07/02/2022 # Home
How you perceive the taste of veggies affects your fitness and health.
If we know what flavors you like and prefer, we might actually be able to predict your body composition or your health.
Yes, people vary by age, country, and culture (for instance, German kids like fat the most, Spanish kids like umami the most).
But overall, if you like sweet and fatty flavors a lot, there’s also a chance that you might have a higher body weight; the reverse is true as well.
We don’t know for sure if taste preference changes body weight or whether body weight changes taste preference.
But what we do know is:
We can change our flavor preferences.
While you might think you’re an adult, and your palate is “set”, research suggests that taste preferences/drives can change a lot over time.
In other words, if you hate bitter flavors, you can change that… if you want.
3 steps to really love your veggies
Regardless of where you’re starting — never eaten a green thing ever, or just want some new ways to eat plants — there is a simple formula you can use to make bitterness less intense, more palatable, and much more enjoyable:
Find a bitter food, something that requires a special effort, and something that you won’t normally just eat.
Psych yourself up. Put on your ragiest, peppiest music as a soundtrack. Do a primal scream.
You’re going to TASTE that kale! YEAHHHHHHH!!! BITTER BEAST MODE!!!
See what happens.
You may hate it… you may love it… you may just think “meh”.
Either way… you have now been brave, and at least tried it.
Research suggests that we may need to try new foods many times before we’ll tolerate or like them. So, challenge yourself regularly. You might be surprised about what happens.
Building on the complexity of flavor perception, almost all well-developed recipes use a kind of “flavor harmony”.
In this case, it means pairing a food or aromatic with your vegetable to push several taste/flavor buttons at the same time.
We can actually predict some of this harmony in advance now, using complicated measurements like gas chromatography. But generally, we rely on chefs—who often have amazing intuition about “what goes with what”—to do it for us.
Pairing bitterness with certain flavors can magically turn its volume down.
On your tongue, you have a variety of receptors that bind to the chemicals in food. When these receptors get a chemical signal, they send information to the brain about what you are “tasting”.
(Variations in the number and type of these receptors help give us our innate flavor preferences.)
Chemical signals are like cars on a roadway. Sometimes the road to the brain is clear, sometimes the road can get jammed.
Sweet and fatty flavors, in particular, can jam up the road and interfere with our brain’s perception of bitterness. Even the specific types of sugar and fat can matter (for instance, butter versus olive oil; glucose versus fructose, etc.)
So, after we have chosen our challenge food and a complement, we find a cushion.
Excellent cushions for bitterness include honey, maple syrup, oil, almonds, and butter.
Don’t freak out if those sound calorie-dense. We just need balance, not a cup of oil or a pound of bacon.
Now, check out the matrix below.
- Pick one challenge.
- Pick one complement.
- Pick one cushion.
Pay attention to the simple cooking methods, which help you preserve the vegetables’ texture (mush ends here, people.)
As you become more comfortable, experiment with combining more flavors—up to one item per category. The different combinations are endless.
Here’s a good mantra: “Progress, not perfection”.
Do what works for you right now… and at the same time, be open to change in the future:
1. Forget about “rules”.
Pay no attention to people who insist that all vegetables should be “cold pressed” or “eaten natural” or “bathed in cosmic vibrations” or whatever else is necessary to “preserve their essential properties”.
This is silly. Cooking and seasoning is a thing. Thousands of years of human cuisine exist for a reason: To make foods digestible and taste good.
Newsflash: If “preserving the essential health properties” of something means it tastes like lawn clippings, it doesn’t matter! If you won’t eat it…
2. Try a new colorful vegetable.
Go and cruise the aisles of your local grocery store or farmer’s market.
Look for the less-bitter options to start, like:
- cherry tomatoes
- butternut or other winter squashes
- red pepper
- beets (which sweeten when roasted)
- orange or purple sweet potatoes
3. Start where you are.
If you’re eating 0 vegetables a day, try to get to 1 consistently.
If you’re eating 2 servings, shoot for 3.
If you already eat a sandwich for lunch, just add a tomato, some lettuce, or a couple slices of cucumber to it.
If you already make a morning Super Shake, throw a couple handfuls of spinach in there.
If you’re already making pasta sauce, add some extra peppers, mushrooms, or other veggies you enjoy.
You get the idea.
4. Explore, experiment, and discover what works for you.
Find your path.
Be curious. Try stuff.
See what helps you eat more vegetables… and try to do more of that.
If you hate it and/or screw it up, who cares? At least you got out of your comfort zone, took a chance, and learned something.
But more likely, you’ll discover something else you enjoy.
Reference – Precision Nutrition Published Lesson Plan Articles