A “Crunch-ifcation” Revelation

As we start off the New Year making resolutions, it is often hard to keep them and…we end up breaking them.

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Especially losing weight - there are just some foods that we just can’t stay away from, and those foods are often the crunchy and crispy kind.

Known for being deep-fried and extremely oily, why can’t we stay away from crunchy and crispy foods? Why do we love to munch on potato chips or choose breaded foods over grilled?

The answer may lie with our past.

John S. Allen, a researcher from University of South Carolina and author of “The Omnivorous Mind: Our Evolving Relationship With Food,” says that back when foraging wasn't simple and meat was not easily accessible, our early ancestors ate a lot of insects, which surely has a crunch to them. Since then we have evolved to enjoy crunchy foods (and some folks still eat insects).

Excuse my ridiculous face, but I had to try cricket when I was given the opportunity; quite crunchy and tasty

Excuse my ridiculous face, but I had to try cricket when I was given the opportunity; quite crunchy and tasty

What’s so great about “the crunch”?

The “crunch factor” (as I like to call it) opens new doors for our tastes buds and food experience. As a major foodie, I know this experience all too well (check out my food blog!). Think about it: if you eat a lot of the same food at one sitting, you start to stop tasting it so well. We tend to avoid habituation- eating and tasting the same things over and over again. However, with crunchy and crispy foods, there is always a “different” bite; maybe a small crunch one bite, a big crunch the next few bites, no crunch the second to last bite, but it’s always different experience. And with some foods and meals, there could be different flavors exposed with each crunch.

 

Eating is also a sensory experience. When we eat, we use all five senses; not only taste and smell, but also sight and touch. It's like the saying goes, 'we eat with our eyes first'. We also “feel” the food with our hands and in our mouths (texture of foods). Lastly we eat with sound - something we don’t always take into consideration.  Sure, we Westerners, may not like to hear slurping because it’s rude but in other cultures, it’s allowed; in fact chefs prefer it as it is a sign that their food is being enjoyed.

And then there are the words “Crispy” and “Crunchy.” According to Chef Mario Batali, when foods are associated with these adjectives, they tend to sell better. Functional imaging studies also show that when hearing or saying these words, your brain lights up and is activated and these signals transfer to your mouth; salivating, you may end up thinking “mmm, good food is coming my way.”

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We may think of crispy and crunchy foods as foods made from the deep-fryer - which quite honestly, there is nothing wrong with fried foods… eaten in moderation! – but not all crunchy foods are fried. Baking instead of frying foods can induce that crispy texture that we enjoy. Also some vegetables and fruits are also crunchy; in fact the “crunch factor” is how we determine its freshness and quality. 

So fret not, your New Year’s resolutions can be saved. Good foods are meant to be enjoyed but eaten in moderation, and not all crunchy and crispy foods are deep-fried and bad for you. Thinking about good food alternatives or cooking food in a healthy manner can help you still enjoy the "crunch factor."