There's A Reason Why Airplane Food Doesn't Taste Good...It's Not What You May Think!
Not many people are fans of airline food, but as it turns out, you don't taste food in the air the same way you do on the ground!
A lot of factors on planes all come together to suppress your sense of smell, which makes up a large portion of our sense of taste. Don't believe it? Think back to the last time you had a cold and your nose was clogged up... You probably had a weakened sense of smell and your perception of taste reduced. So your in-flight nose is similar to your nose when you have a cold, but without the gross phlegm!
To start, we have the cabin of the plane, which is extremely dry. The dry cabin dries out your nasal passages, which means your taste buds become less perceptive.
Next, we have the low cabin pressure that actually decreases the levels of oxygen in your blood, which means your olfactory receptors (the part of your nervous system that responds to smells) become less sensitive, which actually weakens your sense of smell.
But get this... it's not just the environment inside the cabin that affects your senses. The noise coming from the engine doesn't help either! According to Business Insider's article, a 2010 study tested people's sense of taste both inside and outside a simulated plane cabin, the researchers found sensitivity to sweet and salty food was reduced by 30% while in the cabin!
To top it all off, not every flavor is affected equally. Some ingredients like curry and lemongrass actually become more intense in the sky, while cinnamon, ginger, and garlic tend to maintain their taste. Some airlines will use naturally intense flavors, like certain fruit and vegetable oils and concentrates, which helps to lessen the amount of extra salt a recipe might need.
So the next time you're on a flight try not to get too upset if your meal doesn't taste as good as you hoped. The chefs are just trying to accommodate for something you didn't know was happening right under your nose!