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Science Explains Why It’s Normal For Plane Food To Taste Bad

Science Explains Why It’s Normal For Plane Food To Taste Bad

Dining experiences on planes aren’t renowned for their quality. The meal served by the air host/hostess may taste bland and dry, but studies have found it has nothing to do with the food or the cooking. Actually, it is all about atmosphere and science – and it’s all about you.

Pressure

A study from The Fraunhofer Institute (a research institute based in Germany) found that the cabin atmosphere, which is pressurized at 8,000 feet, numbed the taste buds. The cool, dry environment causes the meal to be the equivalent of eating food while having a cold. Our perception of saltiness and sweetness, which are vital aspects of the tasting experience, drop by approximately 30% at high altitudes. Meanwhile, the cabin pressure dulls the sensors in the nose that affect taste.

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Noise

Another study (this time from Cornell University) found that the noisy environment inside an airplane alters the taste of food. A group of almost fifty people were provided with a variety food to enjoy in a silent setting. They were tested again, this time wearing headsets blasting 85 decibels of noise as a substitute for roaring jet engines on a plane. The tests showed that the noise dulled the sweetness of food, while it intensified the savory aspects. Either way, the tasting sense is compromised. The environment we eat in alters our taste perception. Hearing plays an important role right alongside smell and taste.

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Humidity

When reaching soaring heights in a plane, the humidity equals that of a desert (at less than 12%). This dry environment isn’t exactly an ideal dining condition. It explains why a passenger desires that next cup of water or juice after a meal, but also frustrates us as drink servings are much smaller than their on-land counterparts. Taste buds are less effective when they’re dried out.

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Flavor

Interestingly enough, not all aspects of taste are relinquished when you board the plane and reach 30,000 feet. Sour, bitter, and spicy flavors are basically unaffected. So, when given the choice between a spicy dish and a sweet dish, one should always choose the former if desiring a flavorsome experience during your flight. Airlines are aware of the altered taste buds, so they will add more salt and sugar to products to enhance their flavor. Anyone focused on health will want to be aware of these additions.

Cooking conditions

While science has explained why plane food tastes so bad, it is also served in trying conditions. It is cooked on the ground, packed, blast-chilled, refrigerated, and heated using a convection oven (dry air is blown all over the food, substituting for a microwave). However, through the study of the science behind taste, airlines are starting to adapt to the conditions and take advantage of the flavors that are enhanced in the air.

What is being done? Science.

  • Singapore has a simulated flight cabin to test the taste of their in-flight food options.
  • Umami, the fifth taste (behind savory, sweet, sour, and bitter) that few know much about, is unaffected by altitude. For example, soy sauce and tomatoes will be utilized more prominently in flights to improve the dining experience.
  • British Airways developed a nasal spray used to clear the nose prior to food consumption. However, it wasn’t popular with passengers.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones are becoming a key tool in altering the perceived environment, blocking out the engine hum. They will also utilize music that improves the taste of certain foods.
  • Some airlines are removing plastic cutlery in the belief that it projects a bad food taste before the passenger brings the meal to their mouth.
  • Quality wine taste is also compromised when hitting high levels of altitude, as liquids expand and contract in such conditions. Low-acid levels are the key, which rules out an in-flight champagne.

Conclusion

With these experiments and potential solutions, it is clear that airlines are doing all they can to research and discover ways to improve the in-flight dining experience. When faced with a lengthy flight, one can either sacrifice their sweet or acidic favorites for a umami option, or deal with the rebellious taste buds dried out in the pressurized environment. Maybe everyone should just fly when they have a cold?

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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