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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 February 11, 2021

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

Instagram allows you to see exactly what inspires people and how creativity is drawn from their everyday life. We use Instagram to capture what makes us smile, what brings joy to our life, and what we are passionate about, and the accounts listed below are sure to inspire you in turn.

Here are our 20 top creative Instagram accounts that you should be following today.

1. Humans Of New York

Brandon Stanton walks the streets of New York City taking street photography, and he gets his subjects to open up about life details that even many family members may not know about them. It makes you smile and connect with the images at a new level.

 2.  Paris in Four Months

Carin Olsson moved to Paris and is documenting every part of her experience, from the macaroons to the Eiffel Tower with all of its shimmering lights. If you want to go to Paris but can’t get there today, Carin will take you.

3. Civilized Caveman Cooking

George Bryant offers up more than his love for cooking Paleo cuisine as he shares more about life, joy, and happiness. His coined hashtag is #hugsandbacon.

4. Andrew Knapp

Andrew has taken the world by storm with his adorable version of Where’s Waldo? His version is Find Momo, and stars his border collie.

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5. Idafrosk

Ida Skivenes has developed a knack for food art. From the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Strawberry Fields Forever, she has recreated it all with food.

6. GrandmaBetty33

Grandma Betty is fighting cancer and is inspiring others to smile and be happy in life. She brings a smile to your face instantly and is like having your grandma right beside you.

7. Maya_on_the_Move

Tania Ahsan captures the world of her cute bulldog, Maya, on her adventures in New York. Maya makes appearances that will make you smile, laugh, and inspire you to go out and create something special.

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8. Leoleoparis

Leo captures the life on the streets of Paris. Most of his work is done in black and white, offering that iconic Parisian look.

9. Jacob Santiago

Jacob Santiago creates stunning, vibrant images around New York City, showcasing the architecture and streets. I’m sure you haven’t seen the streets of NYC like this before.

10. Julie’s Kitchen

Julie Lee showcases how everyday produce can create colorful art designs. At first glance, you think it is just a design; then, a second take illustrates that it is really fruits and vegetables.

11. iloveplaymo

iloveplaymo brings together photography and Playmobil toys in action. The images are up to date with current world events and everyday life.

12. “Red” Hong Yi

Red Hong Yi loves to paint without a paintbrush. Her style uses daily items to create lovely images.

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13. Alexis Diaz

A breathtaking artist from Puerto Rico who loves to paint murals. Alexis’s work is featured all over the world.

14. Murad Osmann

Murad Osmann is a music video producer, but his claim to fame on Instagram has been his photographs with his girlfriend leading him by her hand.

15. Simone Bramate

Simone Bramate is a storyteller who just so happens to take delightful photos as well.

16. Willie Kessel

Willie Kessel brings beach life right to your smartphone. Amazing surf and lifestyle images that take your mind off of all of the work and stress in your life.

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17. Nick Ulivieri

Nick Ulivieri is a talented photographer who loves to capture the windy city of Chicago and skies, especially during storms. His images are gorgeous and make you realize how wonderful life really is.

18. Jo Jerry

Jo Jerry’s landscape photos around Santorini, Greece, make you want to book a flight immediately. The bright colors and simplicity in the images make his photos stand out from the rest.

19. GoPro

GoPro uses fan-sourced images on their account that are all captured with a GoPro. Creativity to the max is used in these images and range from the grocery store to incredible surf.

20. Vin Farrell

Vin Farrell is a creative who works on the agency side for large clients and has a knack for photography. His iPhone captures amazing aerial images around NYC and the world.

Featured photo credit: Andy via flickr.com

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