When Trina first approached me about writing this piece, I was more than enthusiastic. Trina’s been a member of the Bonzai community for quite some time and she also manages an awesome web space of her own. And this topic happens to be near and dear to my heart, as it’s something I’ve experienced in my own health journey, but have had trouble conveying to others along the way. “No, I don’t miss cheese/ice cream/sausage/etc, because *my tastes have truly changed*”. Here, Trina explains exactly how that works. I learned a lot from reading this article, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!
Lately I’ve been wondering why the more fresh produce I eat, the better it tastes. Once I started increasing the amount of raw fruits and vegetables in my diet, a cycle of bizarre cravings kicked in. The more frequently I ate fresh foods, the more frequently I wanted to!
It’s like my taste receptors have re-learned to love the flavor of fresh vegetables and fruit. Am I fooling myself though? Is this mind over matter, or can you really teach old taste buds new tricks?
How Our Taste Buds Work
Uncovering the mystery of how our tastebuds work is one part revelation, one part inspiration and one part taste sensation!
Those bumps on the surface of our tongues are actually called papillae and our tastebuds are buried inside them. Our tastebuds make direct contact with the chemicals in food and translate this information into electrical signals which then travel to our brains and deliver the sensation of taste. It’s the tiny hairs (or microvilli) within our taste buds that pick up sensory information about the sweet, sour, bitter, salty or savoury (umami) flavours on our tongues.
On average, most people have about 10,000 taste buds. Most are on our tongues, but taste buds are also located on the insides of our cheeks and on the rooves of our mouths.
Before we get to about 50 years old, our taste buds regenerate every 10 days or so. After 50 the number of taste buds declines to about 5000. This is why babies and toddlers often seem to have an enhanced sense of taste, while older people sometimes oversalt their food to regain the taste sensations of their youth!
How to Regain Your Taste Sensation
Loss of taste sensation is often due to factors other than age. We also make avoidable lifestyle choices that reduce the abilities of our taste receptors. These include:
- Ingesting foods loaded with pesticides and other chemicals
- Eating processed foods that are often high in artificial flavors or colorings
- Eating too much mucus-forming foods such as white flours or dairy, which can block olfactory sensors in our nasal passages
- Using drugs (both legal and illegal) which can alter our perceptions of flavor
- Believing cultural influences that tell us junk food flavors are more desirable
Each year more than 200,000 people in the USA report a loss of taste sensation to their doctor. This might help explain why some people who are used to a diet of processed junk food think that healthy eaters are a bunch of weirdos. How could we possibly relish a juicy home-grown tomato fresh off the vine when we could suck on a bottle of ketchup instead? What’s with enjoying sweet, crispy carrot sticks when a carton of deep-fried potatoes is available at the take-away just around the corner? Why do we waste our time preparing divine salads full of bright leafy greens, shredded sweet carrots, plump tomatoes, salty olives and creamy avocadoes topped with pungent fresh herb dressings, when we could simply pick up a cardboard-textured (and flavored) hamburger from the fast food drive-through? We must be out of our minds!
Seriously though, eating a lot of raw vegetables and fruit can reset your body’s natural instincts and intuition about food. As your raw food health levels increase you’ll find yourself drawn towards more healthful and naturally flavorsome foods. Over time you’ll lose interest in letting highly processed foods into your system.
To regenerate your taste buds, choose to eat healthy, fresh, whole foods and avoid artificial flavorings and additives. Eventually your taste buds will regain their maximum potential once again, allowing you to enjoy every last ounce of amazing flavor in your food.
Taste Bud Revivor Salad Dressing
- 2 red bell peppers (capsicums)
- 6-8 sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram (or oregano)
- 1 tablespoon of lemon thyme (or thyme)
Blend all ingredients until well combined.
Makes about 1 cup.
The brilliant thing about this salad dressing is that it’s nearly oil-free, apart from the sun-dried tomatoes. This means that you’re not adding a whole heap of calories and fat to your healthy salad.
Enjoy this dressing paired with leafy green salads, spooned into an avocado half or spread on crackers for a quick and nutritious snack.
Trina Cleary raves about raw food health at Growing Raw, a healthy eating guide that provides tips and information to help you grow your own food and make nutritious eating a daily habit.