It is hard to imagine the foods we love without texture. When we taste food or describe it to others, the texture is usually one of the things we use to make others understand the experience we had consuming that food. The differences in texture are as varied as our personalities and our description of these textures. But, beyond helping others understand certain foods, how important is food texture?
Texture Determines Happiness and Enjoyment
Our sensitivity to the texture of different foods comes from experience. When we encounter a certain food for the first time, we memorize how it felt in our mouths and come to expect the same experience when we encounter the food again. The synchronization between what we know and expect with what we get makes us feel satisfied, and that translates to happiness and satisfaction.
Think about a crunchy chip. Biting into a crunchy one is satisfying but we would be disappointed if we bit one and it went limp and thus did not meet our expectations.
The memories we have discussed above are also crucial for food identification. We can identify different foods based on their texture even when we cannot see, smell, or hear them. In one study, researchers puréed and then strained different foods. Over two-thirds of the participants were not able to identify the food afterward, even though it was a meal that they had had many times before.
Texture is Crucial For Those With Swallowing Disorders
Texture determines how easily we can swallow foods. Creamy, firm and chewy foods are much harder to swallow than watery foods. These differences in texture make a huge difference in the ability of those with swallowing issues to swallow their foods. Foods with the right textures are easy to swallow and present no issues, but foods with an improper texture can lead to pharyngeal residues or aspiration, both of which can cause infections or even be dangerous.
It is important to also remember that texture changes as we chew food and right before we swallow it, and these changes are very different in watery foods than they are in solid (firm, chewy, crunchy, creamy) foods. Food and beverage thickeners like the SimplyThick Thickener from SimplyThick change the texture of food to make it easier to swallow for those with swallowing disorders, further proving how important texture is.
Watch this Harvard University video about Food texture:
Completing The Multisensory Experience
Eating is a multisensory experience. We see, smell, taste, touch, and hear food while we eat. Texture is crucial for the auditory experience when eating. Think about the chips discussed above. Hearing the crunching sound makes them feel more satisfied because there is a complex multisensory experience going on.
Scientists have discovered that the sounds we hear as we eat different foods determine our satisfaction. Since texture determines sound, we can conclude it also impacts how satisfying these foods end up being.
Food texture is a complex subject, and our experiences with different food textures are rooted in evolution. However, there is no denying that texture changes the way we experience and enjoy different foods.
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