I was eating lunch at the HUB today with some friends, and the topic of hated-foods came up. I had gotten Chik-Fil-A chicken nuggets with waffle fries, and Chik-Fil-A sauce to dip them in. My friend asked me what Chik-Fil-A sauce was, and I told him to try it and decide for himself. He did so, and immediately had a look of disgust and averse reaction to the flavor. I myself love the taste, and know many other people who are die-hard Chik-Fil-A sauce fans. It made me wonder, why do people really hate certain foods? I know many people hate foods such as mushrooms, cottage cheese, olives, but is there scientific reasoning behind it?
First of all, its important to note why we like the foods that we do eat. This article explains that humans have “innate preferences” to tastes. From the time you are born, you naturally enjoy things that taste sweet and dislike bitter or sour tastes. This predisposition has allowed humans to live and evolve for thousands of years, because it steers us away from potentially poisonous foods that come with the bitter taste, and towards safe-to-eat sweet foods. Another thing that affects tastes is what mothers eat while their offspring are in the uterus. A study has shown that prenatal exposure to certain foods via the mother’s dietary habits leads to increased liking of those tastes or foods after birth.
One biological mechanism for why we perceive tastes differently is in our taste buds. Scientists categorize three different groups of people, based on genetics: ‘”super tasters”, “non-tasters” and “regular tasters”‘. Super tasters are those who have more “fungiform papillae” taste receptors, and can taste certain things like bitterness more intensely. This leads to a higher likelihood of aversion to foods that are bitter, such as green vegetables.
Other times, people develop aversions to foods after they have become sick from them. An article from the website io9 says, “This taste aversion is a survival mechanism, where your body is essentially trying to avoid a potentially poisonous substance.”
Taste likes or dislikes can also be attributed to culture. Some cultures often adopt certain flavors or tastes that are often used due to availability of certain foods and spices, such as curry in Indian foods. Growing up in a culture which often utilizes curry will make it more likely that you will enjoy the taste of it, as opposed to growing up in a place where the flavor is not used as often.
If you don’t like a certain food but wished you did, you’re in luck! Research says that you can teach yourself to like foods through repeated exposure to the taste. One study says that after around 10 to 15 tries of a “hated food”, you are likely to come around to the flavor. The science behind that is currently unclear.
There is a pattern to food aversions, however. Each individual has different tastes for foods, but collectively, there are a certain few tastes that many individuals dislike, such as dark chocolate, coffee, and brussels sprouts. So if you hate some type of food, you’re more than likely not alone!