How Taste Buds Work with Smell & Color – Which Taste Type Are You?

Food The List
By: Todd Covelli | Teresa Strasser Posted: 7:08 PM, Feb 22, 2018

Did you know that skittles are allegedly all the same flavor? We know, it’s a shocker! But flavor isn't all about taste – it's about how we perceive it. We spoke with ASU professor of psychology Michael McBeath to get the details on this phenomenon. Here are four things you should know about the science of flavor!


1. Taste Types

First, there are three kinds of taste types: super-tasters, non-tasters, and regular tasters. “Some people have a lot more taste buds than other people,” explains the professors, “so there's super tasters that have a lot more taste buds than the non-tasters.” Only about 20 percent of people are super-tasters.


The second taste type is average tasters, with 60 percent of the population falling into that category.


The third type is called non-tasters. “You still have taste buds, it’s just not as many,” mentions the professor. This means a sweet bag of skittles may not pack the punch that it would have with a super and normal taster. Read on for more information on which taste type YOU might be!


2. Smell

Next on our syllabus of taste science is smell. Professor McBeath says that humans can smell more than 10,000 unique scents, while we can only taste 5 distinct flavors. “It's probably an evolutionary thing, too, that certain smells are usually associated with good food or bad food,” notes the professor. “You actually can learn smells and it will affect how things taste.” In other words, the scent of food works in combination with our taste buds to create a sense of flavor.


3. Color

Finally, we'll close out our crash course on taste with color. “You have associations, and that can affect the flavor,” shares the professor. One example is Froot Loops cereal. Even though Froot Loops are all the same flavor, our brains perceive the grape as grape, orange as orange, and so on. Interesting, right?


4. What Kind of Taster are You?

Are you wondering what kind of taster you are? We looked at a Harvard University study to take a closer look at the three taste types: super-tasters, non-tasters and average tasters. Can you determine which one you are?


Are you a super-taster? Super-tasters have more taste cells in their tongues than other tasters – so they are highly sensitive to bitter and sweet flavors. They also tend to be extremely picky eaters, and shun spicy foods due to the pain receptors in their taste cells. Super tasters also tend to consume less sweet and fattening foods.  They also have a lower body mass index, and are less likely to drink alcohol and smoke. Does this sound like you?


Maybe you’re a non-taster, which falls on the opposite side of the spectrum. Non-tasters are less sensitive to bitter tastes, and some can’t taste bitterness at all. They enjoy spicy foods, and tend to add more seasonings to their meals to make it taste better. Non-tasters are also more likely to prefer sweet and fattening foods, and demonstrate a greater tendency to drink alcohol and show higher rates of alcoholism.


Perhaps you’re an average taster – which is very likely, as 60% of people fit into this category. Average tasters are usually willing to consume most foods, and aren’t as put off by bitter flavors. While their taste buds definitely aren’t as sensitive as super-tasters’, their receptors are sharp enough to taste flavors without having to add too much seasoning to their foods.


Based on these descriptions, which category do YOU fall under? To conduct your own official taste test at home, buy these test strips from Amazon for under five bucks!


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