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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 April 8, 2020

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships. How can relationships flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there? And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift? Less appreciated in the GTD world, however, is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

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Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

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The leap happens when we realize two things:

  1. The self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  2. The logic inherent in the assumption that others either have many things going on in their lives paving the way for misunderstandings.

Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.

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Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

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In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

“Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life’s best practice among the people I have met so far. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

More Tips About Building Positive Relationships

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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