MJ here. This newsletter is all about empowering our taste buds and pushing ourselves to eat more variety and LIKE IT! First I want you to understand that eating variety lowers our risk of lifestyle diseases and cancers. Plus we look and feel better when we are getting a plethora of variable micronutrients. What could be wrong with that? Ok read up:
We know that most of our food likes are a triumph of nurture over nature, with the exceptions of an innate fondness for sweet, and distaste for bitter. There may or may not be an innate preference for umami flavor, and there’s a debate about fat flavor, but other than that, when we’re talking about real foods, let’s assume most of the preferences are learned. K? K!
Our taste biases develop in various ways. Flavor learning, for instance, is a form of Pavlovian conditioning. For example, if you drink Coca-Cola, you may enjoy the taste at first because you already like sweetness. Then, the more you drink it, the fonder you will become of the other characteristics of that particular brand.
A 2006 study into whether flavor learning can help children feel more positively about broccoli produced encouraging results. After being fed sweetened broccoli, the kids liked the taste of plain broccoli more.
Lower your taste thresholds
We all have different thresholds for feeling satisfied by tastes. These are controlled in part physiologically – the abundance & function of our taste buds differ, making us more or less sensitive to tastes
– but over time we also get used to certain levels of, say, sweetness & saltiness. If you don’t salt your pasta water, you’re going to think most ready meals taste really salty. It’s all relative.
For instance if you gave up food with added sugar for a month. You might become aware of how apples now taste better than cake. However, this transformation isn’t permanent. You need to reduce the levels little by little, so each step is imperceptible to create permanent change.
Food companies are facing the necessity to reduce salt, sugar or fat. What happens if it’s done suddenly? People don’t like the product anymore. But execute the same change gradually over a much longer period, then we keep adapting and don’t notice the change.
The feel-good factor
Another form of preference learning stems from the positive post-ingested nutritional effects of what you eat. Returning to the Coca-Cola example, the glucose sends a positive message to the brain because that is its primary energy source. You can get a similar kick after.Decent exposure
Repeated exposure to pretty much any kind of stimulus brings a familiarity that breeds quite the opposite of contempt. One 2010 study
showed that repeated tasting increased a liking for vegetables among nine-and-10-year olds. It took just nine or 10 tries before the children said they liked the vegetable. Some even ticked the “like a lot” box.
Knowledge is power
Barb Stuckey, food developer and author of Taste What You’re Missing
: the passionate eater’s guide to why good food tastes good, believes the best way to drum up enthusiasm for a type of food is to become an expert on it
. Turn your nose up at greens and she’ll say: “let’s taste every single bitter green as if we are doing a horizontal wine tasting.” You notice that spinach is less bitter and has a soft mouth feel compared with kale, which is more tough & fibrous. Suddenly you’re appreciating nuances in foods you previously only tolerated.
Practical Ways to Expand That Palate!
• Add finely chopped or grated colored vegetables to main dishes. This will also reduce the kcals for people wanting to lose weight.
Look to other cultures for new food combinations using:
- Add chickpeas to curries, middle eastern dishes and lamb casseroles and stew
- Add red kidney beans to Mexican and Italian tomato based dishes
- Serve tuna with cannelloni beans or butter beans
- Serve steak on a white bean mash
- Add tofu to stir fries
- Add four bean mix to minestrone
Nuts and seeds
- Garnish a salad, curry, pasta or stir fry with toasted chopped nuts or seeds
- Sprinkle chopped nuts on porridge, cereal or yogurt
- If you are trying to lose weight, use only small amounts of nuts and seeds as they are high in nutrients but also high in kcals
Eat with your eyes
Much of our eating pleasure comes from seeing food that looks beautiful. That’s one reason food themed magazines, cook books with photos and cooking TV shows are so popular.
Vegetables and fruit have a wide range of beautiful colors and textures. All we need to do is choose widely, prepare simply and arrange creatively, for quick and easy WOW! factor. Choose mostly from what’s in season and add highlights of what is less available and more expensive.
Vary one part of your meal at a time
- Try different types of pastas, noodles, rices, polenta, barley, couscous or quinoa as a side dish at main meals
- Mix wholegrain varieties with refined varieties, gradually increasing the wholegrain
- Canned or cooked legumes, corn or sweet potato are an alternative side dish to white potato (get no sodium/sugar varieties)
- Keep changing your type of bread, roll, wrap, focaccia, turkish bread roll, for your sandwich (and remember choose whole grain-always!)
- Cook tomatoes, mushrooms or spinach to go with a hot breakfast
Lots of food for thought, eh? Well. I hope you learned a thing or two about eating more than an apple or banana all year long. It’s important to expand your mind and then your palate so you can fight those nasty diseases and cancers that make us grow old quickly. YUCK. Fight with Food!
Love you all,