Hate Vegetables? Blame Your Genes.

You're not picky — you're a "super-taster"

Selection of fresh  vegetables and fruits viewed from above.
Selection of fresh vegetables and fruits viewed from above.
Getty Images
By Bonnie Stiernberg / November 11, 2019 9:36 am

If the thought of eating leafy green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbage makes your stomach  churn, there may be a scientific reason behind your picky eating. As CNN points out, you may be a “super-taster” — someone genetically predisposed to taste food differently.

Super-tasters are reportedly extra sensitive to bitterness, a quality common in many vegetables. “The person who has that genetic propensity gets more of the sulfur flavor of, say, Brussels sprouts, especially if they’ve been overcooked,” University of Connecticut professor Valerie Duffy told CNN. “So that [bitter] vegetable is disliked, and because people generalize, soon all vegetables are disliked. If you ask people, ‘Do you like vegetables?’ They don’t usually say, ‘Oh yeah, I don’t like this, but I like these others.’ People tend to either like vegetables or not.’

According to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, those super-tasters with a sensitivity to bitterness are 2.6 times more likely to eat fewer vegetables than people without it — and that’s not a good thing.

“As we age as a population, vegetables are very important for helping us maintain our weight, providing all those wonderful nutrients to help us maintain our immune system and lower inflammation to prevent cancer, heart disease and more,” Duffy said.

But, as she points out, there are ways of getting around the bitterness of some vegetables if you happen to be one of the people genetically predisposed to disliking it. “Just because somebody carries the two copies of the bitter gene doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy vegetables,” she said. “Cooking techniques such as adding a little fat, a little bit of sweetness, strong flavors like garlic or roasting them in the oven, which brings out natural sweetness, can all enhance the overall flavor or taste of the vegetable and block the bitterness.”

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