Survey: People are 22 on average before they enjoy strong-tasting foods
People start tolerating garlic at 19 but are 28 before they eat goats cheese
Previous research explains we lose taste buds as we get older, meaning we can tolerate stronger and complex tasting food
Sophisticated adults love to dine on olives, blue cheese and anchovies – but many hated these foods as a child. Now, experts have discovered the ‘gastronomic watershed’ – the age at which we start to like ‘grown-up foods’. A survey discovered the average person is aged 22 when they start to appreciate more complex, stronger flavours like goats cheese, chilli sauce and avocado. The research identified 20 foods we are unlikely to enjoy until we hit our late teens and early 20s.
The average person is aged 22 when they start to appreciate more complex, stronger flavours like goats cheese, olives and anchovies, a survey has revealed.
Previously, scientists have theorised our changing tastes are due to how the number of taste buds in our mouths declines with age. Babies are born with innate cravings for sweet things, as our mother’s milk is packed with sugar and fat. Infants have around 30,000 tastebuds in their mouths, so strong tastes will be much more intense for a child. This explains why nursery food is so bland and why children might find strong tasting foods overpowering. By the time we become adults, only a third of these taste buds remain, mostly on our tongues. This explains why we can then tolerate and enjoy stronger tastes. According the survey, many of us find it difficult to appreciate the taste of strong tasting fish like mackerel during childhood and even throughout our teen years. And mature cheeses fared no better, with most people aged 21 before they appreciated parmesan and aged 22 before they liked to eat blue cheese. Similarly, most people didn’t appreciate a spicy curry until their late teens. Unsurprisingly a host of vegetables featured high up on the list, with spinach and peppers both beginning to appeal to our taste buds at the age of 21. Chilli sauce, gherkins, garlic and horseradish sauce featured in the list of 20 ‘grown-up’ foods, as did kidney beans. But goats cheese proved to be the most disliked childhood flavour, with the average person not fully appreciating it until they hit 28. Other flavours that failed to please our palate during our younger years were olives, which we only begin to enjoy at the ripe old age of 25, and oysters, a taste we acquire at 24. The survey asked 1,950 British adults about which foods they hated as a child but now find delicious.
Overall the stats show that despite the majority of us finally embracing the full range of tastes and flavours by the time we reach our 20s, there are likely to still be two foods on average we still refuse to eat as adults. The research also revealed that school meals play a major part in helping us form early opinions of foods and tastes we then form an opinion of through life. The data showed one in three adults has eaten food they didn’t like for fear of upsetting the host. More than one in ten have done so during a meal at the in-laws, while business lunches and dinners with friends or close family have also led to people having to ‘grin and bear it’. The most common situation in which we begin to enjoy a food we disliked in the past is during meals with friends. Trying new foods on holiday and meeting someone who has a broader knowledge of foods and flavours were also given as reasons. Nutritional Therapist Karen Poole explained: ‘Our relationship with food develops at a very early age and can affect how we eat and what we eat throughout our lifetime. ‘Our tastebuds are the initial way we learn to recognise food as either friend or foe and bitter or strong foods can often be a warning to leave well alone, and later on determine what we like and what we are happy to avoid. ‘Biologically, as we age, the rate of renewal and regeneration of our tastebuds slows down and the overall number is reduced and this may also influence our reaction to certain foods and make stronger tastes more interesting and enjoyable. ‘Its natural as we grow up to broaden our horizons across many fields so there are many external factors also that contribute to people becoming more adventurous at these particular ages’. The survey was carried out by Butterkist.