Taste Preferences Change Over Time – Here’s Why

Imagine a young child who puts on the most horrid face when given bananas. Imagine that same child tolerating bananas in adolescence and then actually growing to love them in adulthood. What’s the deal? It turns out that human taste preferences change over time. You may have experienced it yourself.

There are plenty of people who literally despise fruits and vegetables growing up. But as adults, they can’t get enough of them. Likewise, some of things that used to taste good to them as children are no longer appealing. It is all due to the fact that taste preferences are not static. Nor are they a completely biologic function. They are fluid. They are malleable.

We have a tendency to believe that we like what we like, and vice versa, because of our DNA. But that is not really true. According to a 2021 Live Science piece written by contributor Nicoletta Lanese, taste preferences can be affected by everything from how often we are exposed to specific flavors to the diets our mothers consumed during pregnancy.

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Age Might Make a Difference

Lanese cited studies in her piece suggesting that age may have something to do with taste preferences. Apparently, research suggests that children are more accepting of a wider variety of flavors prior to age 3. After that, a child may have to experience a new flavor more often before that flavor is actually liked.

If the premise is correct, it could explain why constant exposure to flavors a child doesn’t prefer eventually leads to tolerance. And if a young person learns to tolerate certain flavors, there is a possibility those flavors will actually be enjoyed later on.

At the same time, it also explains why a child may never grow up to appreciate a certain flavor if they never have to eat it. For example, a young child who clearly doesn’t like bananas may not be given them again once mom and dad figure it out. Because exposure to bananas is ultimately cut off, the child never goes on to tolerate or like them.

Experiencing New Flavors

Of course, none of this explains why you may like or dislike a new flavor upon experiencing it for the first time. Perhaps you eat a piece of Mexican candy from Chilito Loco, only to discover that you are suddenly a big fan of chili powder and sour combined. You have never had that combination before. Still, your mouth adores it.

On the other hand, you might experience a piece of watermelon hard candy and decide you despise it. Again, why is that? Science doesn’t really know for sure. It could be a combination of factors, including genetics and memories you might have associated with similar flavors.

For example, we do know that flavors and odors are linked to memories. Some of our favorite foods are connected to memories of childhood. If you have ever heard of comfort food, you understand the concept. It stands to reason that associating memories or experiences with certain flavors could determine whether the experience is positive or negative.

It is Still a Preference Thing

Though there is a lot about sense of taste we don’t know, we can say that flavor preferences are real. What tastes good to you probably doesn’t taste so good to someone else. It is not a big deal.

It’s also pretty common for taste preferences to change over time. Don’t worry if something you used to like years ago is now unappealing. Likewise, do not be surprised to discover that you now like something you previously hated. It is the way it goes.

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