Our senses have always affected the way we perceive what we’re putting in our mouths. In fact, 80% of the flavors we derive from food come from smell alone. Texture also plays a big part in this. Typically, people can be averse to different foods just based on the way that the food feels. Whether it’s oysters, cottage cheese, or yogurt, some of us can’t push through for good taste if we’re too grossed out by the texture. New research has now identified how both the sight and texture of food can be utilized as a way to promote healthy eating.
Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University conducted an investigation to see how people’s perceptions of the same food were affected when presented with different textures.
The study gathered 88 participants who were instructed to rate a variety of oat biscuits (aka cookies) based on six categories: healthiness, tastiness, crunchiness, chewiness, pleasantness, and likelihood of purchase. All biscuits were the same in terms of makeup and nutrients, but the biscuits were visibly different on their surface: smooth, medium, or rough. The catch? Participants were told to only look at the biscuits, not touch or eat.
While the subjects didn’t have much to go off of, their feedback was plentiful. Results showed that the biscuits with the least texture were considered to be the least healthy. In addition, the more healthy a biscuit was perceived to be, the less likely participants were to purchase. The “unhealthy”-looking biscuits had the smoothest texture, which indicates to researchers that consumers are more likely to buy a product that looks smooth, without considering the actual nutritional information.
“The findings are really exciting as they give food manufacturers a means to design foods that can help consumers make healthier choices,” says researcher Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, Ph.D. “At a time when the World Health Organization has declared that there is an obesity epidemic, it is essential to think of ways to encourage improved eating patterns. Our research provides a good starting point for how to promote healthier food products.”
We hope that these results can translate to the food products in our everyday lives, and more studies continue to find ways to promote healthy eating in any way possible. The more we know about the multisensory experience of eating, the more we can work toward optimizing the experience for all!