You Can “Reprogram” Your Tastebuds — Here’s How

August 12, 2019

Being a picky eater isn’t all fun and games, mac and cheese and plain pizza. Actually, it can be quite the challenge to navigate. If only your tongue enjoyed the taste of broccoli and asparagus. The world would truly be your oyster — or should we say, your cruciferous vegetable? Well, according to new research from the University at Buffalo (UB), it’s actually possible to “reprogram” your tastebuds to like foods you’re less than enthused about. All it takes is persistence.

Researchers used lab rats to test how a change in proteins in our saliva might be the key to curing picky eater syndrome. The team filled two water bottles with different tasting solutions — one bitter, one sweet. They then trained rats, some of which were genetically modified with activated salivary proteins to similar to those who had been raised on a bitter-food diet, to choose from the two bottles to indicate whether it tasted bitter or sweet.

Ann-Marie Torregrossa, PhD, an assistant professor in UB’s department of psychology and the associate director of the UB’s Center for Ingestive Behavior Research, said per UB’s new service as reported by Healthline, that those rats with turned-on bitter-induced salivary proteins couldn’t taste bitterness at higher concentrations in comparison to others that didn’t have the same activated protein.

“Once these proteins are on board, the bitter tastes like water. It’s gone,” Torregrossa said.

So, what exactly does this all mean for humans who are picky eaters? “If we can convince people to try broccoli, greens, and bitter foods, they should know that with repeated exposure, they’ll taste better once they regulate these proteins,” Torregrossa said.

All it takes to like bitter veggies is eating them again and again, and then again.

Your saliva will eventually change, and your tastebuds will no longer recognize the bitter taste. Repeated exposure to coniferous veggies, and perhaps other foods you don’t like, could just help you come around to them.

If you’re not buying into this new science, Dr. Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline that enhancing the other sensory factors surrounding taste can also help cure pickiness.

“The way to make our brains learn to like healthier foods would be to increase the flavors of these healthy foods to provide some other sensory enjoyment,” he said. “Possibly adding something to make it smell good, which would theoretically co-stimulate our vision centers.”

Furthermore, Dr. Segil said, along with repetition, being able to trick our brain into believing we’re eating something else could help us enjoy otherwise unenjoyable foods. However, trick your brain responsibly and without buying into whacky gimmicks like shady nutrient drinks or shakes.

If you’re a picky eater, what are your thoughts about this new method of switching up your appetite? Do you think it’s worth a shot?

Just think about all the possibilities. You may just enjoy green foods after all!

Plus, you’ll probably expand your vocabulary in the process. Ragu, slaw, baba ghanoush…the list goes on.

We totally understand the hatred about cottage cheese. We really do. However, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

And literally everyone will be so proud of you for eating that one thing you’ve always hated with a passion. You might just make your mother cry.

Because this? This gets kind of old. Sorry not sorry.

Then again, perhaps there are some positives about being picky. Trust us — liking everything means you eat everything.

You can also save yourself a lot of money when you eat out. Pasta with butter is good everywhere you go.

This sound ominous. But at the same time…true. 

Thank you for your apology. It was needed.

If you’re determined to cure your kooky eating habits, we recommend you give this repeated exposure experiment a go. If you end up falling for broccoli, please alert the media. We’re anxious to know if this actually works.