“Guys, you’ve got to try these red peppers. They taste like candy!” Mike says to our boys, as he devours a red bell pepper.
I had to laugh. Candy?! Really?! Maybe a little stretch? ha. But I knew that he was serious and that his taste buds really were telling him how sweet and delicious those strips of pepper were. You see, he had been super intentional in the weeks prior about eating a nourishing diet that didn’t include lots of added sugar. It was this intentional choosing of more whole foods, less sugar/processed food-like products that shaped his tastes to really love and decipher that sweet crunch of those yummy veggies. Cool, huh?
This story is similar to my own tweak in my nutrition, where I swapped my sugary coffee creamer and all-too-frequent lattes for black coffee or coffee with Nutpods or an occasional latte treat with light syrup. Gradually reducing the sweetness in my coffee choices has made me cringe (really!) at the taste of regular creamer or full-sugar lattes (PS – don’t go for the chemical-laden sugar-free option). I’d say that’s a #win!
Lastly, I think of my younger sister (Hi, Andee!), and how we often laugh at all the years growing up where getting her to eat a green vegetable would have her gagging and crying at the table. These days? She’s a veggie-loving vegetarian whose palate is super diverse and includes mostly real, whole foods.
So, what’s the deal? Can our taste buds really change?!
They sure can!! While, to a degree, taste preferences are hard-wired and dependent upon the number of taste buds and the type of taste receptors you inherit, we don’t need to fall prey to our DNA. This goes for all of our predispositions to disease, too: “Genetics load the gun but LIFESTYLE pulls the trigger.” (let that one sink in).
In other words, EXPERIENCE and EXPOSURE play a huge role in how our body performs, even regarding our taste response.
Think of the last time you sat down at a beautifully set table with friends you loved, overlooking dishes of colorful veggies and wonderfully-cooked healthy foods. Weren’t you so much more likely to try them (and ENJOY them!) not only because you *knew* they’d be good for you, but because the environment you were in was so wonderful? Studies show the visual appeal, atmosphere, andinfluence of those around you play a significant role in healthy foods being pleasurable.
Understandably, exposure also makes a huge impact on maturing tastes. Introducing different tastes again and again will, over time, help you to enjoy them – whether that’s junk food or health food. It makes sense and we’ve probably all experienced this to some degree: what you give your body, your body craves. Those weeks where you feel you’re eating more ice cream than normal (hello, summer!), have increased options to sugar snacks, or say yes to the greasy foods more and more – those are the times where we continue to crave those things, right?
The good news is, you CAN flood your cells with more nourishing optionsand therefore, actually crave those options, too! The Children’s Health Studyhas found this to be true in kids who consume ground up fruits and veggies in capsules or chewables: they started eating more fruits and vegetables! The same is true for adults, since it’s actual part of my health story: when I began to flood my body at the cell level with powdered produced, my sweet cravings decreased and my desire and palatability for a wider variety of fruits and veggies increased! #scienceatwork
So, what’s the next step?
We recommend thinking of health as a continuum and gradually choosing options over time that better serve your body and lifestyle goals. Research has shown it takes at least 3 weeks of intentionality to see a difference in our taste preferences.
Maybe you start with the 1/2 pound burger special with fries and diet coke at your local gastropub –> next visit you might try the 1/4 pound burger, diet coke, and intentionally eat only half the fries –> then maybe it’s the burger, diet coke, and a side of grilled veggies in swap of the fries –> then it’s the burger sans bun, wrapped in some crunchy romaine lettuce with a side of grilled veggies and lemon water. Who are you, you healthy eater you?! 🙂 You altered your tastes and preferences over time – it wasn’t overnight, but it’s a sustainable way to go about change and help you live in a way where choosing healthy becomes (an enjoyable) lifestyle.
We hope this gives you hope that it’s all about little choices over time that add up to big wins.
- surround yourself with like-minded people
- in an environment that you dig .
- with food that looks beautiful
- armed with even a small desire to choose better
- and try new foods over and over, prepared in different ways to see what you like best
Cheers to science at work!!
Jess + Team Valeo
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