The best time to heighten your sense of taste is when you are young because as we get older, something happens to our taste buds.
The entertaining and well-researched site bonappetit.com explains, “It all starts to go downhill around 40. That’s when our taste buds begin to stop growing back. Individually, each taste bud goes through a constant cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that lasts about two weeks. A healthy tongue sloughs off and regrows these taste buds constantly. Once we hit middle age, the buds continue to die and be shed, but a smaller number regenerate as the years go on.
And with fewer taste buds in our mouths, flavors begin to taste … blander
And, yes, our sense of smell declines once we hit middle age, too, and there’s research being done now exploring the neuroscience behind the change.”[adToAppearHere]
The intelligent site recipes.howstuffworks.com expands on the subject. “We are born with more than 10,000 taste buds in our mouths, with most of them on the surface of our tongue. Those taste buds are housed inside papillae — those bumps you see when you stick out your tongue in the mirror. Within those taste buds are 50 to 100 taste cells with receptors that detect whether you’re eating and send that information to your brain.
As we age, we have fewer and fewer taste buds, and those we have become less sensitive as the nerves that send taste signals to our brain wear out over time. So, the bitterness in broccoli that may have made us push our plates away as kids doesn’t send as many strong signals to our brains in adulthood. Plus, scientists have found some children have a genetic predisposition to being more sensitive to bitterness in certain foods, including vegetables.”
Many of us eat in front of the TV, in the car, at our desk, during meetings and on the run. By doing so, our mind is not completely focused on our eating and when our minds are tuned out at mealtime; our digestive processes can become 30 to 40 percent less effective at breaking down our food. Practicing mindful eating can help — not only will it teach you to savor the distinct textures and flavors in your food but the practice can also help you reduce bloating, gas and constipation.[adToAppearHere]
US Department of Health and Human Services educates us as well. “Many things can cause you to lose your sense of taste. Most of the time there are ways to help with the problem.
Medications, like antibiotics and pills to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, can sometimes change how food tastes. Some medicines can make your mouth dry. Having a dry mouth can cause food to taste funny and also make it hard to swallow. Talk to your doctor if you think a medicine is affecting your sense of taste. There may be different medicines that you can try. Do not stop taking your medicine.
Gum disease, an infection in your mouth, or issues with your dentures can leave a bad taste in your mouth that changes the way food tastes. Brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash can help prevent these problems. Talk to your dentist if you have a bad taste in your mouth that won’t go away.
Some great information to heighten our sense of taste is found at www.rd.com.
Here’s how to sustain smell and taste so that every bite (and sniff) tells you what you need to know:
- Serve food that looks like itself. Forget fancy-schmancy presentation. If you’re serving fish, keep it looking like a fish. Your sense of taste is stronger if your brain can connect what you’re eating with how it looks.
- Put on your seat belt. A common cause of loss of smell (which then directly affects taste) is automobile accidents, even low-speed crashes, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Any impact can shift the brain within your skull, tearing delicate nerve fibers that connect your nose to your brain.
- Go for a brisk, 10-minute walk or run. Our sense of smell is higher after exercise. Researchers suspect it might be related to additional moisture in the nose.
- Drink a glass of water every hour or so. Dry mouth — whether due to medication or simply dehydration — can adversely affect your sense of taste, says Evan Reiter, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Eye & Ear Specialty Center in Richmond.
- Shuck a dozen oysters. Among their other benefits, oysters are one of the highest food sources of zinc, and zinc deficiencies contribute to a loss of smell as well as taste.
- Make a list of any medicines you’re taking and ask your doctor about their effect on smell and taste. Hundreds of medications affect taste and smell, including statins, antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, and chemotherapy drugs like methotrexate, also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. If your meds are on the list, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives or lower doses. Don’t, however, stop taking your medication or cut your dosage on your own.
- Stub out that cigarette and make it your last. Nothing screws up the smell receptors in your nose and the taste receptors on your tongue like cigarettes. Long-term smoking can even permanently damage the olfactory (a.k.a., sniffing) nerves in the back of your nose.
- Eat only when you are hungry. Our sense of smell (and thus taste) is strongest when we’re hungriest.
- Humidify your air in the winter. Our sense of smell is strongest in the summer and spring, says Dr. Hirsch, most likely because of the higher moisture content in the air.
- Eat in a restaurant or with other people. Dr. Hirsch calls this the “herd response.” He cites studies that find that eating in the presence of other people makes food taste better than eating alone.
- Stay away from the diaper pail and other stinky smells. Prolonged exposure to bad smells (like the sewer plant up the road) tends to wipe out your ability to smell, says Dr. Hirsch. So if you must be exposed to such odors on a prolonged basis, wear a mask over your nose and mouth that filters out some of the bad smells.
- Add spices to your food. Even if your sense of smell and taste has plummeted, you should still retain full function in your “irritant” nerve, which is the nerve that makes you cry when you cut an onion, or makes your eyes water when you taste peppermint or smell ammonia. So use spices like hot chili powder to spice up your food.
- Blow your nose and clean it out with saline spray. A simple thing, but it can help, because a blocked nose means blocked nerve receptors.
- Chew thoroughly and slowly. This releases more flavor and extends the time that the food lingers in your mouth so it spends more time in contact with your taste buds. Even before you start chewing, stir your food around. This has the effect of aerating the molecules in the food, releasing more of their scent.
- Stick to one glass of wine or beer. Dr. Hirsch’s research finds the sense of smell declines as blood alcohol levels rise.
- Eat a different food with every forkful. Instead of eating the entire steak at once, then moving on to the potato, take a bite of steak, then a bite of potato, then a bite of spinach, etc. Recurrent new exposures to the scent will keep your olfactory nerves from getting bored, thus enhancing your taste buds.
- Make an appointment with an allergist. Stop trying to treat recurrent allergies or runny nose with over-the-counter products. See an expert. There are a range of lifestyle changes and medications that can have you breathing clearly (thus improving your sense of smell and taste) in just a week or so.
- Reset your taste for sugar and salt by cutting them out for at least a week. Processed foods have so much sugar and salt that you’ll practically stop tasting them if you eat these foods often. Try this experiment: Check the salt content of your favorite cereal, and if it’s more than 200 mg sodium per serving, switch to a low-sodium brand for two weeks. Once you switch back, you’ll suddenly taste all the salt you were overlooking. Same goes for sugar.
- Avoid very hot foods and fluids. They can damage your taste buds.
- Try sniff therapy. It is possible to train your nose (and brain) to notice smells better. Start by sniffing something with a strong odor for a couple of minutes several times a day. Do this continually for three or four months and you should notice your sense of smell getting stronger — at least where that particular item is involved, says Dr. Hirsch.
If you are going to travel the world, especially when you are young, beautiful and adventurous, wouldn’t it be wise to enjoy every tasty bite of food as you dine at some of the world’s most unique restaurants? By applying many of the above suggestions, not only will your food taste better, it will taste better while you are young enough to enjoy it with you maximum number of taste buds functioning at their highest level.
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Sources: brainyquote.com, Wikipedia, fciwomenswrestling.com, fciwomenswrestling2.com, FCI Elite Competitor, WB270.com, dwwgalaxy.com, photos thank you Wikimedia Commons.