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FOOD FLAVORS

“The perfume of a rose, the tang of an ocean breeze, the aroma of a sizzling steak—tastes and smells, two of our senses by which we characterize the world around us. And yet, we can not adequately express, define, or explain our taste and smell sensations. We can record the sounds we hear, we can photograph the sights we see, but we cannot store and retrieve the flavor of a food or the scent of a flower except in and from our mind.”

Flavor encompassing both aroma and taste provides the defining characteristic of how one experiences food. Flavor is a complex, multi-sensory human experience with a rich evolutionary history.  

Certain taste and aroma combinations are characteristic of particular foods. For example, a green apple tastes the way it does because the unique combination of chemicals found naturally within it are perceived by our mouths, noses and brains as the distinct blend of sweet and sour tastes and volatile aromas characteristic to the fruit. 

The perception of flavor arises from interaction of flavor molecules with the biological machinery and could be perceived as an emergent property of a complex biochemical system. It is caused by receptors in the mouth and nose detecting chemicals found within food. These receptors respond by producing signals that are interpreted by the brain as sensations of taste and aroma.

As one consumes a food, the taste and flavour, along with the other sensory characteristics, are subject to both conscious and subconscious processing by the brain. There is, however, an element of ‘noise’ present during this process that is generated by other influences pertaining to the food itself- personal beliefs and economic and social position. Factors such as these are known to affect the eventual acceptance or rejection of the food.

Types of Food Flavoring

Flavorings are added to foods in order to impart taste and/or smell. These food flavours are used in small amounts and are not intended to be consumed alone.

They are basically food additives used for altering and/or enhancing the flavors of natural food products. Sometimes, food flavorings are also used to create flavor for food products that do not have desired flavors such as candies and other snacks. There are three major types of food flavorings that are used in foods- natural flavorings, nature identical flavorings and artificial flavorings.

Natural flavoring substances:

Flavoring substances that are obtained from plant or animal raw materials, by physical, microbiological or enzymatic processes are classified as natural flavoring substances. These natural flavorings can be either used in their natural form or processed form for consumption by human beings. However, they cannot contain any nature-identical or artificial flavoring substances.

Nature-identical flavoring substances:

Nature-identical substances are the flavoring substances that are obtained by synthesis or are isolated through chemical processes, which are chemically identical to flavoring substances naturally present in products intended for consumption by human beings. These flavorings cannot contain any artificial flavouring substances.

Artificial flavoring substances:

Flavoring substances that are not identified in a natural product intended for consumption by human being- whether or not the product is processed- are artificial flavoring substances. These food flavorings are typically produced by fractional distillation and additional chemical manipulation naturally sourced chemicals or from crude oil or coal tar.

Basic Food Flavors

The perception of flavour is made up of a combination of smell, taste and colour. The flavour of food is one of the key factors determining food quality and acceptance. When food is eaten, flavour compounds are released at different rates, depending on the physical properties of the molecules themselves and on the physical and chemical properties of the food matrix. 

There are three basic parameters based on which all food flavorings are made. These three components of food flavours are- smell, taste and texture.

Flavoring Smell

Making of flavoring smells or odors are similar to the making process of industrial fragrances and perfumes. To make natural flavors with desired smell, the flavorant is extracted from the source substance through various methods like solvent extraction, distillation, or using force to squeeze it out. These extracts are then further purified and added to food products in order to give them a particular flavor. To make artificial flavors, the individual naturally occurring aroma chemicals are identified and then mixed to produce a desired flavor. These mixtures are formulated by flavor chemist or flavorist to give a food product a unique flavor and to maintain flavor consistency between different product batches or after recipe changes. 

Flavoring Tastes

There are four basic tastes known to human beings- sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The substances that enhance umami and other secondary flavors are considered to be taste flavorants. Therefore flavoring tastes can be identified with flavor enhancers that are largely based on amino acids and nucleotides and are typically used as sodium or calcium salts.

  • Glutamic acid salts
  • Glycine salts
  • Guanylic acid salts
  • Nucleotide salts
  • Inosinic acid salts
  • 5′-ribonucleotide salts

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Author

  • A dedicated nutritionist with Masters in Nutrition and 6 years of experience in the healthcare field. With a diploma in Wellness coaching and Diabetes Eductaion, Ms. Fiza is compassionate about health & fitness. She is well versed in diet, lifestyle counselling and making positive changes in the lives of her clients/patients.

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