To make food more healthful, don’t just cut the salt. Try serving it with a knife as well.
The cutlery a person uses can alter the tastes he experiences, possibly making blander (and more healthful) foods taste better, new research suggests.
For instance, cheese tastes saltier when eaten with a knife, and yogurt tastes denser and more expensive when eaten with a lighter spoon, according to a study published last week in the journal Flavour.
The findings might one day help scientists tweak utensils to help people eat more healthfully — for example, by giving eaters the same salty sensation they get from processed foods, but with reduced salt.
A growing body of research suggests that people’s enjoyment of food is related to factors beyond actual taste. A 2011 study found that white plates make food seem tastier; another study found that hot chocolate tastes better in orange cups than in cups of other colors.
Charles Spence, a psychologist at the University of Oxford and his colleague Vanessa Harrar conducted three experiments. In the first, they asked 35 people to rate the expensiveness, sweetness and density of yogurt eaten with several plastic spoons, some of which were lighter in weight than others. Participants rated food eaten from a lighter spoon as denser, more expensive and more enjoyable than yogurt eaten from heavier spoons.
In a second experiment, 30 participants rated yogurt eaten from different-colored spoons. Blue spoons seemed to make the pink yogurt taste saltier, whereas other colors didn’t show a significant effect. In a third experiment, 30 participants rated the saltiness of cheddar cheese eaten using a fork, a spoon, a toothpick or a knife. Participants said that cheese tasted saltiest when served on a knife.