May 5, 2015

Why do we love some foods and hate some?

Hi Guys,

I am writing after a long time. I had many ideas to write, but didn’t write as I didn’t either have time or I was lazy. I will try to be regular from now on and I really hope I am. To comeback, I thought of choosing a very light topic.

As a kid I used to like Mint Chutneys very much. But as I grew up, I started hating it. Today I can forcefully have it, but never as fond as I used to have it when I was a kid. I never really liked Cauliflower as a kid, but now I have started having a certain liking for it. I don’t like a large variety of food stuffs, but I do forcefully eat them these days. But, still few items like Capsicum and Brinjal are too difficult for me to have.

Researchers say that genetics play an important role in our food habits. Genetics in the sense, not just a few generations, but the entirety of Human Civilization. Nutrients and Energy was very important for the survival and daily activity of human beings. So, they were adept at picking Ripe Fruits which were a good source of Nutrients and Energy. They were sweet. At the same time, many poisonous plants were bitter. You need to avoid them. It is hardwired in your brain to prefer sweet and avoid bitter taste.

One of my friends hates chocolates – anything that has chocolaty flavor like cakes, sweets, etc. She says the bitterness in the chocolate that makes her avoid it. But she doesn’t have a problem with White Chocolates. Another one of my friends hate Nuts. He doesn’t have a chocolate if it has Nuts.  The list goes on with others too – Watermelon, Mushrooms, Apples, fries, Ice Cream, etc. Me hating Capsicum and they hating chocolates and nuts are because of the same reason. Somehow, our taste buds pick up the unique taste in them and send a strong signal to the brain.

But then how have do you start liking and disliking a few things. As a fetus in your mother’s womb, you inhale and exhale amniotic fluid, which is flavored by your mother’s dietary habits. So, whatever you mother eats when you are in the womb, you tend to develop preferences for them (in my case, my preferences and my mother’s preferences are completely different). And as an infant, you tend to eat whatever is fed till the age of two years – you don’t have personal preferences. When you turn two, you become Neophobic. That is you tend to completely avoid new food.

So many parents leave it at that and say my child doesn’t like it. But in reality, the child hates anything new. It takes nearly a dozen times to get used to it. One clever technic is to mix up new food with a used food. If the child still doesn’t like, then the child’s taste buds are really averse to them. This technique is known as Learned Preference and can be tried at any age.

What about my hate for Mint Chutney and liking for Cauliflower? I vividly remember me throwing up one fine morning after having Mint Chutney when I was 11 or 12. From then on, my mind has created a barrier between me and Mint. How much ever I try to convince myself that it is not going to do anything, I can’t eat it. Good thing, it is slowly changing. And I started preferring Cauliflower because of the Fries and then slowly it spread into other varieties as well. It was a Learned Preference.

Food is influenced by Psychological factors too. You prefer certain colors (I guess the orange color of Cauliflower made me like it), textures, shapes, etc. Similarly your mind is always looking for survival mechanisms and taste aversion is one of them. If a food made you sick, your mind avoids that considering it might be a poisonous substance.

The culture in which you are grow up also plays a role. Indians prefer spicy food. Many foreigners find it hard to even taste it. There are many cultures that eat anything and everything – ants, spiders, crabs, etc. It might appear gross to you, but is their staple. Even without tasting you are averse to them, but they are used to it.

It is too frustrating to hear comments from people, ‘How can you not eat it? It is so delicious’ or ‘How do you eat it? It tastes very bad’. Understand that it is because your taste buds vary and psychological preferences vary. Learn to respect the differences and move on.

Happy Reading!!!


References and Extra Readings