Imagine you had four cups of soda in front of you. (Since this is a hypothetical scenario, let’s say the soft drinks are made with natural sugars, flavorings, and are completely healthy. Like I said, this is all hypothetical.)
One cup is filled with a purple soda, the second with orange, the third is red, and the fourth is green. Without tasting them, could you guess the flavors?
If I’d be faced with this scenario, I’d take a gander that the purple soda is grape, the orange is orange, the red is cherry, and the green is lime or green apple.
In 1980, a study in the Journal of Food Science conducted this test, but with a catch: They switched the flavors. Now, for example, the orange-coloured soda tasted like cherry. You might think the participants could distinguish between the two flavors. However, surprisingly, most of them identified the cherry flavor as orange.
Another experiment was done with these four cups of soda, but this time the subjects wore red goggles in a red fluorescent room, disabling them from distinguishing the color of the drinks. In this scenario, 70% of the people were able to identify the grape soda, but only 20% were able to determine the orange drink. Under normal lighting, 100% were able to distinguish the beverages correctly.
Color makes a difference in how we experience food, perhaps even more potently than the taste itself. This is because over 50% of our brain is devoted to visual processing, particularly color, while only 1-2% is involved in taste.
In addition, we are also preconditioned to expect certain tastes depending on the color. In our heads, we equate yellow with lemon and bananas, and blue with blueberries. If you find a black banana, you won’t eat it since you know from experience that a dark banana is overripe and spoiled.
Neurologist Oliver Sack speaks of a case where a man became color blind from a car crash. To him, tomatoes don’t taste right anymore. They looked black, as well as his oranges and other foods. He would close his eyes and try to picture a beautifully colored, ripe fruit, but his brain still found the food unappetizing. He resignated with foods that matched his memories, like green olives that looked black and strawberry yogurt that looked white.
Due to these findings, many food manufacturers put food coloring additives into their products to make them more appealing to the consumer and heighten their eating experience. Those are those strange formulas you see at the end of the ingredient list like Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 6, FD%C Lakes, and the self-explanatory “Artificial Colors” found in candies, cereals, ice cream, and other desserts. Take away these vibrant colors, and the food will become less appetizing, less flavorful, but also less toxic.
Here’s a general rule: If a food product looks unnatural, it probably is and has no business in your digestive system. The good news is we don’t need Blue 1 and Yellow 6 for vibrancy. Nature has already done that for us.
Knowing the psychology behind the colors in food, we can use this to our advantage in our own kitchens. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, and other healthy foods are organically colorful, and will heighten the taste in your meals and help you feel satisfied. Take your pick from purple eggplants, to orange carrots, to green broccoli, or anything else you like. In this recipe, even the simple dish of sunny-side up eggs is upgraded in a bright pepper frame. Choose yellow, red, orange, or green peppers based on your preference. It’s a delicious combination, and the colors contribute to a heartier meal.
Trust me; it’s science.
Eggs in a Pepper
- 1 pepper, color of choice
- 5 eggs
- salt and pepper
- garlic powder
- dried basil
- chili flakes (optional)
- Slice the pepper into slices, about 1-1/2-inch thickness.
- Heat a greased frying pan over medium-low heat.
- When the pan is hot, place the pepper slices on it and crack an egg into each one.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and spices.
- Cook until the whites are cooked, and yolk is as desired.