26 June 2023
I started working at a summer camp today and out of the nearly one hundred kids who came through my cooking class, a few expressed reluctance to try the food we made (in case you were wondering, it was Key Lime Yogurt Dip, Chocolate Hummus, and fruit for dipping). Most of them overcame their fears and ended up eating (and enjoying!) it.
It got me thinking about how we accept new foods and flavors as adults. Our aversion to change means we tend to eat the same foods we always eat, those we grew up with (this is one reason that food companies use popular children’s cartoon characters to sell products). But what if we chose NOT to let junk food hijack our taste buds? What if we become the hero of our own story and choose foods that support health?
I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic to say our lives depend upon it.
It turns out that, within a few weeks of eating more healthfully, our taste sensations change so that foods with lower salt, sugar and fat content actually taste better. This may have something to do with the fact that our 10,000 taste buds are replaced roughly every 2 weeks.
Over time, choosing a diet rich in whole plant foods (vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts & seeds) also changes the composition of our gut microbiome. Now, instead of calling out for ultra processed foods (because bacteria get hooked on junk food too), those microorganisms start to crave the fuel that is better for them. As Dr. Michael Greger (Nutritionfacts.org) says, “The longer we eat healthy foods, the better they taste!”
If you’re thinking about including more plant foods in your diet but are concerned about the lack of familiarity, know that this is only temporary. I trained my taste buds to like (well...sort of) fennel. It’s really never too late to try new things, and if the new thing is a plant forward dietary pattern, you’ll have more time to do it!