Saturday, January 11, 2014

Food Chemistry: WE make the choices! {Week 1}

Now that the first week has begun, I wanted to review some of the main topics we covered in this first week. Sensory Perception. Does anyone know what that means? I can tell you that I sure didn't, and I'm suppose to be a "nutrition expert". Some may argue that sensory perception doesn't equate to nutrition, so why bother. Sensory perception is a "food chemistry" topic, not a nutritionists concern. Oh, how wrong you are!
Sensory perception and the study of it, is all about figuring out what we detect about foods, how we detect them and why we like certain foods more than others. Humans actually don't have an innate preference for certain foods, it is all a learned /acquired trait. I mean, that makes sense, right? A toddler doesn't just innately know that Clorox is toxic, even though it is a clear liquid similar to water. This "preference" comes by experience and time.  Additionally, humans can literally eat anything! Seriously... Okay, so they can't eat pen and paper, but you got ahead of me! I wasn't talking about inedible products, but in terms of edible items, humans are not restrictive to one food product, they can/do eat a variety of foods.
Did we always eat like this? Did we always have the ability to order chicken chow-mein and pizza at the same buffet line? According to Wikipedia, "buffets" were created by the French in the 18th Century. Makes sense, since 2 centuries later the main goal was to try and feed 7 billion people, and now the goal has increased to 9 billion.
      Trying to feed 9 billion sounds like an almost "impossible" feat to my ears! But it's not as hard nowadays, because food is very convenient to the consumer. It's convenient, cheap (not necessarily healthy) and sometimes...can even be created in a laboratory/ warehouse and still be considered "food". How crazy is that? To think that what we may be putting into our bodies could actually be created in a greenhouse or laboratory instead of at the local farmers orchard.
I don't want people to misunderstand me and think that chemicals created in a laboratory can be construed as "food". No one is going to mistake a bottle of magnesium sulfate for food. Food must be safe, affordable to consumers, bioavailable (the nutrients must be absorbable by the body) delicious and sometimes consumers (like myself) like to keep things in the organic family. These criterias that I wrote above that I claim to define what a "food" commodity should be, actually play a huge role on consumer sensation of foods. Take safety for example, humans have long evolved to be able to detect what is "safe" and what is not e.g., poisonous berries vs. blueberries.
       Sensation, incompasses the following questions: what do we sense, how do we sense and how can it be measured and how can we develop a preference for something. So for the topic of safety, we sense that poisonous berries are not safe. Why? Well it could be a learned experience, or that someone has told us about them, or we've read about them in a book etc. Therefore, we have developed a preference against the berries. This is a "visual" sensation, because I can see with my eyes that the berries have a different shape vs. the blueberries, maybe it's a shape i've never seen before, or the fact that the poisonous berries are darker and smaller than the blueberries i'm use to. So I have measured my perception with my eyes that are building upon past experience of knowing what a blueberry looks like.

See! and you thought that you just "knew" that berries were a no-no in the wilderness. But really, it's your sensory perception of that berry that is triggering your brain (via the optical nerve from your retina) that is telling your brain, "hey! that berry does not look like the memory of a blueberry you had."
Can't wait to see how this continues to relate to nutrition education, since that's the biggest passion of mine. Maybe knowing peoples different preference of foods can help nutritionist create better meal plans that will ultimately have a greater rate of adherence?

What do you guys think?


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