gloves are so often blue: when they drop in the mixer, it's easy to spot them because the food is rarely blue. Yellow, red, white, or black gloves are just as easy to make, but they would get lost in some food preparations.

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