Without your nose, the world would be pretty tasteless.

Try this simple experiment: Hold your nose and put a jellybean in your mouth. Chances are you can taste that it is sweet, but you cannot taste the exact flavor. However, if you let go of your nose, you’ll be able to taste the exact flavor of the jellybean. This is because your nose is key to tasting food.

When you think about tasting food, you usually think of the tongue. Your tongue is a sensor. It has thousands of taste buds that can sense sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami and fat. Umami (said: oo-mommy) is a savory taste, which can be found in meats, cheeses, and soy sauce. Some scientists believe there is a six taste for fat too. Each one of your taste buds has chemical sensors. More precisely, your nose can sense chemicals for sugar, acid, salt, complex repulsive tastes, savory flavors, and fat content.

However, foods would be pretty boring with just those flavors. This is where your nose comes in. Your nose can sense over a thousand different flavors. These flavors are detected as they pass through the nasal cavity, but also as they travel from the back of the mouth up into the oral cavity.

When you are congested or have a cold, you cannot taste food because the flavors cannot get to your nose’s sensors. But, this eventually clears up. However, the inability to taste food does not clear up for the elderly. The sensors in the nose become less effective with time. This is why it is hard for the elderly to detect if milk has gone bad or to taste the flavors of their favorite foods. Fortunately, scientists and inventors are coming up with schemes to help keep food flavorful for those in their golden years.

So use your nose and taste all the wonderful flavors out there  …  while you can.