Walnuts for Dessert: a Gustatory Experience


Gustation (taste) is the sensory response produced when something in the mouth reacts chemically with the taste buds. Taste is divided into five categories: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami (savory or meaty).1 The flavor of a food, often referred to as taste, is influenced by our sense of smell (olfaction) and our sense of touch (nerve stimulation) through the temperature and texture of the substance.



Each person will have their own perception of how to define “tasty” based on preference for the five categories of taste and individual differences in smell. However, healthy food has overwhelmingly negative connotations – if it is good for you it surely can’t be tasty!  However, that is really a misconception.

Humans are drawn to sweetness and saltiness, with some of us preferring a sweet treat and others leaning towards something salty or savory. The tendency is to think of convenience and unhealthy foods when we describe these food categories. Sweet is often related to sugar, candy, ice cream, soda, and pastries. When you say salty, people tend to think of chips, pretzels, processed meats (pepperoni, bacon, etc.), popcorn, and pizza.  However, there are super healthy treats we can add to our diet that are made with flavorful ingredients that are good for our bodies and that will provide a wonderful gustatory experience.



As part of the RE:mind program, our participants are treated to four days of incredible food, so they get to experience first-hand how healthy food can be incredibly beautiful and tasty. They each go home with The Healthy Mind Cookbook, by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson, which includes many of the recipes prepared for them during the RE:mind retreat. Sweet treats tend to be the food category people are the most resistant to let go of. However, we provide a small serving of healthy sweet treat each day of the retreat, so people can see that dessert does not have to be a thing of the past.



Here are a few of my personal favorite walnut dessert recipes:



So the next time you are asked to bring a dessert to a function, or are in the mood to prepare yourself a sweet treat, consider trying one of these brain boosting walnut dessert recipes. We shouldn’t have to eat unhealthy foods in order for them to be tasty, and we shouldn’t have to eat foods that don’t taste good in order for them to be healthy. If done right, even dessert can be a brain boosting, gustatory experience!


  1. The 5 Senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. TASTE. http://udel.edu/~bcarey/ART307/project3/contents/taste.html. Accessed on February 27, 2017.

Written by Marci L. Hardy, PhD

Image Credit: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_tobi’>tobi / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


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