Postdate: 23 August 2017
You probably know the expression 'some people don't trust anything they don't know'. Not everybody is blessed with a wide preference of tastes, which is often already established in the early years of life. The good news is that you can train this regardless of your age.
Train your taste buds
From an early age on, children have clear preferences in taste. This is determined by evolution. Bitterness and sourness are tastes you have to 'learn' to enjoy, while the taste for sweetness and saltiness seem to partially congenital. This is because, in nature, bitterness and sourness are considered poisonous, while sweetness is associated with breast milk and fruits. Salt is important for the water balance in our body. Spicy or strongly seasoned food is something you can get used to. You may find it unpleasant in the beginning but, according to the American gastro-psychologist Paul Rozin, you make yourself less sensitive to it by training yourself to eat this kind of food. Even the intake of dairy products needed training as, in the old days, the human body could not digest lactose. From generation to generation, most of our population ultimately developed a tolerance for lactose, especially in Europe and in parts of Africa.
Go for variation
When you (from a young age) have been in contact with many different tastes and structures, you learn to develop a wide range of tastes. Some researchers are of the opinion that just looking at certain food types can give a positive effect. It has to do with repetitive exposure, but how often this is, varies per person and stage in life. When you want to learn to eat something new, you need to persevere and to add variation. You have to bring change to your subconscious. Suppose you always find vegetables to be too bitter. Your subconscious will keep telling you not to eat them, even though the cause does not lie with the vegetables themselves but with the preparation. It is important to add something to your meal in such a way that the taste experience is optimal. All your senses must be included. Think about the use of herbs for smell and taste, combinations of colours and textures, or the preparation itself: steaming, stir-frying, cooking, or grilling. Some people may just need ten times tasting something new before they enjoy it, the other may need a hundred times. If you want to develop a new eating habit, you need to allow yourself the time to get used to it. Don't give up too quickly and try to get more informed about the different ways of preparation.
‘No-one can change your eating habits for you; you have to be the one to make it happen’