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Aging taste buds will demand more flavorful foods

An aging population will demand more flavorful foods with stronger tastes, aroma, contrast and texture due to weaker, less sensitive taste buds, says a recent report from a US culinary institute.

While children have the ability to regenerate taste buds every couple of weeks, the rate of regeneration decreases after the age of 40, compromising the sense of taste, points out a seasonal newsletter from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) released last week.

That means that the key to appealing to aging, baby boomer taste buds is to cook with more flavor.

And while traditionally, flavor equaled reaching for more fat, salt and sugar, the CIA points out that certain cooking techniques can do just as good a job at coaxing flavor and manipulating tastes as the addition of more ingredients.

Foods like coffee, chocolate, bread, chicken and beer, for example, gain richer, deeper flavors with the simple addition of more heat and browning.

Similarly, tempting the nose is just as important as tempting the taste buds, the report points out, as people eat just as much with their olfactory senses as they do with their eyes.

For example, consider the power of smell when eating with a cold: a stuffed up nose can numb the senses and render foods tasteless. In the same way, strong aromas and fragrances -- be them of cinnamon and apple, or curry and spices -- can also help entice weaker taste buds.

And finally, contrasting flavors and texture can also make foods more savory and appetizing for aging taste buds.

"Understanding that opposite flavors act to heighten the overall success of the dish is an important point to remember when preparing food for seniors," the report says.

For example, the reason why the fully loaded hot dog -- with relish, ketchup and mustard -- is so popular is because it's made up of contrasts. The sweet and sour effect of the condiments cuts through the fat, smoke and spices of the meat to create a powerful combination.

For seniors who need a double dose of flavor in their food, consider pairing dishes with more sauces, dips, relish, chutneys, pickles and fruits, advises the CIA.

The same philosophy can be applied to cooking methods. Eating a grilled steak with grilled vegetables and potatoes is not as appetizing as tucking into a grilled steak with boiled potatoes, braised vegetables and fried onions.

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