I have always been fascinated by people. In my quest to learn more about our species, I stumbled upon the subject of taste. It’s not something that we really think about when we are eating but it’s a clue into how we operate and why we do the things we do, instinctually and intentionally. People generally fall into 3 different categories when it comes to taste. There are Tolerant Tasters, Tasters, and Hyper Tasters and by learning which group you fall into, it can help you become more connected with why you love certain foods and despise others, which in turn, can help you become more connected with yourself and give you the tools to make better food choices.
Here are a few of the many factors that go into how we taste:
-Genetics plays a key role in how many tastebuds are on your tongue.
-Illnesses such as ear infections and strong fevers can cause damage to your main taste nerve, the chord tympani, which can deaden your sense of taste.
-Accidents that cause head injuries can also affect how you taste and even how you smell (which is the other key sense that is involved in tasting.)
-Any damage to your tongue via piercings, burns, and cysts can also affect your taste buds.
-Any damage to your sense of smell. You know when you have a cold and you can’t taste a thing? A lot of your tasting ability is based on your sense of smell and as a side effect of getting older, many of us begin to lose our sense of smell. So protect your nose!
Let’s take a closer look at the genetics factor. How many tastebuds that are on your tongue is determined by your parents genetics (thanks, mom and dad for making me a Taster.)
-Hyper Tasters- Have the highest number of taste buds causing these people to be very sensitive to tastes. Even if a certain taste is present in very small amount these tasters can detect it. Hyper tasters also tend to have very strong likes and dislikes when it comes to food especially when it comes to sour and bitter foods. Hyper tasters may eat a more bland diet to avoid any intense flavors.
-Tasters– Most people fall into this category. This category covers the range in between Hyper Tasters and NonTasters. A Taster can range from having very little taste buds to many taste buds.
-Nontasters– Are usually tolerant of a wide range of flavors. Tolerant tasters don’t really notice the flavor of their food. With a smaller amount of tastebuds, Tolerant Tasters don’t really taste the intensity of strong flavors, so they don’t really have any strong likes or dislikes. For example, Tolerant Tasters are more likely to drink intensely bitter black coffee because they don’t detect the bitterness as much.
But your taste buds are only a factor in how you taste. Your culture, and in fact even your personality affects what kind of flavors you prefer. For instance, a recent study shows that people who love spicy foods are more likely to be risk-takers. Since spicy foods stimulates adrenaline release, similar to risky behaviors like bungee jumping and roller coasters, it makes sense that risk-lovers tend to go for chili peppers too. (Interestingly, love of adrenaline-producing behaviors means your natural adrenaline levels are lower–so getting in the hot seat normalizes your levels).
You can even train your taste buds to like certain flavors and broaden the range of foods for your specific palate. In fact, I wasn’t always the veg loving, hippie freak that I am today. For example, I used to hate squash. I would turn my nose up at it but I kept trying it over and over and in different ways until I grew to love it. Now if I can just get behind blueberries…
Want to know more? Check out these resources:
Curious about what taste category you fall into? Check out this quiz.
Also by Krystle: 10 Natural Pest Prevention Tips for Pets
Photo: Craig via Flickr