While most of us know we like ice cream, cookies and all sorts of other dessert-y goodness, we probably don't give much thought to why other than a vague "because, sugar." And while you might not realize it when you're chomping on that cake, our taste buds perceive some sugars as sweeter than others, and it all comes down to chemistry.
The American Chemical Society (ACS), by way of its "Reactions" YouTube series, looks to broaden our understanding of what makes things taste sweet in its latest video explainer. In the clip, ACS tells us about the Sweetness Triangle, a theory that for us to perceive something as sweet, it must have a triangular shape at the molecular level. This helps it bind to the sweetness receptors in our tongues, and the better the molecule fits the Sweetness Triangle, the sweeter the taste.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, commonly found in diet sodas, chemically resemble meat more than sugar. But aspartame, since it's been engineered to loosely fit the triangular shape, is still about as sweet as table sugar. New sweeteners like Stevia almost perfectly fit into the Sweetness Triangle, making them much sweeter (about 100 times more so) than sugar and other sugar substitutes.
To learn more about sugar and how our brains perceive sweetness, check out the video at the top of this post. And just try not to grab a cookie or some other sweet treat after watching.