Find out if you can actually change your eating habits!
Everybody has a food they really do not like. Whether it is Brussels sprouts, olives, blue cheese or sea food; not all food tastes as great as your favorite meal. And that is completely normal. But sometimes, people claim that liking a certain food is just a matter of training yourself into liking it. Is there a truth to that theory?
Taste and smell
Parts of your body that determine what foods you do or don’t like, are your taste buds. The amount of taste buds you have is determined by your genes. Some people have less, others have more. And this is key in the foods you taste or don’t taste. If you have a lot of taste buds, you will qualify as a so-called ‘supertaster’. This means that you need less to taste more. So if you know someone who enjoys (what to you seems like) bland food, it might be because they have more taste buds than you do. And if you need a lot of spices and salt before you taste anything, you might not have a lot of taste buds.
But your taste buds shouldn’t get all of the credit. The only reason you experience rich flavors, is because of your nose. When you eat, a big part of the taste of food actually comes from smell. You’ll notice that when you pinch your nose while eating (or when you have a cold) your food won’t taste as good. When you chew your food, chemicals travel into your nose and activate the receptors inside your nose. Then, your taste buds and the receptors in your nose work together to determine the exact taste and flavor of the food. And with that, whether or not you like the food you’re eating.
But why do we like certain foods? According to science-expert Martijn Peters, this is all because of exposure. When kids are two years old, they can already determine whether they like a certain food. And that is because of the food your mother has been eating while she was pregnant with you. When a fetus is still in the uterus, it inhales amniotic fluid. And that fluid tastes like the food the mother has been eating. Breast feeding also exposes the baby to certain flavors that come from the food the mother has ingested. If you haven’t been exposed to certain foods before the age of two, chances are you might not like it.
But exposure as a kid isn’t the only reason why we like and dislike certain foods. We attach memories, emotions, texture and smell to the food that can influence your tasting experience ánd it can influence the decision of whether you like something or not. If you don’t like the texture of food, if it reminds you of something that you don’t like or if you have some kind of memory attached to the smell or taste of it, it will change the way you look at that food. And that might put that food on your ‘dislike’-list.
So, if your food preferences are linked to your genes and to exposure, is it possible to train yourself to like something? According to Peters, it is. The reason why you don’t like the food, is because it is new to you. When you keep on trying that type of food over and over again, you will become more familiar with it. There are steps to the process, though. If you first only put something in your mouth without swallowing it, you can let your taste buds (and your nose) get used to the flavor. After a while, you can try to swallow the food and it will feel more familiar. You probably won’t ever really like the food, but at least you’ll be able to eat it without gagging!
The only thing to ask yourself is whether it is worth it. If you like all vegetables except for one, then maybe it would be better to just eat the things you do like. According to Peters, that is better for you anyways; you should focus your energy on eating the things you dó want to eat instead of forcing yourself to eat something you never really liked in the first place.