Have you ever noticed that your tongue is covered in lots of little bumps? Is this because your tongue is cold and it gets goosebumps like your arms do when you’re chilly??
The bumps on your tongue are actually very different from the goosebumps you get on cold days – the bumps on your tongue are taste buds and it’s thanks to these little guys that you’re able to taste the delicious food you eat!
Look at your tongue up close in a mirror. How many taste buds would you guess that you have? One hundred? Two hundred? Five hundred? – The answer is that most people have about 10,000 taste buds!
Just like the nerves in your hand tell you when you’re touching something hot or cold or soft or rough, your taste buds work like the nerves of your tongue, sending messages to your brain about flavor! The main flavors you can detect are usually broken down into the categories of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Recently, a fifth category has been recognized too – it’s known as “umami” and it’s usually described as the deep, savory flavor of foods like cheeses, meats, soy sauce, and mushrooms.
Of course, the work of your taste buds wouldn’t be complete without some help from your nose! A large part of the flavors in our foods comes from smelling them before and while we’re eating. If you’ve ever had a really stuffy nose, then you probably already know first-hand that food is often bland when you can’t smell!