Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ester from AL. Ester Wonders, “What makes different people have different tastes for food? Are their tongue receptors different or does it become different when the information reaches the brain?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ester!
There it is…just sitting there on your plate, taunting you. Your parents already told you that you have to clean your plate before you can go outside to play. But how can you do that? They said they didn't give you much, but that mound of broccoli looks more like a small mountain.
In your parents' defense, it's important to include a wide variety of healthy foods in your diet, so that you grow strong and stay healthy. Sometimes the best way to get the nutrients your body needs is to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Many times those foods take the form of vegetables and other foods that might not top our list of favorite foods.
Have you ever stopped to WONDER how your parents can eat those same foods…and enjoy them? Think about it for a minute. Do you think your parents loved broccoli and other vegetables when they were kids? Probably not! So what happened?
Do our taste buds change over time, allowing us to like foods that we never liked in the past? Maybe! Scientists know that taste buds do wear out over time. As we get bigger and older, taste buds start to disappear from the sides and roof of the mouth. This may result in duller taste sensations as we get older.
Your taste buds can also be affected by other factors, too. Exposure to smoke, for example, can deaden taste buds. Likewise, drinking scalding hot liquids can damage taste buds, leading to decreased taste sensations. Plus, there's the fact that not everyone has the same number of taste buds.
Adults have between 2,000 and 10,000 taste buds on average. The more taste buds you have, the more you can taste a variety of flavors. People with over 10,000 taste buds are considered “supertasters." Supertasters can sense flavors more deeply than other people.
Young children who are developing their full set of taste buds may be able to sense certain tastes more intensely than older adults whose taste buds have become fewer in number and less sensitive over the years. For example, the somewhat-bitter taste of broccoli might be more intense for children than adults, which would help explain why some kids might not like it as a child and yet love it as an adult.
Of course, a food's flavor isn't completely dependent upon its taste. The nose plays a huge role in how we taste things. A food's flavor is a combination of how our taste buds react to it, as well as how our noses interpret its smell. A food that has a strong smell might be unattractive to children who might otherwise not mind its taste alone.
The good news is that you can learn to like new foods over time. Sometimes it's just a matter of making something new more sweet or adding something you already enjoy, like cheese, to it. Psychological factors can also play a role. If your best friend really likes broccoli, you might be more inclined to try it and like it, too.
Did you realize that you can also come to detest certain foods that you've always loved? Unfortunately, it's true. If you love pizza and eat it all the time, there's a chance that you might detest it one day if you happen to eat it right before coming down with the flu. Many times, we experience a distaste — called an aversion — to foods we eat just before becoming very sick. These aversions can last for years!