Design and Technology GCSE: How our senses guide food choices

This animation explains the role of the 5 senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste in making us appreciate food.

Our senses help us to evaluate food and make choices and develop personal preferences.

Smell (odour) and taste work together to create flavour.

Everything that we smell is giving off molecules that are so light they float through the air and up the nose.

The small patch of nerve cells or neurons at the top of the nasal passages are covered in hair-like projections called cilia.

When the neurons are triggered they cause the nose to detect a particular smell.

The tongue, the nose’s perfect partner, can detect 5 basic tastes – sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami, a savoury taste.

Taste buds detect tastes and transmit the information via nerves, to the brain.

Working together, the nose and tongue can detect thousands of different tastes and flavours.

This clip is from the series Food Preparation and Nutrition.

Teacher Notes

How sharp are your senses? In groups, students (unseen by others) could set up Mystery Sensory Stations for others to smell, feel and taste (but not see) a range of ingredients.

Suggested items include vegetables and fruit with different textured skin, peel or flesh e.g. – green or red pepper, celeriac, kiwi fruit, lychees or rambutan, pitaya (dragon fruit), foods with a distinctive smell or taste.

Try strong smelling herbs like basil, rosemary or coriander, as well as other foods such as anchovy, golden syrup, honey, cheese, mint sauce etc.

Blindfolded, how many students could identify foods by smell alone? How many items by smell and touch? How many by smell, touch and taste? What do the findings indicate? Discuss them as a class.

Curry is a favourite dish. The students could each prepare a basic vegetable curry of their choice made with three or more separate spices* not counting chilli powder.

They should keep their recipes secret. Tasting each curry, can students identify the individual spices, not including chilli, used in each one? Students could describe the taste of each of the curries. Which spice, if any is a dominant taste?

Spices (except chilli and pepper) do not taste ‘hot’.

When some people say they dislike ‘spicy’ foods, do they mean ‘hot’ as in chilli or pepper, or those just tasting of spices?

Discuss this and highlight other ‘taste confusions’ – the distinction between sour and bitter, for example. How might these misunderstandings be avoided?

Not curry powder or ready-made masala. These are blends of a number of spices.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Food Technology and Modern Studies at GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland

More from the series Food preparation and nutrition

The importance of staying hydrated
Food Groups and the Eatwell Guide
Energy needs of the body
Eight tips for healthy eating
Healthy cooking methods
What information is included on food packaging?
Food production
The causes of food poisoning