THE VAGARIES OF TASTE

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OVERCOMING PICKY EATERS
 
Why does everything good for you taste bad?
 
The problem with a “new”, healthy diet is inevitably it requires eating something that tastes bad or just plain bland.  Face it, plain yogurt or a bowl brimming with lettuce aren’t exactly mouth watering options.  Wouldn’t it be nice to reap the healthy foods but also have them taste great?    The answer to that dilemma may not be what you’d expect.  What if I told you there’s   way to make that bowl of lettuce have the same taste appeal to you as a big juicy cheeseburger?
Your sense of taste.
 
Your tongue contains 10,000 taste buds and each bud contains 50 to 100 taste cells.  Chemicals dissolved in your saliva are registered by these cells allowing you to distinguish sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami.  Umami is the ability to taste proteins.  The taste cells communicate with the brain through nerve pathways.  Based on the messages your brain receives it instantaneously sends messages back to your tongue and mouth which can vary from licking to gagging.  These responses occur even in infants who have not had time to develop a “learned” response. 
While we think of taste mostly from the aspect of pleasure but it is, in fact, a critical survival mechanism.  To insure you obtain adequate calories, sweet tastes cause the brain to release chemicals which make you feel pleasure.  The same is true for salty and protein rich foods(umami).   These dietary components are essential to your survival and the association of pleasure with these tastes insures you will consume adequate amounts.  Taste can also guard you against ingesting toxins.  Sour and bitter tastes register with the brain as something to be avoided and these tastes are often associated with foods and compounds that are harmful.
 
How sensory adaptation alters your taste.
You may have wondered how you come to like the taste of something that at first is repugnant.  If all the information your senses collect was constantly fed to the brain it would quickly become overloaded.  The brain has a mechanism to filter out sensory information that is non-essential.  This is called sensory adaptation.  You have experienced this many times.  You may have noticed at home there are many sounds which you are familiar with and don’t notice.  The hum of the refrigerator, the furnace coming on, etc., but should an unusual noise occur you are instantly aware.  This is an example of your brain using sensory adaptation to filter out non-essential information.
Your taste buds work the same way.  You can prove this with a simple experiment with salt water.  Hold a mouthful of saltwater in your mouth and notice how the saltiness diminishes as time passes.
If you are eating a diet high in sugar and sweets your sense of taste for sweetness will be reduced by this sensory adaptation mechanism.  It will take sweeter and sweeter foods to register sweetness.  Remember your brain is already wired with a survival mechanism to crave sweet  food.  Combine a diminished sense of sweetness with a hard-wired craving for sweetness and guess how much sugar you’ll be consuming?  In a word, a lot.
 How to re-wire your taste.
Now that you understand how your body works with taste you can use these mechanisms to your advantage.  Here’s how to adapt to eating different foods.
·         Work on reducing the amount of sugar you are eating. 
If you’re eating a traditional American diet, it’s very high in sugar.  Your sense of taste for sweetness will be very desensitized.  Natural whole foods, which actually are very rich in taste, are going to taste very bland to you.  You need to re-set your taste registers.  This will take a little bit of time.  As you reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, you will gradually be able to discern more of the flavor in whole foods.
·         Realize your taste will adapt. 
Don’t be put off by the first taste of something new.  Expect that you may not like it.  This puts you in a much better frame of mind to try something new.
·         Disguise the new foods. 
Blending new tastes with foods you already like is a very effective technique.  For example, if you are eating a fruit smoothie regularly try adding a very small, almost unnoticeable, amount of fresh kale to it.   The next time you have your smoothie add a tiny bit more.  Before long you will be amazed how much you’ve added and that you actually like the taste.
·         Repetition is a key to success.
Don’t expect to like it after two or three tries.  Remember how sensory adaptation works.  It may take ten or twelve tries.
Personal experience.
I realize this may sound far-fetched and bring back bad memories of your Mom making you eat your vegetables, but it truly works.  I can hardly believe the foods I now eat and actually enjoy on a regular basis; kefir, plain yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and lots of raw kale!

Photo 1 – Kerplunk, K. (Photographer). (2011).untitled. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from https://picasaweb.google.com


Written by Peter Wright

Peter Wright, NTP, CGP

Peter Wright, NTP, CGP

I’m on a mission to help you prevent and reverse chronic illness by utilizing nutrition to restore your body’s natural balance.

Contact me directly for a free 30 minute consultation.
Peter Wright, NTP, CGP

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