tastebuds 101

To understand your child better, it’s helpful to understand the basics of how taste and taste buds work.

Taste Bud Facts

  • The taste buds on our tongues send a signal of flavour to our brains.
  • We are born with a set number of taste buds. Not everyone has the same amount of taste buds.   This means that people experience taste in different ways.
  • The more taste buds a person has, the more sensitive they are to strong flavours. More taste buds means there’s a stronger taste signal sent to the brain.
  • 25% of people have more taste buds than the average person. These people are known as, get ready for it… Super-tasters!
  • 25% of people have less taste buds than the average person. They are known as non-tasters. It should be mentioned that these are awful names, but we’re stuck with them. Non-tasters do taste food, just less so than others. These people often put a lot of salt and pepper on their food to enhance taste.
  • The amounts of taste buds you have declines with time

So these facts are all very interesting, but are they relevant to you and your child? Absolutely. You probably have less taste buds than your child, so they experience flavours differently than you. It’s important to keep this in mind as you try to get them to eat foods that you consider tasty.

Now imagine being a child who is a super-taster.   As you’ve just learned, these children will have more taste buds than anybody else, so they’re very sensitive to strong tastes, and it’s easy for them to find common flavours overwhelming.  

I was one of those children.

Bland spaghetti sauce was too spicy for me. My mom had put nothing in it to make it spicy, but all the flavours overloaded my senses.

This can lead to very frustrating food experience, for both parents and children. It’s very helpful to be aware of how your child might be experiencing taste!

Reflection:

The next time your child turns up his face after trying a food, ask him to identify what it is about the food that is unpleasant to him. Is it too bitter? Salty? The texture?