How The Smell Of Ham Can Change How You Taste Food

You are probably already aware that our sense of smell can affect our sense of taste. In fact, our sense of smell actually accounts for around 80% of what we taste. In the real world, you have probably experienced this first hand if you've ever had a stuffy nose, and foods just don't taste as flavorful as they used to. In this case, the inability to smell something makes the food or flavor taste less intense. Well, it turns out that the reverse can also be true. For example, scientists have discovered that smelling ham, something that we associate with salty foods, can affect how salty a certain food tastes.

In one study by the Journal of Food Science, French scientists found that adding ham particles to flan made the flan taste saltier and that a 15% difference in actual salt content didn't affect how much the testers enjoyed the ham-enhanced flan. In a later study by Food & Function, scientists were able to show that adding ham, an aroma associated with salt, led to a similar perception of increased saltiness, with up to a 35% difference in actual salt content.

The implications for the food industry

These studies could potentially have a big impact on the food industry, particularly the market for healthier, less salty foods. According to the CDC, consuming a diet of too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. However, in recent decades, changes by food manufacturers to decrease the sodium content of certain foods have backfired with consumers. For example, cutting the sodium content in soups by the Campbell Soup Company led to lower soup sales and the company ended up adding sodium back to its soups just a few years later.

However, if adding phantom and salt-associated scents such as ham could make consumers perceive foods to taste 15 to 35% saltier, food manufacturers may be able to create healthier versions of salty foods that will taste just as good without as much salt. That would be a win for both good health and good taste.