We’ve all heard that we must eat vegetables to stay healthy. The rainbow of produce available from a garden provides many of the nutrients that our bodies need to grow, repair, protect, and clean themselves. Then why do some people run for the hills every time they see a piece of broccoli? Recent research into our sense of taste may help cast some light on this.
The human mouth has more than 25 taste receptors, which register flavors in our food within the five basic tastes: sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness, and umami. The taste receptor called TAS2R38 influences how we sense the bitter flavor. Genetic differences in TAS2R38 make a quarter of the population “super-tasters,” which is not as appealing as it might sound. These people are particularly sensitive to bitterness in ordinary foods like spinach and cabbage and tend to eat far less vegetables as a result. This, in turn, may lead to heart or weight problems and other kinds of diseases.
Scientists are currently trying to come up with less bitter varieties of garden favorites. For now, super-tasters can try different cooking methods and spices to make those all-important vegetables easier to swallow.