Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pineapple - Sour or Sweet?

Ask a question and you will get an answer!
There are some questions that you always wanted to ask.
But, you never asked!

To question is to learn!

Why does adding salt to pineapple make it sweet?

When Pineapple not sweet enough reaching for the salt shaker may not be such a bad idea.

But, interestingly, why the pineapple then tastes sweeter may have more to do with what's going on in our head than what's going on in our food, thanks to the complexities of our sense of taste.

Technically we only have five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami [savoury]. We never think about such things at all. There are also specific places on the tongue where a particular taste is perceived predominantly. These things do not sounds simple enough until we start looking at complex foods that are composed of multiple tastes, like pineapple.

How salt can make pineapple sweeter "comes down to interactions between tastes" , but it's not a straightforward process.

In this case we're looking at how three different tastes — sweet, bitter and salty — interact.

To start with, bitter and sweet tastes can mutually suppress each other. A simple example of how this works is when you add sugar to coffee. As well as making the coffee sweeter it also reduces its bitterness.

It's the way we process the flavours, say scientists. The signals are still going up to the brain, the brain perceives sweet and bitter, and mutually suppresses both flavours. So while the coffee is sweet and bitter, it tastes less sweet and less bitter to us because of the way our brain cancels out some of the sweet and bitter tastes coming from our tongue. Into this situation we then add salt.

Common table salt is primarily made of sodium chloride and sodium is a very good bitterness inhibitor, meaning it can reduce the bitter taste of foods it's added to. So when you add salt to pineapple the sodium actually reduces the bitterness of the pineapple.

This is something that is happening at a tongue level and the signals are not going through to the brain. This sure sounds very interesting. We always think that brain is the centre of all information!! And if you don't have this bitter signal going through to the brain, it can't be suppressing the sweet flavour. So with some of the bitterness being removed by the salt, that means there is less bitterness to suppress the sweetness of the pineapple and voila — your pineapple tastes sweeter!

Food scientists say there may also be another mechanism at play. When the sodium chloride dissolves into the pineapple it will break apart into sodium and chloride ions. The sodium ion will then react with the malic and citric acids present in the pineapple to form neutral sodium salts. Acids normally have a tart or sour taste but when they are converted into neutral compounds they lose this sourness, and so the pineapple tastes sweeter.

Science is interesting as long as you want to explore it.
If you simply resist questions life and science are equally bland!!

I am and will remain a student of Science.
I don't know why I am not reading and writing science as I used to do!
I should get back into it.
Sooner the better.
By the way, I have not written the above answer!!
I collected it from the net!

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