Resetting Our Taste Buds

Photo Courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr

Organic food still has stigma attached to it these days, despite all its good press and the many restaurants that have menus featuring local, farmers market ingredients. It’s common for people to wrinkle their noses and describe organic products as “hippie food,” or “yuppie food.”

“Many in [America] who have access to good food and can afford it simply don’t think it’s important,” Brent Cunningham and Jane Black recently pointed out in their Washington Post article “The New Front in the Culture Wars: Food.”

Cunningham and Black point out that “Sarah Palin took cookies to a Pennsylvania school to register her disapproval or policies that forbid sweets [and] Glenn Beck suggested food-safety legislation was a government plot to raise the prices for beef and chicken and thereby turn us all into vegetarians.”

It is not just a chorus of political voices contributing to the unpopularity of organic food. The healthy advertising budgets of fast food joints play a large role in whetting consumers’ appetites for unhealthy food. You’re not going to see a Whole Foods Market ad on Superbowl Sunday but you will see a dozen ads for fast food.

And stacked on top of that is the palatability of fast and processed food. People love the way it tastes, even if they feel guilty about eating it.

“I eat fast food three to four times a week,” says Anton Cuyugan, a 31-year-old father and resident of Los Angeles, Calif. “I know it’s bad for me. But I also know it tastes good and I like it. A lot.”

Cuyugan lives in a five-mile vicinity of at least 10 farmers markets that operate year-round but he still opts for McDonalds or In-N-Out. Fast and processed foods are the most palatable, as they are loaded with excess sugar, salt, MSG, fat and carbohydrates.

And we’ve become so accustomed to these tastes that we’ve lost our appreciation for fresh vegetables, fruits and whole foods. Even the sweetest fruits taste bitter when compared to a Snickers bar. And the next time you’re at a party which bowl will likely empty first: the one holding chips or the one with vegetables?

We need to reset our taste buds. Whole, organic and unprocessed food is delicious. A fresh peach or crispy cucumber is beautiful, healthy and tasty. But they have lost their appeal in an age where people get excited about the return of the McRib.

Only 26 percent of adults have three of more servings of vegetables a day (which includes those who consider a tomato slice or lettuce on a burger as a ‘vegetable serving’), according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

George Ball sited the above statistic in his recent Wall Street Journal article “2011: The Year of the Vegetable,” in which he also says that:

“Liking vegetables is not a given: Every food other than breast milk is an acquired taste.”

Americans need to rekindle their desire for vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture systems, not fast food restaurants, should be a major food source.

Let’s spread the word by sharing the wonderful, healthy food we make and enjoy eating everyday. Repost and retweet this article!

How are you making organic, healthy food taste great? Tell us about it here and don’t forget to submit your photo and description of your organic food for a chance to win five free coupons for Earth Balance!

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2 Responses to “Resetting Our Taste Buds”

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  1. As a Physical Therapist I equate it with retraining our muscles to move better, the same applies. I always tell people go 3-4 weeks without the junk and your taste buds will change. when I am traveling and don’t have access to Whole Foods, that first salad I have is heaven on earth.

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  2. I recently stopped eating most forms of simple sugar, and suddenly some berries and fruits, that I’d thought were too sour or bitter, tasted sweet.

    One EASY way to up the flavor of vegetarian foods is to make your own vegetable stock. Home made stock makes canned or boxed versions taste like cardboard, literally. Chop your veggies up fairly small and roast them in the oven for about an hour or, if you’re just making a small amount, saute in olive oil to brown them in the stockpot. Add cold water and slowly bring up to boiling, then back the heat off and simmer for about an hour or two. Strain and put into clean ball jars and into the fridge, and you have liquid richness available to enhance most things you’ll make for the week.

    Only use a little or no salt, then add it back into the recipe you’re using the stock for at the end – you may find that natural salt in veggies and other ingredients becomes concentrated enough that you can use less added salt in your cooking.

    Another great way to keep the salt down is to go without it for just a few days, then re-evaluate the amount of salt you really like in things. If you find you are able to back off a bit, you can re-try this experiment for a little longer, and you may find that you need far less salt than you have been using.

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