Since I previously wrote a blog post about how much I love peanut butter, I thought I would broaden my horizons and write about my overall love for food. I love anything that has to do with food and eating, it honestly baffles me that I’m not 450 pounds. What baffles me even more is why do I like the foods I like, and why I don’t like others.
One of the main reasons why we like some foods and not others are based off of genetics. As stated in this article, we all experierance bitter flavors differently because the bitter receptor gene varies from person to person. For example, one of my favorite foods is kale. Kale is known to have a very bitter and distinct taste when it is eaten raw. Personally, I prefer it raw, as does my mom. On the other hand, my dad prefers cooked kale because it is not at bitter (and also covered in olive oil and salt but thats a different story). I now know that my bitter receptor gene is from my mom, not my dad.
We are also born with other predispositions to liking certain foods according to psychologist Elizabeth Phillips, whose research focuses on the psychology of tastes and eating, is the executive vice president and provost of the Arizona State University. She says we are predisposed to liking sweet foods like fruits, not only for their taste, but for nutrients and energy. She also talks about the predisposed to dislike the bitter as mentioned before.The bitter taste that is found in most vegetables, like kale. This could explain why its so hard to get kids to eat their vegetables sometimes.
When we are born, we have reactions to sweet and bitter tastes right away. Shortly after, we develop a taste preference for salt. We are also built to enjoy fatty foods: combing fat-sweer and fat-salt. This is mostly for their high calorie count which essentially provides us with the necessary energy we need. Aka hello freshman 45.
However, according to Phillips, most of our tasted preferences are learned, most before we are born. When we are in the womb, we inhale and exhale amniotic fluids (ew) that flavored by our mother’s dietary habits. In one study done, infants seemed to enjoy carrot-flavored cereal if their mothers consumed carrot juice on a regular basis during pregnancy. For the next two years after birth, infants will eat almost anything because taste preferences have been shaping. After the age of 2, Phillips says we become neophobic you don’t like new food. At this point, if you have not consumed a flavor through amniotic fluid, breast milk, or sold foods–you probably won’t like it.
If there is food that we don’t like, we can actually teach ourselves to like it. Studies suggest that it takes anywhere from 10 to 15 exposures to a new taste to start to like it. So essentially, we don’t just eat foods because we like them, we like them because we eat them. Wow.
If there really is something that you can’t bring yourself to eat at least ten times, the trick now is to build preference through association. Phillips did this with a group of kids and broccoli. We are all born with the predisposition to like sweet, but not bitter, as previously stated. What Phillips did was to get the kids to eat broccoli, she put sugar on top of the broccoli. After quite some time, the kids started to eat the broccoli without the sugar.
So we like things because we are either born to like them or we learn to like them over time. Science is cool:)