How does the color of food affect food choices and taste?


Based on the color of food, thanks to the ability of three-colored vision, a person can determine its potential nutritional value.

The sense of sight and the color of food and drinks strongly influence the shaping of the taste of eaten food. In the first place, we use the eyesight to assess the food, and thus the brain is directed to the taste that is expected and uses the previous experience. It turns out, however, that the eye not only plays a key role in shaping the taste, but it is also used by the brain to assess the caloric value and nutritional food.

How does the color of food affect a person? Thanks to the three-color vision and the ability to distinguish between red and green, people have learned to categorize food and even today use the old evolutionary mechanism that says red food is valuable and nutritious food. The color of food has a huge impact on whether a given food is considered tasty or not. It is known that the pleasure of eating is influenced not only by the taste of the food, but by the smell, the atmosphere accompanying the food and the appearance. It would seem that the sense of taste is dominant in shaping dietary preferences. However, many studies show that the most important in the nutrition choices is the sense of sight, which imposes the interpretation of taste, using previous experiences and associations.


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The color of food and the taste sensation

It is often said that we eat with eyes and we can treat this statement almost literally. The eyes record the image, transmit it to the brain along with an indication based on previous experience of how the product should taste. Through a series of learned and natural reactions, the brain will get the impression of the taste it expects. The phenomenon can be illustrated on the example of the experience with orange juice. Seeing a orange-colored drink, we expect orange juice. It is enough to color sweetened water or apple juice in orange so that the subjects are convinced that they have just drunk real orange juice. The brain can not be deceived by giving subjects products of a similar shape and color, but extremely different taste. In contrast, taste buds can be easily confused by trying products with a subtle difference in taste. A group of students was served to taste canned peas and the same canned peas colored for a more intense color of food coloring. Although the taste of both samples was identical, all subjects indicated that the colored peas tasted more intense and fresh.

What we feel after eating the product is not only related to the stimuli that flow from the outside, like color, smell and taste, but is largely dependent on the processes taking place in the brain regardless of external motives.

In one of the studies conducted by Wendy Parr, he even managed to fool professional wine tasters who were to assess the aroma of white and red wine, while the white was colored with an odorless red food dye. When they made the assessment, not seeing the color of the sample, they described the aromas correctly. On the other hand, seeing the wine in transparent glasses, white, colored in red, attributed the aromas characteristic of red wine. These and many similar experiences show that the sensation of the taste of the dish is influenced by many other senses, and its real taste is just one of the elements.

One wonders whether, being surrounded by various stimuli, one can not focus only on the sensation of taste. Well, you can, but the key role in the feelings play the expectations of the food product. Investigating brain activity, it was found that during the presentation of a given food, the regions responsible for the specific impression are activated before there was a stimulus that could trigger this impression.
The eyesight is the most important body shaping the taste
It is said that the possibility of three-colored vision and the ability to distinguish colors makes the eye the most important body shaping the taste. About half of the brain cortex activity is allocated to the analysis of visual stimuli, and only 1-2 per cent – flavors. This means that by changing the color of the product you can actually change the taste sensation after eating it. The influence of color on taste development is not limited to the food itself, but also includes dishes in which food and drinks are served. In experiments it was shown that coffee drunk from a white mug is less sweet than drunk from blue, strawberry dessert tastes better with a white round plate than a black square one, and a 7UP drink is rated as more lemon, when more yellow elements on its packaging.


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The color of food and consumption control

Based on primary instincts, in food we look for high nutritional value, energy and protein. In natural, unheated food, the red shade actually determines the higher content of calories and nutrients and their better digestibility. As an example, you can give meat, which is a great source of protein and energy, or ripe fruits and vegetables, which are much easier to digest and richer in nutrients compared to immature ones. Green products, which mainly include vegetables, are usually low in calories. Foroni’s study showed that people retained the original ability to categorize food as a red nutrient and green non-nutrient, although we live in completely different conditions, the food does not have to be searched and is available immediately. Despite this, we are still more likely to reach for a red-colored food and judge it as more caloric than green. Red foods cause arousal and a feeling of excitement, while green foods attribute a lower caloric value.

Experience has shown that the same relationship is used in the evaluation of thermally processed and processed foods. For boiled, fried or otherwise prepared foods using heat, as well as industrially produced using dyes, it is not possible to use directly the dependence that red is more nutritious. However, in the assessment of preferences and calories, the brain uses the same scheme as for raw products. This probably means that the evaluation of food calorie based on its color is a very old evolutionary mechanism that developed long before getting a human cooking skill. At the same time, it carries a certain risk related to over consumption, because we do not consciously make choices about food choices, because we are guided by the old stereotype of red = nutritional.

It is worth noting that this mechanism was applicable only to natural and processed food products, but not to other non-food items and articles. In this way, the influence on the nutritional choices of the long-known stimulating effect of the red color was excluded. It also turns out that boiled food is always more preferred than raw food, as shown by previous experience in apes. They eagerly fed on cooked foods, although these species have never developed the ability to cook food thermally. This indicates that animals and humans, based on instinct, bind cooked products with easier energy availability and digestibility.


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Posted on: January 9, 2019

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