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Surprising Science

Can Scientists Improve the Taste of Healthy Foods?

Psychologists are trying to level the culinary playing field. They want to improve the experience of eating healthy foods by determining how growers can breed them to taste better.

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists at the University of Florida are experimenting with vegetables to see if different growing methods could produce a more favorable taste. So will tomatoes one day draw people like the scent of barbecue? “It would be very hard to achieve the degree of devotion that people have to high fat foods,” said Linda Bartoshuk, one of the researchers. Still, Bartoshuk and colleagues grew 80 varieties of tomatoes and measured their chemical components. Then they had 100 people taste and rate the samples.

What’s the Big Idea?

A difficulty in the research is that taste is subjective—not everyone experiences taste the same way. This means you can’t compare people’s subjective ratings of taste. “To get around these differences, Bartoshuk and her colleagues ask study participants to compare the taste of food to something unrelated to taste, such as the loudness of a sound.” While it may not be possible to grow foods to suit individual tastes, crops may one day be suited to a particular culture’s taste, as some cuisines rate certain tastes as better than others. 


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