“Our main finding is that fat matters a lot,” Anwesha Sarkar, professor of colloids and surfaces at the University of Leeds, told The Washington Post.
The research paper, published earlier this month in the American Chemical Society’s journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, details how the team of scientists analyzed chocolate’s journey from the foil wrapper to the taste buds of the tongue. – replicating each step with a human model of the organ, which they used instead of a real human tester to eliminate as many variables as possible.
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The process of eating chocolate begins with what Sarkar calls the “licking phase,” or when the chocolate first comes into contact with the tongue. That’s when the sweet “chocolate sensation” is set in motion, Sarkar said. Then, as it begins to melt and saliva soaks into the mixture, solid cocoa particles in the chocolate are released, along with a rush of happiness-boosting endorphins.
After conducting the experiment, the scientists concluded that chocolate’s much-loved silky feel is the product of its fat droplets that cause the otherwise grainy cocoa particles to gently descend into the mouth. But does that mean chocolate has to be high in fat to be enjoyed?
Not quite, said Sarkar. If the chocolate is coated in fat, it doesn’t matter that the chocolate itself contains a lot of fat.
“In the licking phase, fat is absolutely important for the sensation created by lubrication,” she said. “But when you get down to the inner contents of the chocolate and its core, and it all starts to mix with the saliva, it doesn’t matter how much fat. So you should have enough fat to coat the particles. cocoa to start, but you don’t need too much fat later.
In other words, researchers have discovered that the amount of fat is not as important as its location – a discovery that could pave the way for a new generation of chocolates that are not only tasty but also healthier and more sustainable, a said Sarkar. .
“The biggest bottleneck in food design is taste and texture,” she said. “If we understand the mechanisms behind why something is delicious, it’s easier to recreate healthier and more sustainable versions. We can also better design foods for vulnerable populations, people who have swallowing difficulties or who need energy products.
“I mean, imagine if we could make broccoli as good as chocolate,” added Sarkar, a self-proclaimed chocolate lover. “Or, at least, make something like zero-calorie chocolate have the same smoothness and silkiness as regular chocolate.”
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Sarkar said his team’s findings could to apply to other beloved foods, like cheese. The goal, she said, is to better understand how food texture plays a role in people’s tasting experience.
“Our inclinations and aversion to food really come from its texture, not its taste,” she said. “So, for example, a lot of things that people like contain sugar; but, you know, an orange is not the same as a piece of chocolate. So it’s not the sweetness, it’s the texture.
When it comes to food, other studies suggest that texture and flavor are linked. According to a publication published in 2015, people’s texture preferences fall into four groups: chewers, who like chewy foods; the crunchy ones, who like the crunchy; suckers, who prefer objects that dissolve; and smooshers, who want nothing more than food to spill into their mouths.
“Texture can be a major reason for food rejection,” said Melissa Jeltema, co-author of the study with Jacqueline Beckley and Jennifer Vahalik of U&I Collaboration, a strategic business development and product research technology company. . “Individuals have a preferred way of eating food, so foods that most easily fit that preferred way of eating will be preferred – assuming taste is also valued.”
If you wake up and eat a chocolate croissant with a milkshake, it’s impossible to have a bad day.
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Jeltema said chocolate is an example of a food that can change texture preferences – it can be enjoyed by anyone who loves its taste. For the chewers, there are chocolate covered brownies and raisins; for the crunchies, chocolates with nuts; for those with a sweet tooth, hard chocolate candies; and for the smooshers, something like a Nutella spread or chocolate ice cream.
It’s the chocolate magic — according to science.
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