Tastes experiences come from our taste receptors. These make us sensitive to a range of taste qualities. For example, sweet foods are usually associated with carbohydrates that are a great source of energy. Sour food allows us to identify food that has gone off and would therefore contain harmful bacteria. Salt food is vital for the function of our cells. Bitter tastes are associated with plant chemicals that could be linked with poison, again a hazard for our health. Finally, umami allows us to identify meaty and savoury qualities in food that indicate a source of protein.
In addition to this, humans are regarded to be full omnivores, since the split from the great ape line more than 6 million years ago. The introduction of protein to our diet allowed us to develop a larger brain. This is the basic success of the human race.
Through evolution, other distinctive eating behaviours have emerged that the evolutionary approach can explain.
For example, the use of spices (onion, garlic) in cooking, especially in hot countries where food tends to go off quickly. These spices contain chemicals that can kill the harmful bacteria and thus protect people from poisoning.
Secondly, food neophobia is a behaviour related to the fear of new foods. In the past, our ancestors would avoid new food as they would be fearful of the dangerous effects it can have to their health. Frost (2006) offers support for this behaviour, as it is still evident today. However, our liking for new food can increase with familiarity, as shown by Birch and Marlin (1992). It took children a minimum of ten weeks to reverse neophobia into preference. Therefore, in avoiding new food we eliminate the risk of becoming ill. As we become familiar with it and see that it has no harm to us, we may build a preference to it.
Thirdly, taste aversion learning is evident...