More often than not, when we're craving a candy treat, were reaching for something sweet. But every now and then, we want that lip-puckering, mouth watering sour flavor. Our faces scrunch up and our eyes squint, but we just can't get enough. And while we'll gladly endure these consequences over and over, not everyone knows what gives sour this intense kick.
Taste remains one of the last sensory systems to be fully understood by researchers, but lucky for you, we've got a pretty good answer to the question on every little kid's mind (and apparently yours): Why does sour candy make our mouths water?
The Five Basic Tastes
Sour is one of the five basic tastes that we use to understand the quality of our food, along with sweet, bitter, salty and savory (Umami). So how do we detect these different tastes?
Our tongues have thousands of tiny sensors called taste buds. Each of these little buds have dozens of taste cells with little hair-like sprouts that can only be seen through a microscope. As food dissolves in our saliva, they touch these sprouts and report back to the brain what flavor you're consuming. If it's something sour, this acidity triggers the brain to react negatively, hence the puckering and mouth watering. But why?
The Power of Sour
Unlike so many other candies that enjoy a sweet taste, sour candy is acid based. If you drink spoiled milk, you're likely to have the same reaction. This is because the taste buds are detecting the acidity, which our body naturally identifies as possibly something harmful. In the case of spoiled milk, that would be microorganisms that could cause illness if ingested. So as part of our body's defense mechanism, our mouths begin to water. This is its way of trying to wash out the acidity from our systems to remove the potentially harmful substance.
But Can I Keep Eating Sour Candy?
Heck yeah! While our body is programmed to tell us through involuntary reactions that acidity is bad for us, not all acidity is harmful. Which is why there's absolutely no reason to not enjoy your favorite sour candies! But since your taste buds don't differentiate between the different sources of sour, the more you eat, the more you can expect to pucker up!
While we may not have all the answers as to how our taste buds decide what we like and what we don't like, one thing is for sure: we can't get enough of our favorite sour candies! If you're running low, we'll help you find all the sour candy you need to put those taste buds to the ultimate test. Enjoy!