Two years into the pandemic, loss of smell and flavour is still one of the most talked-about long-term symptoms of Covid-19. A new study by recipe box Gousto highlights the impact on the nation’s relationship with cooking and food.
Surveying 2,000 Covid-19 sufferers, Gousto found that a vast 71% lost their senses of smell and taste and that for 57%, this has taken the joy out of food. As a nation of food lovers, it’s no surprise that nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents were stressed, and (21%) were depressed at the prospect of never fully tasting their favourite meal again. Overall, the foods that Brits missed the flavour of the most were:
- Chocolate (13%)
- Coffee (11%)
- Cake and biscuits (9%)
And the dishes they were most excited to eat when their taste returned were:
- Indian curry (17%)
- Pizza (15%)
- Roast dinner (14%)
- Fish & chips (11%)
To try tantalising their taste buds, over 33% of those who had lost their sense of taste and smell due to Covid-19 admitted eating burnt orange, garlic cloves and gargling salt water. A more practical 43% dialled up their cooking with strong flavours and extra spice – like adding more chillies.
Another option, however, is smell training. Here are some tips from the experts at AbScent.
What is smell training?
Smell training helps stimulate smell receptors and is scientifically shown to help recover lost senses. It’s not a cure, but it’s a helpful tool that can be used to support natural recovery, a bit like a physio for the nose.
Fair warning: smell training takes time. Everyone is different, but expect to train twice a day for four months.
A specialist smell training kit will be needed; alternatively, the required scents might be in the back of the kitchen cupboards. Rose, lemon, eucalyptus, and clove are the scents that will start stimulating smell receptors.
Get comfy somewhere lovely and quiet
Hold one of the scents to the nose. Take a few short sniffs for about 20 seconds. Focus.
It can help to imagine the smell
Floral soap, lemon cough drops, spa days, Christmas scented candles, remember all the other senses connected with that smell and fix them in mind. Looking at images can help too.
Make some notes on the experience
It’s a good idea to make monthly notes about the training. It is even scoring the background if it’s helpful, using a 0-5 score for the strength and likeness of each of the smells.
Have a little break after each one
Take just 30 seconds to clear the mind (and the nose) before taking the same approach with the next scent. Were we still missing out on smell or taste? Try focusing on the other senses to compensate. After all, we use all of our senses when we eat.
Make every meal easy on the eye. Choose foods in different colours so the plate pops. Think about the table setting, the lighting, and the plate.
Crunch, chew, fizz. All these sounds are a very important part of the full dining experience. Research shows that bubbles make drinks seem fizzier, and the sound of the sea makes seafood taste more intense.
An essential part of our eating experience is the trigeminal nerve, stimulated by things like the tingle of chilli flakes. There are five ways to get this ‘feel’ experience: texture, temperature, spice, and astringency ( the tongue tingles from foods like sumac or fizzy drinks).
To help the nation rediscover the joy of mealtimes, meal kit Gousto and smell loss experts AbScent have combined forces to create a limited-edition ’Flavour Saviour’ kit, designed to stimulate the smell receptors that can unlock flavour. It contains a pack of hand-picked ingredients to stimulate our taste buds‘ five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, to enhance the training experience.
Gousto has launched a Flavour Saviour site, rounding up recipes packed with rich flavour and interesting textures and suggestions for swapping ingredients that might trigger parosmia. These include Courgette & Greek Cheese Gratin with Hazelnut Gremolata, Grilled Miso Aubergine & Edamame Salad and Smoky Chimichurri Mushroom Steaks with Crushed Potatoes.
See here for recipes to help re-engage the tastebuds, expand your palette, and fall back in love with food. Gousto is ideally placed to provide exciting new dishes, with more than 60 different recipes on its menu each week.