Eating with all five senses: Touch and hearing

Eating is something we do many time every day and uses all five of our senses. Let’s explore the sense of touch and hearing and how they relate to eating habits.

Youth at 4-H Health and Food Science Camp explore the texture of food.
Youth at 4-H Health and Food Science Camp explore the texture of food.

Michigan State University professor Sungeun Cho and graduate student Ed Szczygiel believe that we use all five senses when we eat food, including listening and touching. Eating with our ears sounds somewhat funny, but when we think about our five senses, we do use our ears when we eat: we listen for the frying of fish or the crunch of potato chips. Dr. Cho believes that sound is the forgotten flavor sense and may not get the credit it deserves when we think about sensory evaluation.

Touch is an easier sense to think about when we are eating. Texture can be felt with your fingers, tongue, teeth and palate. As a baby, texture of food came to us slowly and many times babies had very soft texture foods to start with. Just imagine if all our food was the texture of baby food! 

During the recent 4-H Health and Food Science Camp at MSU, students explored how both hearing and touching are related to eating. Youth had a chance to taste potato chips and determine the freshness by listening to the crunch of the chip. They also learned about alginate, which is a gel-forming agent that makes food have a jelly like texture such as gummy bears and jelly. Thanks to TIC Gums, students were able to make alginate product and explore the gummy type consistency. They learned that you can take any liquid like pop and make it a gummy type texture.

Students in the MSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition are learning and researching many different areas related to food and our senses.

The Michigan 4-H Youth Development Program developed a variety of science lessons that are designed to be used in classrooms or groups. One in particular deals with sense awareness and relates to the many things youth learned about sensory science during the Michigan 4-H Health and Food Science Camp. For more information on this, see the Michigan State University Extension article, “Youth explore sensory science at MSU.”

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