taste budsTaste buds are something we all have in our mouths. Not many people know how taste actually works.

Taste buds are a part of the complex system that defines what we know to be “flavor”.

Taste buds are mouth sensations that work in partnership with our sense of smell to distinguish between bitter, sweet, salty, creamy, spicy or smooth textures.

Taste by itself comes from the taste cells on our tongue while “flavor” is a marriage of sorts between taste, smell and how our brains process this information.

What we do know is that smell and taste pretty much work in unison to create flavors. Because our nasal passages share an airway with our mouths, we smell and taste food at the same time.

How Do Our Taste Buds Work?

Sense of TasteOur “taste buds” are located on our tongue and number in the thousands. Research shows that we have about 10,000 taste buds on our tongue and they replace themselves about every two weeks.

As we age, generally after the age of 50, our taste buds start to decrease in number so we may only have 5,000 instead of 10,000 active working taste cells. It’s these taste buds that indirectly transmit impulses to areas of our brain distinguishing for us what we thinks tastes good and not so good.

While taste buds number in the thousands, the “smell cells” in our nose number in the millions.

Because these also are hard-wired directly to our brain, and because we have so many, they become more important in our tasting process than the actual taste buds on our tongue.

A case in point would be how difficult it is to taste any food when we have a cold or our sinuses are plugged up?There are four taste sensations you can find in different locations on your tongue:

  • bitter
  • sweet
  • salty
  • sour

These four basic tastes in combination with our “smell cells” can differentiate the flavors of food and beverages the way our eyes can distinguish between thousands of color hues.

Why We Crave Certain Foods

taste budsThe importance and preference of our tastes follow the location of the taste buds in our mouths. Sweet is at the tip of our tongue. Salty is on either side of our tongue tip.

Sour is on either edge of the tongue behind the salty taste buds and bitter lies across the back and top of our tongue.

Why do we have such a strong urge for sweet-tasting foods? Early man went where there was food and water and ate the showiest and most obvious of plants, like fruits.

Because fruits are sweet and because fruits contain natural sugar and sugar supplies energy, it was natural to crave sweets. On the flip side, poisonous plants have a tendency to be bitter and taste unpleasant.

Our bodies naturally crave foods that contain minerals and nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. While we all know it’s important to listen to our bodies, it’s just as important to vary our diet with new flavors to keep our senses of taste and smell finely tuned.

Don’t be afraid to spice up your food with new seasonings or to get out of your safe zone and try something new when you go to a restaurant. Doing a little exploring with flavors can be considered an enjoyable exercise for your senses!