You may not want to admit it, especially if you’re a self-proclaimed foodie who prizes the fact that you’ll try anything before judging it, but it’s true — you eat with your eyes.
We all do. The color of food has a massive impact on our perception of it. Here are a few facts that’ll make you question your tastebuds:
Red is the Sweetest Color
Ever notice that you always seem to be drawn to the reddest apple? Or that when you were a kid the red popsicle was always the first to go (and you were always stuck with the nasty purple one)? Our brain automatically associates red with sweetness.
In one study, people drank identical glasses of wine under different color lighting. The results? Everyone thought the wine was sweeter under red light. So next time you’re trying to drink your protein-packed-spinach-filled-asparagus-infused-egg-white-dandelion-detox “smoothie”, try dying it red (Warning: This will not make it taste better. Eat real-people food).
Blue: A Love-Hate Relationship
In another study people were given a steak to eat in a dark room. When the lights were turned on, they saw that the steak was blue and half of them literally got sick. Blue foods aren’t often found in nature so they tend to give off an unappetizing, man-made, “don’t eat me I’m poisonous” vibe.
But if you’re trying to cut back on eating, putting a blue light in your fridge or using blue plates will actually suppress your appetite and prevent over-eating. So blue is pretty sick — in both ways, that is.
Brighter is Better
Admit it, when you Instagram a photo of your food, the first thing you do is crank up the saturation (gotta make that kale look extra green). Bright colors in fruits and veggies are associated with nutrition and flavor. It makes the whole eating experience seem so much more healthy and fulfilling.
Bright colors are far more appealing in sweet foods as well. I mean, Skittles would definitely not be doing so well if their motto was “taste the black and white.“
Yellow is especially unique. It’s associated with energy and excitement and can even increase our appetite. Of course you can count on fast food chains to take advantage of this — McDonalds didn’t choose golden arches for no reason.
Snackers beware — white foods trick us into mindless over-eating because white’s associated with being empty and harmless. So next time you’re watching Netflix and mowing down on bowls of popcorn and tubs of vanilla ice cream, take a second to reconsider your life choices.
And if that’s not enough, white’s even sneakier. Studies have shown that food eaten from a white plate appears to taste better than from a darker plate. This is probably because the food looks brighter on a white background. And when food tastes better, we eat more. White’s just out to get us all.
We are Easily Fooled
When we see colored food or drink, we associate it with past experiences. When it doesn’t match the flavor we associate with it, we get a little confused. There have been studies where people legitimately mistake cherry-flavored drinks dyed orange to taste like an orange drink.
The same goes for fresh foods. You’d be surprised how many times you’ve been tricked into thinking your tomatoes are sweeter than they are because of the additives that are used to enhance the color. We’re a marketer’s dream.
But don’t feel too bad… Even one of Spain’s most acclaimed wine tasters was fooled when he tried white wine that was dyed red. He said that the wine had a sweet berry flavor to it. He literally tasted something that wasn’t there.
Color is Subjective
Burger King has introduced black burgers in Japan, and they recently came to America for Halloween. Lucky us.
In Japan, they’re a hit. In America, not so much. Here the color black is seen as a negative, death-like color. Not too appetizing. But in Japan, black foods are much more common and aren’t seen so negatively. They actually associate brighter colored foods as being an obnoxious Western thing.
So next time you’re about to shun a picky eater for “eating with their eyes”, hold your tongue. We all do. It’s science.