The human body is pretty amazing. Take your tongue for instance. The taste buds on your tongue are able to differentiate between the basic flavors in food; salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Aside from those basic flavors they are also able to distinguish, along with the olfactory assistance of your nose, the subtle difference between a strawberry and say, a blueberry. The message goes from tongue to brain to tell your body what is present in the food.
What you may not realize is that you may actually search out the various flavors in food because that flavor is related to a substance your body requires to maintain and support your health.
Somehow our brain connects flavor in the food with nutrients that are needed. We enjoy sweet, for example, because it tells our brain that there is energy available in this food. Sour flavors indicate the presence of acid and fermentation, both of which assist in digestion. Salt (a little bit) is important in keeping your body’s fluid balance in check. Umami seems tell your brain that there is protein or amino acid present. These amino acids are needed to build and repair tissues. Bitter tastes may signal foods that are poisonous but healthy foods like greens, cacao, and coffee also have something of a bitter undertone.
The problem with the standard American diet is that for many of us it has caused our taste buds to lose their touch. If we eat a lot of highly processed, packaged foods, our taste buds become accustomed to unnatural and artificial flavors. Try this experiment. Eat a fresh grape. Take a minute to eat it slowly and concentrate on the grape flavor. Next take a drink of an artificially flavored grape soda or other beverage. Notice the difference!
In addition to artificial flavorings and chemicals, excessive amounts of sugar and added salt mask natural flavors and dull our perception of what fresh, natural foods should taste like.
The good news is that you can reset your sweet tooth and your “salt” tooth. Focus on eliminating excessive amounts of sugar and sodium from your diet. It may take a couple of weeks or even a few months of eating this way but at some point if the future you will bite into a highly sweetened or salted food and your tongue will rebel!