5 Reasons Why We Love Some Foods & Hate Others

published Apr 29, 2011
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(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

Do you love eating super-spicy curry that no one else at the table can stomach? Or hate slimy okra even though the rest of your family loves it? According to scientists, there are five reasons why food tastes different to every individual, and not all of them involve our taste buds.

We are all born with a love of sweet foods and a dislike of bitter flavors, but beyond that, the foods we love and the foods we hate can vary wildly. A recent article in the Washington Post laid out the five influences on how people taste food.

1. Genetics: People experience bitter flavors differently, as the combination of bitter receptor genes varies for each person. And almost everyone lacks the ability to detect at least one scent, meaning that the chemical that gives truffles their distinctive odor might strike you as either offensive or earthy. Or you might be among the 25% who can’t smell it at all.

2. Experience: Did you know babies are predisposed to liking the foods their mothers ate while they were pregnant and later while breastfeeding? Exposing children to a wide range of foods can start even before they’re born.

3. Culture: Not many people like extremely bitter or spicy foods the first time tasting them, but they can come to tolerate and even crave them with repeated exposure and by being around people who enjoy these foods.

4. Gender: Women are more likely to crave sweets and men are more likely to crave salty foods. This should come as no surprise if you’ve ever seen an advertisement for chocolate.

5. Texture: Although science cannot yet fully explain why, some people simply hate gritty, slimy or creamy foods, no matter their flavor. Case in point: natto, the slippery fermented soybeans pictured above.

Read the full article for more interesting facts about how we experience the taste of food.

Do these factors explain any of your favorite or least favorite foods?

Related: What Do You Do When Taste Buds Clash?