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Healthy eating is important if you want to maintain optimum health and ensure your longevity. Yet sometimes a carrot dipped in hummus doesn’t taste quite as good as that chocolate bar you’ve got hidden in your bottom, office drawer. Right? Well, not exactly. It’s not that healthy, nutritious food doesn’t taste as good as your secret, chocolate treats. Rather, it’s the fact that your palate and taste buds have been manipulated to think that nothing will ever feel or taste as good as sugar.

That said, is there any way to effectively reverse this? So one can look forward to eating healthy and nutritious foods? Thankfully, the answer is yes, your taste buds change every few days, thus you can help change your taste preferences and retrain your taste buds to enjoy a diet with less sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. This will then serve to benefit you in the long run. According to a study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, reducing your intake of salt and fat in the present will have you eating less of the two in the future.

If you enjoy a sweet treat now and then and are fearful of retraining your taste buds, it’s important to remember one thing. The objective of retraining your taste buds isn’t to turn you off of sugar, salt, and fat completely. Rather, it’s to ensure that when the cravings hit, you’ll opt for leafy and nutritious foods over processed and sweet snacks. In doing so, you’ll help to protect your health and naturally fight disease.

What exactly are your taste buds?

Your taste buds are nerve endings that can be found on your tongue. When you eat something, the taste buds sense the foods and the chemicals from the food attach themselves to the taste bud’s receptors. Once this happens, the taste buds send a signal to the brain so that it can register the taste of the food. The five distinct tastes are sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (the Japanese term for savory).

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It’s not only the taste buds on your tongue that send signals about food to your brain. The chemicals that the food releases also travel up the nose and their signals to the brain can enhance the taste of the food. Taste buds also respond to the temperature of the food.

What’s influencing your taste buds?

You may believe that you are not meant to enjoy healthy food, but that’s simply not true. There are quite a few factors that may influence your preference for specific foods.

1. The sweet stuff tastes really, really good

Have you ever wondered why as good as processed food is, you just can’t seem to quit it? Well, according to the body of research, this isn’t entirely your fault. In fact, it’s almost completely out of your control – almost.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience,  processed foods that are rich in sugar and unhealthy fats work like heroin and cocaine. Not only do they overload the measure centers in the brain, but as a result of this, they are also incredibly addictive.

2. Your genes hate bitter food

A study published in the journal Pediatrics discovered that there exists a gene that makes people acutely sensitive to bitterness.

Referred to as supertasters, these individuals are extremely sensitive to tastes such as coffee, tea, grapefruit, and certain cruciferous vegetables. Why is this a problem? Well, because despite their bitter tastes, vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli provide a wide range of benefits such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Thankfully, you can alleviate the bitterness associated with those vegetables by using spices.

3. Your parents may be to blame

Children learn the rules of eating from their guardians, and it’s up to parents to instill healthy eating habits into their children. Adults set the rules about what constitutes real, healthy food and how said food should be prepared.

Additionally, children also begin to associate both positive and negative connotations with particular foods.  For instance, children are often encouraged to eat something healthy but bad-tasting in order to get dessert. Unfortunately, this parenting technique may result in the child developing an unhealthy relationship with food, and it will only further reinforce the negative associations with that food.

Retraining your taste buds

The thought of you confidently choosing a few sticks of carrots over a block of brownies isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

You can gradually retrain your taste buds and teach your brain to crave healthier foods. In doing so, you’ll notice a shift in your mood, energy levels, and overall health. So, let’s get to retraining those picky taste buds.

Cut back on processed junk

The frequent consumption of processed foods won’t only dull your taste buds, but it will also make you addicted to the stuff. However, as mentioned, the less junk you eat the less of it you’ll regularly crave.

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In cutting back on processed foods, it’s important to do this slowly as rushing into it may strengthen your relationship with junk food. Try first by reducing the number of sugars that you put in your morning hot beverage. You can then move to swap out your unhealthy vegetable oil with healthier options such as extra virgin olive oil. You can also cut back on the salt by using wedges of lemon, lime, or other herbs and spices.

To overcome your sugar cravings, you can opt for a square or two of dark chocolate and also go for plain yogurt before adding fresh fruit to it.

Cook with old and new ingredients

Do you want to include more leafy greens in your cooking but are you still hesitant about the flavor? If so, you can pair them with something you enjoy.

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, repeatedly pairing new foods with familiar flavors can increase your liking for new foods.

Enhance the taste

There’s no point in eating healthy if the food doesn’t have any flavor.

It’s important to cook vegetables correctly as not doing so may only serve to enhance their bitterness. If you want to taste a vegetable’s natural sweetness, you should try sautéing or roasting it. You can also use spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon to enhance the sweet flavor.

Bottom line

Retraining your taste buds does take time – you may have to eat new food up to 18 times before you develop an inclination for it. However, it’s definitely worth it. 

It’s important that you do your best and not return to bad eating habits. Doing so may over-stimulate taste buds and the brain pleasure center, and this will make it even harder to quit processed junk food. However, if you persevere, you’ll have retrained your taste buds in no time, thus giving yourself the ultimate health boost.

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a journalist graduate and writer, specializing in health, beauty, and wellness. She also has a passion for poetry, equality, and natural hair. Identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to provide the latest information on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle and leave a more equitable society behind.


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