Green Eggs, No Ham

Green Eggs, No Ham

COLOR AFFECTS YOUR MIND

It’s been known for quite a while that colors affect your mind and emotional state at the subconscious level.  Reds, yellow and oranges have a cheering effect on you while blues, greens and purples have a calming effect but they can also make you feel sad. There’s a lot of research that’s been done on this subject. If you’re interested in knowing more, The Teaching Company has a cool lecture series on this topic. There are also a ton of articles on the internet about this too.

Color psychology is quite complex. It goes beyond just the simple color-emotion correlations you see in popular psychology articles. Your mind has a built-in color bias for familiar objects that can play havoc with your other senses.

Here’s an example of how color affects taste. You may have noticed that sometimes skim milk can have a blue cast. That blue color is due to light scattering in a colloid called the Tyndall effect. It’s what happens when you take the fat particles out of milk. We’ll save the Tyndall effect for another post. What’s important here is that for most people, that blue tint makes the stuff taste worse that it really is.

A lot of milk factories add milk solids to skin milk to make it whiter. Your brain tells you that milk is supposed to be white, and white skim milk will taste better than blueish skim milk. No, really. Your brain works like this.

Don’t believe me? The green eggs experiment is a excellent example of this color bias effect on taste.

THE GREEN EGGS EXPERIMENT

Chef and food-science geek J. Kenji Lopez-Alt set up an experiment regarding the taste of eggs. He was wondering if egg environment made a difference on the taste of eggs. To test this, he assembled the following eggs types:

  • regular grocery store eggs
  • certified organic eggs
  • organic eggs with omega-3 enhancement
  • fresh eggs from free-range pasture-fed chickens

He took these eggs types, scrambled them up and fed them to taste testers. His tasters liked the pasture-fed eggs and the omega-3 eggs the best best and grocery-store eggs the least.

Correlation is Not Causation

Lopez-Alt is a sharp guy. He did not stop there because he noticed that there was another variable involved. That variable was color. The color of the eggs also correlated with taste preference. Grocery-store eggs had the palest yolks and made pale scrambled eggs. The pasture-fed and omega-3 eggs had bright-orange yolks and richly-colored orange-yellow scrambled eggs.

The color of yolks is due to differences in diet. The diets of both pasture-fed and commercial omega-3 organic chickens include things that enrich the color of egg yolks towards deep orange.

Lopez-Alt recognized that he needed to test if color affected taste perceptions. So he set up a new experiment. He used all of his egg types from the first experiment; but this time, he dyed all the scrambled eggs a uniform green. When his taste testers tried the green eggs, they had no clear taste preference. The dyed eggs all tasted the same despite their different origins.

It was clear that the color of eggs in the first experiment affected their perceived taste. When color was equalized, the eggs had equal taste. The minds of the tasters preferred the color of the more-orange eggs and fooled the taste buds accordingly.

Color in food matters.

SOURCES

  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/people-places-and-things/201504/the-surprising-effect-color-your-mind-and-mood
  • https://www.thekitchn.com/how-is-skim-milk-made-ingredient-intelligence-215893
  • J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, The Food Lab, W. W. Norton & Co., NY, 2015, ISBN978-0-393-08108-4, pp. 93-94.

Today’s banner image of mock green eggs and ham is by Joe Mabel, 2009, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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