Does Your Palate Change Over Time?

Read on to learn more about why it happens and how it affects your nutritional choices.

As you age, your body goes through a lot of changes. Knees might become creakier, your face wrinkles and grey hairs start to come in. For many people, palates also change. This is because your tastebuds evolve, causing your palate to change over time. 

Read on to learn more about why it happens and how it affects your nutritional choices.

How your tastebuds evolve 

Understanding how your tastebuds change helps you understand how your palate changes over time. It explains why you hated broccoli as a child but can’t seem to do without it now. 

Your tastebuds are the little bumps you see on your tongue when you stick it out. They are responsible for perceiving if food is sweet, salty, bitter umami or savory. Every couple of weeks, some of your tastebuds die and regenerate. With time, however, they stop regenerating and die off. 

Not to worry, the average adult has 2,000 to 4,000 tastebuds, so you’re left with plenty when some die off. Fun fact there are also tastebuds on the roof of your mouth and in the back of your throat. 

The number of tastebuds on your tongue decreases as you age. The decline typically begins in your 40s if you are a woman and in your 50s if you are a man. The tastebuds left behind also start to change. They shrink, affecting how much we enjoy salty or sweet foods. With time it also affects the way you perceive bitter foods. 

What this means for your diet 

Learning that your tastebuds die off as you age might seem alarming, but it’s why you enjoy so many foods you won’t have touched with a ten-foot pole as a kid. Foods like olives, goat cheese, pickles and broccoli appeal more to your palate as an adult because your tastebuds have changed. These foods can feel overwhelming for children whose tastebuds are much more sensitive than an adult’s. 

Your tastebuds evolving opens up your palate to a world of food options from all over the world. When cooking, you can try your hands at everything from Indian cuisine to Thai cuisine and appreciate all the rich textures and flavors, because your tastebuds can handle and appreciate more complex flavors and textures.

You can change your palate 

For people whose palates haven’t changed a lot since they were kids, it might be a little confusing reading about how your palate is bound to change as you age. If you still don’t find healthy and nutritious foods enjoyable, there are many ways to take matters into your hands and change your palate. Like many other habits, you can change your eating habits. The top tips to help you retrain your palate to love healthy foods are: 

  • Eat processed foods less: Many processed foods have high salt and sugar content, making you crave them. Cutting them out for some time helps you get used to not consuming them. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Start by eliminating something new weekly. In no time, you’ll find that while you might occasionally enjoy a bag of crisps, you have no craving for it. 
  • Try a new nutritious food every week: Your aversion to nutritious foods might be because you haven’t found the fruits and vegetables or recipes you enjoy. Try different fruits and vegetables, and even with vegetables you don’t enjoy, prepare and eat them in different ways. You might find that while you don’t enjoy carrots raw, you love them pickled. 
  • Combine foods you love with foods you don’t like: Adding a side of a vegetable you don’t typically enjoy to your favorite meal might change how you feel about it. With time your tastebuds will learn to enjoy them on their own. 
  • Cook your meals: Cooking your meals gives you total control over the flavors and how foods are paired. It also lets you experiment and try new things until you find what you like. 

How to keep enjoying food as you age 

In older adults, continually losing tastebuds can affect how much you enjoy food. Foods you may have enjoyed for years might start to feel bland. However, you don’t have to allow a change in your palate to affect how much you enjoy food. Try your hands at cooking new recipes that excite you. Use new techniques on old recipes to give them a fun twist. 

Playing around with colors and textures also makes your food look, feel and taste more interesting. Stimulate your tastebuds by trying out spices you won’t typically use. Think about the foods you may not have enjoyed when you are younger and try them now. After trying it once at fifteen, you might have decided never to touch a pickle again. Why don’t you try a pickle now and see how you like it? 

So while your tastebuds might not regenerate as quickly as when younger, the good news is that this allows you to expand your palate. You are open to a world of new possibilities for your nutrition and building healthy eating habits. 

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

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