Sunday, 27 March 2022

What Influences Your Tastebuds?

It goes without saying that all of us have different preferences when it comes to food, but have you ever stopped wonder what actually influences our tastebuds?

I recently discovered a really interesting piece on flavours which provided a lot of very interesting insight into the topic. 


All humans are to some extent predisposed to liking sweet and salt and disliking acid and bitter.

This is because early humans learnt that if a fruit was acid then it was probably unripe and so waited until it had ripened, had increased sugars and tasted better. Bitterness in foods is often associated with poison so we are programmed to reject it, and we all need salt to live and therefore our bodies crave it if we are in need (same with fat).

Age & Gender

Age, gender and other demographics play a part in what tastes/flavours we like.When we are young we are often drawn to sweet things (part of our genetics - see above), but as we grow older we acquire new tastes, and we are likely to enjoy those that are more bitter, acid, salty and astringent. It is accepted that it can take up to 13 tastes of a new food, particularly a more challenging one such as anchovies or olives, before a person becomes accustomed to it.

Tastes vary with gender but this is likely to be affected more by cultural influences and conforming to peer group pressures than anything else, with females often choosing lighter, healthier options whilst males can adopt a more bravado based taste with choices such as very hot chillies etc


As people grow up, nostalgic or evocative tastes become a bigger part of their preferred choices.

This can work in a couple of ways. Tastes of foods we had as children can, despite our palates maturing, remain enjoyable. A couple of examples are Marmite and Mr Whippy ice creams. The former is a taste that, if you don’t grow up with it, you are not likely to enjoy as an adult: salty, umami, bitter. A Mr Whippy ice cream is very sweet with a not particularly refined vanilla flavour.


Unsurprisingly, our tastes change across the seasons. In the colder months we are looking for heavier, more intense flavours, whereas in the warmer months we crave lighter, fresher, brighter foods. The flavours are also influenced by the temperature they are served at. Cool/room temperature foods, e.g. salads, require different seasoning to those served hot or very cold, e.g. a casserole and ice cream respectively.

There are lots of factors involved in influencing our tastebuds, too - you can read the full piece here - I find the subject really interesting.

How have your tastebuds developed over the years? Do you find that there are things you enjoy now that you've previously disliked? I'd love to hear your experiences.

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