Try Something New…or Old! How Your Taste Buds Affect Food Preferences
May 23, 2013
Think of a healthy food that you once despised during your childhood (or still do!)… Spinach? Brussels sprouts? Fish? Eggplant? Squash? Mushrooms? Now think about how long it has been since you actually last tried to eat said food. If it has been more than 5-7 years, you might be in for a surprise if you were to try it again now.
As we age, our taste buds become less sensitive to certain tastes, which can allow for potential enjoyment from a food that we once refused to eat. Taste is based upon salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Flavor is often confused for taste, but is the result of taste and smell working together.
Typically, if you recall a food that you do not care too much for, I’d venture to guess that most of you weren’t too keen on vegetables? Sound about right? That being said, most vegetables would be considered to have more of a bitter taste, and from infancy, our brains are hardwired to dislike bitter tastes, serving as a protection mechanism. Also, when consuming sweet things, the brain is triggered to release chemicals that make us feel good. Makes sense that we would rather eat things that make us feel warm and fuzzy as opposed to veggies that spur memories of unappetizing side dishes that many of us were forced to eat.
Also, some people are more highly sensitive to tastes (hello food critics!). The average person has about 2,000-10,000 taste buds, but “supertasters” can have more than that! Taste buds are actually not the bumps that you see on your tongue, several are contained under those bumps. The bumps you see serve to act as a sponge and absorb what you put in your mouth, providing sensory feedback to your brain. Think you might be a supertaster? Drop a little blue dye on your tongue, and if it looks blue polka dotted with pink, then you are an average taster. A mostly pink tongue signifies that you have more taste buds!
With all that being said, it is important to know that taste buds regenerate and are re-trainable. Taste preferences also are likely to fluctuate with hormonal changes. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be the same, repetitive meals all the time. Stay open to trying things you once weren’t crazy about, because you might just be pleasantly surprised to find that you like them now!