Even the background noise we hear while eating influences the way our mind judges food. Oxford University researchers recently enlisted 20 men and women to taste toffee while listening to a soundtrack that was either brass- or piano-filled. The results: the toffee tasted more bitter when accompanied by brass instruments and low notes and sweeter when piano music and high-pitched notes filled the air. While the brain mechanics are still unknown, one theory is that positive and negative attributes from music carry over to the perception of the food, a process called sensation transference. "Essentially, our brain integrates the sweet sound and sweet flavor into one stimuli," says lead researcher Anne-Sylvie Crisinel, Ph.D. You experience a similar phenomenon if you find a pasta dish especially delicious at your favorite restaurant when traditional Italian music is playing in the background. Be mindful of a constant, unpleasant background noise. "You know how food often tastes bland on airplanes? Part of the reason is that the low-level and intense noise of the engines has a somewhat masking effect on flavors. The sound actually dampens your flavor perception," Crisinel says. To use this mind game to your advantage, play your favorite upbeat tunes during healthy meals. "If you listen to pop music that you perceive as fresh or strong, you'll wind up ascribing those same attributes to the food you're eating," says Stuckey.