Live Life Better: A guide to improving your tastebuds

In the third episode of the Live Life Better podcast, we learn about how to taste better, and how tastes can transport us to a different location, another time or a familiar emotion. The episode will also explore how we can harness the power of taste to open up different experiences and improve our lives.

Melissa Hemsley is joined by three food and drink experts to find out more about how taste impacts our lives. Vegan cook and author Rachel Ama, Great British Bake Off finalist Kimberley Wilson and ‘king of the cocktails’  Ryan Chetiyawardana - aka Mr Lyan - will provide us with unique insights into why and how we taste as we do.

But what did we learn from this episode?

We found out that you should never change your mind about what recipe to use when you’re making a Victoria Sponge cake! Bake-Off finalist Kimberly Williams she was psyched out before the first Bake Off show after contestants chatted about different ways you can bake a cake. You can opt for the “regular recipe”, where you measure out your ingredients individually or the “WI” (Women’s Institute method) which is where you match the ingredients to the weight of your eggs. After changing her mind at the last minute, her cake was ruined and she had to start again. Always trust your instincts!

Why it’s hard to eat when you’re stressed

Do you ever find that it’s tricky to eat when you’re stressing about things? Kimberly explains why this is. “There are two different parts of the nervous system. You have your fight or flight system and your rest and digest system. They work as a kind of counterbalance. They can’t be going at the same time.”

“So, when you’re stressed, or worried or anxious, your body is preparing to respond to that perceived threat, so stops thinking about eating or sex or things we typically do when we’re relaxed. This harks back to prehistoric man, so we’re not running away from a tiger and also thinking about having a slice of cake.” She points out this is why people do need to relax, so you’re not eating in a stressed state where it’s harder to digest. For this reason, think twice before you cook a big meal that really stresses you out.

Kimberley Wilson, Melissa Hemsley and Rachel Ama

Eating is the easiest way to look after yourself

Have a think about what you’re putting in your mouth, because chances are it could make you feel better too. It’s ok for food to play a part in taking care of yourself, and for comfort food to be a thing after a breakup, as long as it’s not the only thing you rely on to take care of yourself. But why is it that we often turn to sugar when we’re stressed? We love sugar so much because it’s in breastmilk, so babies have a receptor for sweet tastes. It’s a comforting flavour – you can become a babies’ best friend by giving them a piece of marshmallow.

How do smells get to us?

When you walk past a bakery section in a supermarket, and you can smell baked food, essentially shops are hijacking your brain. We know we need food to survive, and our brains are really geared in getting us to head in the direction of food. And smells have such a strong impact because they’re so linked to taste. When we smell something, the neurons go directly into an area of the brain called the amygdala and hippocampus, the centre of our limbic system which is our emotional management system, and this is why smell and taste are so linked to our emotional memories.

You can listen or subscribe to Live Life Better on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts from.

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