Enjoy Bitter Foods More: Yes, It Is Possible

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Did you know that you can train yourself to perceive the taste of food differently? For instance, you can learn to enjoy bitter foods like broccoli more. Like a lot of things in life, it just takes a bit of practice and consistency. 

Expanding food patterns is a huge point of pride for me, all the time. A few years ago, I used to be playfully mocked by friends and co-workers for how few things I was willing to eat. I was partially afraid of going out of my comfort zone and partially had built very unhealthy eating patterns ever since childhood and it felt scary to cross them and to try new things. Fast forward to a few years later and eating-wise, I am really a different person. I revel in things I would have sneered at and I have such a disposition for the new and the culinary adventures. Is openness the thing that changed? Or is there a biological explanation?

Perhaps the answer lies in both, but at least when it comes to the biological, a new scientific study published in the journal Chemical Sense has some interesting findings. Basically eating bitter foods frequently can change the way you perceive their taste. And, if you hate them, you can really train yourself to enjoy them.

Cooking delicious broccoli can also help. Try this stir-fried broccoli with cashews and tamari.

How does eating bitter foods more help you to like them?

First of all, let’s talk about saliva. It has about 1,000 specific proteins in it, which affect the sense of taste. Everything you eat is first dissolved in saliva before it interacts with the taste receptor cells. The composition of your diet determines those proteins, in part. Which means that what you eat is what you love to eat and so on.

“What you eat creates the signature in your salivary proteome, and those proteins modulate your sense of taste,” says Ann-Marie Torregrossa, an assistant professor in the psychology department at the University at Buffalo and the associate director of the university’s Center for Ingestive Behavior Research. “We’ve shown in previous work with rats that changing your diet changes what proteins are in your saliva. Now we’re showing that the proteins in your saliva change how you taste.”

Don’t hate on this broccoli and cauliflower pizza. It will surely taste great to you, in time.

But why bitter foods? 

According to Torregrossa, most people have an affinity for sweet foods, there aren’t many people who hate it. But the divide is so much greater when it comes to bitter foods. “The variation around sweets is very small,” she says. “Nearly everyone likes a cupcake, but the variation around liking broccoli is enormous. This research helps explain why that variation with bitter food exists and how we can get more people to eat broccoli instead of cupcakes.” Of course, broccoli could be a bad example in this case, since large groups of humans have a bitter sensitivity gene that makes eating the cruciferous veggie an excruciating experience.

The data from the study doesn’t have a clear number of how many bitter food servings you have to eat before you train yourself to enjoy it. But it’s safe to say that it will, eventually.

Hungry for more broccoli? Here are some more great broccoli recipes!

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