Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Is your fussy eater a ‘super-taster’?:

For super-tasters, sugar can be sweeter, sodium saltier and chilli really, really hot.
By Kerryn Boogaard
Date: September 30 2013
Tags: food, kids,
Editor Rating:

Growing up my brother and I were very different in many ways. These differences did not stop at our palates and adventure for food.

Being a foodie from a young age I of course was the adventurous eater that enjoyed eating foods such as sardines, pickled onions, gherkins and pretty much all fruits and vegetables. My brother on the other hand chose a ‘salad’ of cheese and beetroot and enjoyed a vegetable combination of potato and peas.

I know the differences between sibling’s tastes are not uncommon. I often hear that child number one will eat almost anything, yet child number two will put their foot down in refusal of many vegetables. These poor little ones are often labeled as ‘fussy’ or ‘picky’ but maybe there is an explanation (for some)?

The term ‘super-taster’ has been around since the 1990s, but it seems this science is forming the basis of some interesting culinary experiments in recent times.

The tongues of super-tasters are more populated with fungiform papillae, which house your taste receptors. Some people’s papillae are also more sensitive than others.

This means that super-tasters experience the five basic tastes with more intensity, especially foods that are bitter. This may very well explain way my brother was not happy to eat his broccoli and brussel sprouts, even after much encouragement and a little bribery.

As I have explored this concept of the super-taster it made me realise that my husband may also, in fact, be super when it comes to his eats.

It is not just the bitter taste that may be unbearable for super-tasters, but sugar may be sweeter and sodium saltier. Although salt is tasted with more intensity, super-tasters seem to love salty foods (potentially due to sodium’s ability toblock the bitterness that supertasters are more sensitive to).This makes me think of my brother loving chips when we were young and my husband loving salty Dutch licorice … I always thought this was just him embracing his grandparents heritage?

A little hint of chilli may also cause super-tasters to work up a sweat, taking over their senses and enjoyment of a meal.

I will never forget one of the first meals I cooked for my husband. I was so proud of the traditionally mild Penang curry I had prepared especially for him with much love. After the first bite he started to work up a sweat, which led to him taking his shirt off at the dinner table! Now I really wasn’t complaining about that part but I was so surprised as I could hardly taste the chili.

I have slowly increased his tolerance over the years, which makes me wonder if super-tasters can be transformed?

Ok, getting back to characteristics of the super-taster.

They are less likely to enjoy an alcoholic beverage (hmmm not sure of my big brother falls under that category), coffee and rich desserts.

It is not uncommon to be a super-taster with about one quarter of our population having the taste buds hat have evolved to be classed as ‘super.’

There is of course a spectrum of taste, with some super-tasters preferring different qualities in food compared to others. However, experts believe that super-tasters are less likely to enjoy sweeter, higher fat foods (a bonus), however dislike many green vegetables and go for the saltier option more often (a down side).

This little science lesson has showed me that some people are just not going to love and enjoy all of their fruits and vegetables, and this can’t be helped. However, I am keen to follow the experiments designed to give super-tasters a helping hand. One suggestion is to add a little sugar (don’t stress, just a pinch) to brussels sprouts to help reduce the bitterness that some may experience. 

Maybe I will add a little honey to our broccoli tonight?

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