Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chocolate and Your Taste Buds from I Am That Girl

Sweet Teeth and Taste Buds: The Link Between Chocolate and Your Tongue
by August Johnson McLaughlin, CN, CPT

Have you ever known a woman who dislikes chocolate? “I’m not a big sweets person,” she’ll say, or, “This is too rich for me.” After one bite of her decadent dessert she sets her fork down. You sit across from her, trying not to drool while her words blur together into a distant rambling stream, wondering how in the world she canNOT eat that chocolate! The differences between you and she are likely not about will power but rather the power of your taste buds.
If you dislike chocolate, you may be part of the nearly 25% of people known as super tasters. (Yes, this is an actual scientific term.) Super tasters have highly sensitive taste buds and more of them than their chocolate-loving counterparts. At close glance, their tongues are bumpy - chock full of acute taste buds, or papillae. This results in low tolerance for highly sweet, fatty or bitter foods.

Another near quarter of people is known as non-tasters. Non-tasters do taste but not as deeply as super tasters. They have fewer papillae on their tongues and can tolerate most flavors and tastes. They are drawn to highly flavorful foods, sugary sweets and yes, chocolate. (If you are known to put 7 packets of sweetener in your coffee, this may be you.)

The rest of us are coined normal tasters. Normal tasters have moderately bumpy tongues and average ability to taste and differentiate between flavors. They are less picky about foods than super tasters but not as extreme in taste acceptance as non-tasters.

There are pros and cons to each of these categories. Super tasters eat fewer fatty, fried or sugary foods. They may also have aversion to healthy foods such as certain vegetables. (Imagine if you could taste the bitter earth in a vegetable variety. A super taster very well might!) They are often self-proclaimed picky eaters and are particular about where, what and how they eat.
Non-tasters (most chocoholics) can eat just about anything. Such flavor allowance can be a blessing or a curse. If a non-taster goes for sugary, salty or fatty foods, most often it can be problematic. They may struggle with cravings or portion control. If they commit to a diet based on healthy foods, they’re able to enjoy them in great variety, allowing for heightened nutrient intake and wellness.

Normal tasters fare pretty well in between. They tend to be moderate eaters and obsess less over what they eat. They are more focused on dinner conversation than the food on (or not on) their plates and tend to be more relaxed in general.

Knowing where you fall on the taste bud spectrum can heighten understanding of yourself and others and can inspire positive changes in your eating life. Your love, loathing or apathy toward chocolate may be just the tool you need to get started. (Ah, yet another reason to cheer for chocolate…)

photos by tammy green, anjuli ayer

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