Tricking your taste buds - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Tricking your taste buds

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If you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle, you probably already know changing the foods you eat is a great weapon in the battle of the bulge.

But for some, that is easier said than done.

FOX 5's Sarah Simmons teamed up with our partners at AARP and found a chef who has developed a way to trick your taste buds and avoid foods that pack on the pounds.

He describes himself as a guy who likes to solve problems. Chef Homaro Cantu is a molecular gastronomist. He uses science and technology to turn our taste buds into allies in healthy eating.

And he calls it "Flavor Tripping." He explains what the term means.

"Flavor tripping means you're going to eat something, and then a minute later, it is going to taste like something else,” he said. “It will go from tasting like say, an Italian cheese course, and it will turn into a chocolate cannoli."

"I think Flavor Tripping is a real neat idea," said one diner.

How does this mad scientist create such dishes?

He uses something called a Miracle Berry. It is a real berry, first found in Africa in 1725.

Chef Cantu uses it in a powder or tablet form. He says it will literally change the taste of something like an apple to something that tastes like a cookie.

He told us about the science behind it.

"Here's how the Miracle Berry works. You eat the berry. It's got a little protein on it. That protein is going to go on your tongue,” he explained. “Your tongue has two taste receptors. One tastes sour and bitter and one tastes everything else. This little protein just latches on to your sour and bitter receptor so you can't taste sour and bitter things. So when you eat, say lemons, it goes down the other way and your brain tells you it is sweet. It's a very simple physiological effect."

But why is Chef Cantu going to such great lengths to change the taste of what we eat?

Northwestern Memorial Hospital obesity expert, Robert Kuschner, says worldwide we are facing two major epidemics -- obesity and diabetes.

"If obesity were driving in the car, in the rear mirror you would see diabetes,” Dr. Kuscher says.

He says the only way to attack these problems is if all members of society get involved, and that includes the food industry.

"Where we eat and what we eat has a very important role to play,” says Dr. Kuscher. “If we can find a way to provide the mouth the feel of something that is sweet and savory, but also reduce the sugar and total calories, I think that is a step in the right direction.”

One restaurant patron said, "It may be everyday food, but it's different in the way it tastes."

Cantu believes this tiny berry will get people to eat healthier and that in turn will reduce obesity and therefore diabetes.

He said, "We're never going to give up our sweet tooth, but what we can do is create things that taste sweet, that in fact, have no sugar at all."

He demonstrated his idea with a delicious dessert.

"For example, we serve a classic red velvet cake. It is basically a cheesecake with red velvet cake, except it is actually good for you,” said Cantu. “That's what's so crazy about it. You can eat all of the cake you want, but it tastes like you're going to pack on some pounds and it just won't do that."

"What I’m passionate most about when it comes to these issues is creating products that are fun, that solve big problems,” he continued. “And I think that is the future of gastronomy.”

And Cantu believes he can solve many of the world's pressing issues, one berry at a time.

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