One of the most important aspects of a healthy diet is to develop a strong tasting palate. Most people that want to lose weight don’t like vegetables, and there’s no getting around that fact. So what are you supposed to do?
You don’t have to like vegetables. In fact, I would argue that most people don’t really like vegetables. And you might be surprised to find out that there’s a lot you can do to make eating vegetables so much more interesting. In this post, I’m going to give you a few tricks that can help you develop an appreciation for the wonderful world of vegetables.
What if you have serious health and fitness goals, but just don’t like vegetables? First of all, you need to know that you are not crazy (and that you are not alone). So try our three-step formula to go from coughing to eating the vegetables you used to hate.
Whether it’s a paleo or vegan diet, fasting or frequent eating, Mediterranean or neo-Nordic, almost all health-conscious dieters agree on one thing:
You should eat your vegetables.
Eating vegetables is a childhood mantra, a government slogan and a lesson that almost every health or fitness trainer teaches their clients at some point.
Even beginners know to eat rainbows (even if they don’t always know how).
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But many of our customers don’t like vegetables.
In fact, they hate them because many vegetables are bitter.
Personally, we love broccoli. We could easily eat several bags of this product.
And spinach, carrots, radicchio, arugula, watercress, Brussels sprouts and all those other plants that make a lot of people grimace and say ew.
We all love them.
However, many vegetables contain chemical compounds that make them taste bitter to some people. And rightly so:
Many people avoid bitter things.
- Broccoli = stinky socks.
- Green pepper = turpentine.
- Escarola = small boats of bitterness floating on the tip of the tongue.
Now we have a dilemma.
- Vegetables are good, healthy and important.
- Everyone has different taste preferences.
- Some people are genetically more inclined to dislike vegetables.
- How can we enjoy vegetables if we don’t want to eat them?
Therefore, in this article, we will explain :
- Why some people don’t like vegetables.
- Why aren’t they bad and honest if they don’t like vegetables.
- What you can do.
Yes, vegetables are healthy.
- Vegetables are packed with nutrients that your body enjoys. Vegetables are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. These nutrients help you stay healthy and avoid deficiencies (which lead to unwellness).
- Vegetables are high in volume but low in calories. In this way, they fill the stomach without taking in many extra calories. This allows you to control your energy balance (calorie intake versus calorie expenditure) and maintain a healthy weight or lose fat without feeling hungry.
- Vegetables provide dietary fibre. Fiber not only makes us feel full, it also feeds our gut bacteria and helps move our food through the digestive tract and remove unwanted waste.
- The vegetables add water. Staying hydrated is a good thing. The extra water also helps the dietary fibers do their job.
- Vegetables provide variety. There are so many different vegetables to try, and enjoying them can help you maintain a healthy diet.
Of course, it’s theoretically possible to eat too many vegetables….. but for most people it means eating several pounds a day. (And a lot of discomfort in the bathroom).
However, most people have the opposite problem: They eat almost no vegetables.
Despite the benefits of vegetables :
Vegetophobia is in our DNA.
You’ve probably heard of the four tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter.
In recent years, four other types of perfume have been identified:
- umami (refers to the spicy taste of meat), and
- kokumi (a taste in the mouth that can be described as delicious).
For most people – especially vegetable phobics – bitterness is the predominant taste of plants.
Vegetables, however, can be sweet (carrots, peas, corn, roasted beets, winter squash or, of course, sweet potatoes) or astringent (legumes, celery, Brussels sprouts, parsnips).
Bitterness is caused by alkaloids.
These are nitrogen-based chemical compounds that plants, fungi and bacteria produce to defend themselves against attacks by pests, pathogens and animals that might eat them.
Alkaloids are a large group of chemical substances with diverse effects. They can be:
- deadly (like atropine in belladonna),
- psychotropic (like psilocybin in psychedelic mushrooms),
- Analgesics (morphine, codeine),
- an antimalarial drug (quinine), or
- stimulant (yay, caffeine!).
Alkaloids as a group have many applications.
But because they can be so dangerous, we’ve evolved to recognize (and spit out) their characteristic bitterness quickly and easily.
And it’s not just modern people who go to war with their parents over broccoli. Rats refuse bitter food even when the connection between the proboscis and the bark is severed, suggesting that other species also refuse bitter food.
An aversion to bitterness may be an innate reflex (in other words, something you can’t control) rather than a preference.
So when your customers (or your children) tell you that they can’t stand the taste of cabbage, your response can begin with these words: This makes sense.
Why do some people agree with bitterness and others do not?
For nearly 100 years we have known that the ability to recognize and tolerate different bitter tastes varies significantly from person to person.
Taste is complicated.
Our taste, i.e. our ability to perceive complex flavor combinations, is determined by three factors.
What flavors are we exposed to in the womb?
Have you ever seen a child eat a meal that was too hot for you? I have one in the Thai countryside.
The woman I was eating with explained: A farang should not eat yellow peppers. Of course, this farang [essentially a white man] – young and stupid – did not heed this warning.
I think this is the first time food has ever hurt me.
What worried my young ego even more was watching a boy of about six eat the same food as I did, seemingly without any qualms (or drink four mugs of beer to beat the heat).
Now, it’s not just a matter of practice.
Taste preferences are inherited even before birth. Amniotic fluid contains an amazing array of biological aroma molecules, and babies are exposed to these aromas even before they begin to eat.
(Fun fact: the first studies in this area were bizarre – pregnant mothers were given garlic capsules and then had to sniff their amniotic fluid).
What is our genetic heritage?
Much of the current work on the genetic basis of taste begins with a substance called PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil). Some people seem to find the substance too bitter.
Others literally cannot taste it. Not at all.
Being a non-tester is not a problem. I’m not a taster. We’re actually quite normal.
In general, PROP tasters, who represent about a quarter of people, have a problem because they find many foods inedible. They are very, very sensitive to most strong perfumes. Like sweet, spicy… and, you guessed it, bitter.
Determining if you are a supertaster is pretty simple. Do you like hoppy beer, grapefruit juice, kale, tonic water, espresso and/or Sicilian olives? If that’s the case, you’re not a super master.
If these tastes seem excessive, you probably have sensitive kidneys.
What have we learned and practiced?
Of these three factors, hardening, familiarity and practice are probably the most important. Our taste buds can get used to the flavors if we try them over and over again.
For example, few people like the taste of coffee the first time. Usually divide the beer and the first time really the room.
But because we all like to get high, the flavors of beer and coffee are becoming more accessible. After all, we just love the bitter taste.
Here are some ways to discover our taste preferences:
How were we raised?
Some people grew up with television and just weren’t introduced to vegetables as children.
Some people are abandoned… but bad! Have you ever cooked cabbage or Brussels sprouts in the microwave? If so, I’m very sorry.
On behalf of all the Anglo-Saxon peoples of the world, I apologize to you for what my people have done to the green.
Overcooked beans, soggy carrots, grey peas….. We’ve met them all. And some poor people ate them every day.
What is our culture?
Where did you grow up? What did your family do? What’s your legacy?
Tastes, textures and smells differ significantly between geographical, cultural and ethnic groups.
This part is not genetic. It’s just what you’ve found normal since childhood, what you’ve been taught, and what has stood between you and hunger for much of human history.
If you’ve ever visited a market in Hong Kong, you may be familiar with the assault on the senses that is stinky tofu.
This is one of the few products I would never want to try. I didn’t even want to stand next to him. It’s surprisingly unpleasant… Unless you grew up with it, of course. In this case, it’s probably surprising.
This, of course, also applies to bitter flavors.
If you grew up eating bitter melon, like in South and East Asia, you’ll probably find the other bitter flavors less intrusive.
If you grew up in an Eastern European, Scottish or Irish family where you smelled of cabbage, turnips and onions, you may find these aromas pleasant.
Do you eat whole or processed foods?
In today’s world, with icebergs and watery tomatoes in the salad, bitter foods are not common either.
If you eat more packaged foods and less fresh ones, your tastes are more likely to be guided by a preference for and a search for the fatty and sweet flavors that processed foods offer.
Modern agriculture has greatly influenced our tastes.
Most modern plants and animals are carefully selected, not for taste or texture, but for yield and attractiveness.
This means big chicks that grow fast. Wheat that grows short, thick and fast. Tomatoes that remain firm and bright red (even if they taste like Styrofoam).
Unfortunately, modern agriculture has little interest in ensuring that everything tastes good.
Many foods have been stripped of their natural, complex and inherent flavor qualities simply because preserving the richness of the flavors was not the main goal.
Food companies try to sell the most food to the most people.
This means they are looking for such scents:
- very satisfactory; and
- very accessible.
This excludes spicy aromas, fresh aromas, organic aromas, astringent aromas, aromas that grow on you, so to speak, etc.
How you perceive the taste of vegetables affects your fitness and health.
If we know what flavors you like and prefer, we may be able to predict your body composition or health status.
Yes, people differ by age, country and culture (for example, German kids prefer fat and Spanish kids prefer umami).
But in general: If you like sweet and oily flavors, you are probably overweight; the reverse is also true.
It is not clear whether body weight affects taste preference or whether body weight affects taste preference.
But what we do know is this:
We can change our taste preferences.
While you may think that you are an adult and that your tastes are fixed, research shows that taste preferences/attractions can change significantly over time.
In other words, if you hate bitter tastes, you can change that… If you want to.
3 steps to a true love of vegetables
Whether you’re a beginner, have never eaten vegetables or just want to try new ways of eating plants, there is a simple formula you can use to make the bitterness less intense, more flavorful and much more enjoyable:
Find bitter foods, something that requires special effort and that you wouldn’t normally eat.
Take it easy. Put on your wildest and funniest music as a soundtrack. Let out a primal scream.
You’ll taste the grass! YEAH! !! BITTER BEAST MODE !!!
Just do it.
See what happens.
You can hate it… You can love it… you can think, meh.
However… They had the courage to at least try.
Research shows that we sometimes need to try new products several times before we tolerate or like them. So challenge yourself regularly. You’ll be surprised at what happens.
Given the complexity of flavor perception, almost all well-developed recipes utilize some form of flavor harmony.
In this case, it’s about combining foods or flavors with vegetables so that different tastes/keys can be pressed at the same time.
We can now predict some of these harmonics in advance using advanced measurements such as gas chromatography. But generally we rely on the chefs, who often have an incredible sense of what goes with what and prepare it for us.
The combination of bitterness with certain flavors can magically reduce volume.
The tongue has many receptors that bind to chemicals in food. When these receptors receive a chemical signal, they send information to the brain about what you are tasting.
(Differences in the number and type of these receptors contribute to our innate taste preferences.)
Chemical signals are like cars on the road. Sometimes the way to the brain is free, sometimes it can be blocked.
In particular, sweet and oily flavors can overpower the street and interfere with our brain’s perception of bitterness. Even some sugars and fats can make a difference (e.g. butter versus olive oil, glucose versus fructose, etc.).
So, after choosing the food and the supplement, we find the cushion.
Good cushions for bitterness are honey, maple syrup, butter, almonds and butter.
Don’t worry if you find they are high in calories. We just need balance, not a cup of butter or a pound of bacon.
Now look at the matrix below.
- Choose a conversation.
- Choose an addition.
- Pick a pillow.
Look for simple cooking methods that preserve the texture of the vegetables (the mush stops here, folks).
When you feel more comfortable, try combining more flavors – one item in each category at most. The different combinations are endless.
What to do next
Some advice from
At PN, we love the mantra: Progress, not perfection.
Do what works for you now… while being open to change in the future:
1. Forget the rules.
Ignore those who insist that all vegetables must be cold pressed, eaten naturally, bathed in cosmic vibrations or whatever is necessary to preserve their essential properties.
This is stupid. Cooking and seasoning is one thing. Thousands of years of human cuisine exist for a reason: Make food easy to digest and tasty.
News: If preserving the basic health benefits of a product means it tastes like cut grass, who cares? If you don’t want to eat it…
In good health.
2. Try a shiny new vegetable.
Check out the counters at your local grocery store or farmers market.
Ask other people what they like. (I’ve had conversations in the vegetable drawer with people who wanted to try something different).
Departure z. B. with less bitter options:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Butternut or other winter courgettes
- red pepper
- Red beetroot (which becomes sweeter when cooked)
- orange or purple sweet potatoes
3. Start where you are.
If you don’t eat vegetables a day, try to eat one at a time.
If you eat 2 servings, aim for 3.
If you already have a sandwich for lunch, just add a tomato, lettuce or a few slices of cucumber.
If you’re already making a delicious smoothie in the morning, add a few handfuls of spinach to it.
If you are already making a pasta sauce, add bell peppers, mushrooms, or any other vegetable you like.
You have the idea.
4. Explore, experiment and discover what works for YOU.
Find your way.
Be curious. Try something.
Find out what helps you eat more vegetables…. and try to do it more often.
If you don’t like it and/or you mess up, who cares? After all, you stepped out of your comfort zone, took a risk and learned something.
But it’s more likely you’ll find something else you like.
Click here to see the sources of information referenced in this article.
Ahrens B. Sensory taste preference and taste sensitivity and the association of unhealthy eating behaviour with overweight and obesity in primary school children in Europe – a synthesis of data from the IDEFICS study. Trial. 2015 4:8
Birch L. L., McPhee L., Steinberg L., Sullivan S. Conditioned taste preferences in young children. Physiol. Behavior. 1990 Mar;47(3):501-5.
Melis M, Yousaf NY, Mattes MZ, Cabras T, Messana I, Crnjar R, Tomassini Barbarossa I, Tepper BJ. Sensory perception and salivary protein response to sourness as a function of the 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) bitter taste phenotype. Physiol. Behavior. 2017 Jan 24;173:163-173.
Mennella JA. Development of food preferences : Lessons from longitudinal and experimental studies. The emphasis is on the quality of the food. 2006 Oct;17(7-8):635-637.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What do I do if I don’t like vegetables?
If you don’t like vegetables, you can try adding them to your favorite foods. For example, if you like pasta with tomato sauce, try adding some broccoli or spinach to the sauce.
What do you do if you don’t like fruits and vegetables?
You can try to eat more protein and less carbs.
How can I train myself to like vegetables?
You can start by adding vegetables to your diet gradually. Try adding a new vegetable every day for a week, then try another one the next week.
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