The Best of MTTD………

Today’s post originally ran on August 27, 2010

Today’s recipe origanally ran on July 23, 2010

I Am NOT a Picky Eater

The World of a Super Taster

When I was growing up, I was what is known as a “picky eater.” Said with a derisive tone, of course. There were many foods I did not like, chief among them fat and gristle. I would spend five minutes or more cutting off all, and I mean ALL, even the most miniscule piece, of the fat from a piece of meat before I would even eat one bite. And there was a whole list of vegetables I did not like.

I also did not like a lot of pepper on my food, and I did not like horseradish. Even today I cannot eat spicy hot foods. Although today I can and do use both pepper and horseradish.

What was/is going on? Was I just being stubborn? Was I looking for attention? Or did I just not like certain foods?

Picky Eaters of the World Unite

Well now science has some answers.

Long story short – it is genetic.

Infants are born with a genetically predetermined number of taste buds. Some people have more, way more. And some people have fewer taste buds. Tasting, it seems, is just another variation of the human species like hair, skin, or eye color.

According to Linda Bartoshuk, a psychophysicist at the Yale School of Medicine, tasting-wise humans can be divided into three distinct categories.

There are your non-tasters.  Then there are your medium tasters. And then, tah-dah,  there are supertasters.

I am, and most picky eaters are probably, in the supertaster category.

Bartoshuk often speaks of these three types of tasters as inhabiting totally and completely different taste worlds.

What Are SuperTasters???

For supertasters, taste is much stronger, more vivid, and way more intense. Salt is saltier; sweet is sweeter; bitter is bitterer; and spicy is way, way hotter and sometimes even downright painful.

Most people are born with about 10,000 taste buds.  Supertasters can have as many as 20,000 to 25,000 taste buds. About 25% of the population are supertasters. More women than men are supertasters.

About 25% of the population are non-tasters, with the majority of the population being medium tasters.

And it all comes back to the number of taste buds a person has on their tongue.

I am going to let Jan Henderson of The Health Culture blog take it from here. This is reprinted here with written permission from Ms Henderson. I have also added The Health Culture blog to the list of My Favorite Sites that you see on the right side of this page.

This is a super great site with much good information on health matters.  I encourage you to take a look-see. Ms Henderson majored in mathematics at Harvard and received a PhD in the history of science and medicine from Yale.

From The Health Culture blog:
The enhanced tongue of a supertaster

There’s more to being a supertaster than inheriting the ability to taste PROP. [NOTE: A bitter substance used in research.] The tongues of supertasters are different from those of nontasters.

Graphic Above: Supertaster and nontaster tongues from PBS.

In a recent post , I wrote about taste buds on the tongue.

Taste buds are located on the sides of papillae, those little projections that cover the surface of the tongue. When it comes to supertasters, we’re interested in the papillae at the front of the tongue. They happen to be called fungiform papillae because, when you magnify them, they look like little fungi or mushrooms.

What makes a supertaster’s tongue different is that their fungiform papillae are smaller and more densely packed, as you can see in the illustration. More papillae mean more taste buds. Supertasters have as many as 1,100 taste buds per square centimeter, compared to nontasters, who can have as few as 11. That by itself makes supertasters more sensitive to taste. [Emphasis mine.]

Can you even begin to imagine the taste difference? 1100 taste buds per square centimeter compared to only 11?

WOW!!! That is a huge, HUGE  difference.

Back to the scientific explanation.

There’s another thing that makes the tongue of a supertaster different: Sensitivity to physical stimulation. Taste buds send information to the brain through two types of nerves. One type sends the taste signals – sweet, sour, etc. The other sends information about pain, temperature, and touch. Since supertasters have more taste buds, they not only detect more bitterness, they’re also more sensitive to peppers and spices in general, heat, cold, and anything painful. [Again, emphasis mine.]

What About Those Spicy Hot Foods?

It bears repeating, each and every taste bud has its own pain receptor literally wrapped around it. So along with the extra, or more taste buds comes extra, or more pain receptors. As a result supertasters have the capacity to feel up to 50% more pain from capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilies their heat.

I can actually tell when the knife that cuts my pizza has recently cut a pizza with hot peppers on it. I can taste and feel some of the heat. My tongue has so many taste buds and they are so sensitive I can even taste just a trace of the capsaicin.

What About Fat?

From Yale Scientific:

A similar anatomical association affects the perception of fat. Taste buds are buried in tongue tissue within fungiform papillae — mushroom-like structures equipped with touch fibers. Fatty food enters the mouth, pushes [the] touch fibers, and triggers touch responses. Because supertasters can sense more “touch” than the rest of the population, fat produces more sensation in supertasters. [Emphasis mine.]

And I can tell you from personal experience, fat and gristle it is not a sensation I like.

Supertasters and Vegetables

Supertasters generally avoid bitter foods which is why they often do not like some vegetables, especially as children. As all children age and get into their teenage years the taste buds change and bitterness is not as big an issue.

I once read some where that the taste buds that sense bitter taste the most are one of the last to fully develop. This is why many teens and young adults all of a sudden like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other bitter tasting vegetables. It is not because they have matured; what has matured are their taste buds!!

I am no longer a picky eater. Today there are few foods I do not like and won’t eat or try. But I still can’t eat super hot chilies and other super spicy foods. The burn is just too painful.

So be kind to us picky eaters. After all, we aren’t really picky.   We are just supertasters!

In addition to the Health Culture site, information for this blog post was gotten here, here, and here.

Very interesting stuff. Are you a super taste or a non-taster?

Featured Recipe: 
Oven Roasted Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon

 Today I share one of my all time favorite dishes. I love this meal.

Today’s recipealso  uses one of the healthiest ingredients you can find on earth, wild caught Alaskan salmon. It is expensive. But I do not eat any other kind of salmon. Sometime you can be penny wise and pound foolish. When it comes to salmon this old saying is certainly right on the mark.

Today I spent almost $22.00 just on fresh salmon. But I will get no less than four meals from this purchase. That is $5.50 per meal. Considering a fast food meal costs as much if not more, it is well worth it to me in terms of taste, ease of preparation, and health benefits to spend that kind of money. There are always trade offs in life.

Atlantic salmon has high mercury levels and is therefore less healthy. So I do not eat it. I never eat restaurant salmon unless they can assure me it is Pacific salmon and wild caught. I will buy frozen wild caught Alaskan salmon. But every summer I can’t wait till the fresh comes to town!!!

The taste just can’t be beat. If you have never tasted wild caught Alaskan or Pacific salmon you really should treat yourself some time. You’re worth it!!!!!

Salmon is high in protein and in omega-3 fatty acids that provide well documented benefits for both the heart and the brain.

This is what you will need for 2-3 people:

¾ pound of wild caught Alaskan salmon

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you do:

It is almost a sin that something so delicious and so healthy should be so easy to make.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Rinse and pat the fillet dry with a paper towel.

Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil in your hand. With your hands rub the olive oil on both sides of the salmon fillet.

Add some salt and pepper.

Place the salmon on the baking sheet and place in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily. Salmon will be slightly opaque in the thickest part of the fillet.

Remove from oven, cut into 2 or 3 pieces and serve. (NOTE: Since I am single I will have a lot of salmon left over. I will be using it to make a pasta salad which I will share with you soon.

Plate the salmon and serve with whatever sides you like. I served my salmon with a dollop (I love that word – dollop) of lime butter, white rice with lime zest for color, and  a salad.

Wild caught salmon is a very dense fish. You do not need a lot to feel full. In fact, I had a bit left over that I will have for lunch tomorrow. So already I have two meals from this one piece of salmon.

But I still have half a pound of salmon left. So what am I going to do with the rest of the fish?

Very simple. Try my Seashell Pasta with Salmon and Fresh Dill recipe.  This is a wonderful cool salad for a hot summer day. And best of all, the salmon is already cooked!!!!

Bon Appetite!!!


¾ pound Alaskan salmon                  $21.74

1 tablespoon olive oil                        $0.17

Salt and pepper

 Total cost = $21.91

Cost per person = $7.30

Quote of the Day

 Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land.  It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.  

Chuck Clark


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2 comments to The Best of MTTD………

  • We are twins separated at birth. I still can’t eat fat or gristle. For me it’s the texture. I can’t get it down. Probably lucky that too much fat isn’t good for you. 🙂

    I’ll be honest and say I would have been a chef if I had a more adventurous palate. Sad, I know. I do the best with what I’ve got.

    • Roberta

      The more we get to know each other the more it does seem we are twins separated at birth. Yep, it is the texture.