Caramels are pretty good.
Salted nuts are yummy.
Plain chocolate is delicious too.
Any one of these foods is good on their own, but when they’re combined into a caramel cluster they’re NEXT LEVEL delicious!
The perfect combination of salty, sweet and nutty hits those reward centers in our brains just right…you know that feeling of hitting a perfect golf shot, swishing a three-pointer or throwing a perfect spiral…ya, it’s like that.
In the food industry there is a concept called ‘The Bliss Point’ and chemists are endlessly formulating and testing various products to hit those dopamine centers in our brains using the Goldilocks equation of not too hot, not too cold but just right!
“Bliss Point: the amount of an ingredient such as salt, sugar and/or fat which optimizes deliciousness.”
My favourite pizza is without a doubt Hawaiian (don’t judge me, fruit does have a place on pizza) and similarly to the caramel cluster the ingredients in pizza on their own are fine and all, but I’m not going to blow my calorie allotment on plain pizza dough, tomato sauce, ham or pineapple on its own. Even straight up cheese without some sort of salty cracker likely isn’t even going to be all that rewarding to our taste buds.
But, the combo is where is where it’s at…
So we know this ‘bliss point’ concept applies to caramel clusters and pizza, but how does it carry over to the meals we cook for ourselves at home?
Something simple like a baked potato on its own isn’t all that palatable and to be honest, I don’t know anyone who enjoys a dry potato…but add a hunk of butter and a few pinches of salt and now we’re talking!
Even more so top that thing off with some cheese, sour cream and bacon bits and not only have we added quite a few calories, but also we’ve made our potato more palatable. More palatability (enhanced taste) makes any food easier to consume more of.
Sushi on it’s own is…fine, but dipped in soy sauce with wasabi and all of a sudden that heavenly salt laden liquid makes it easier to consume more wrapped rice and fish! The same goes for pasta…on it’s own it’s really nothing to write home about, but when we add a fatty, salty and possibly sugary sauce it makes our rather boring pasta much more delicious!
So what should you do…?
You want your food to be good, but not too good.
The food qualities you want to be mindful of are…
Salt, sugar and fat are the big hitters and in isolation there’s nothing wrong with each of these ingredients, yet when combined and/or consumed in large amounts they become a problem.
Protein, starch and umami (soy sauce is a umami flavour) are much less of an issue yet they can bump up the taste profile a fair bit, but most often when they’re combined with the ‘big 3.’
A super simple and straight forward way to make food decisions is by sticking to mainly single/minimal ingredient whole foods that you put together yourself and when you do, do your best not to combine too much salt, sugar and fat in a single meal.