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How taste genes affect intake

Does your New Year’s resolution include eating more fruits and vegetables?  But does the idea of eating more bitter veggies make you cringe?  Well, turns out it may not be your fault.  Some people may actually be genetically “wired” to not like vegetables with bitter notes. 

There are two genes responsible for taste:  AVI and PAV.  If you have two AVI genes, bitter foods don’t bother you, but if you have one or two PAV genes, you will sense bitter foods or find them exceptionally bitter.  People with two PAV genes are considered “super tasters” and are very sensitive to foods such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and dark chocolate.  Scientists describe it as a “ruin your day” level of bitter. 

Research by the American Heart Association assessed food logs of 175 people to see how their vegetable intake compared with their taster genes.  Turned out that people with the super taster gene were more than 2.5 times as likely to be ranked towards the bottom when it came to vegetable intake. 

If you’re struggling with how to get past the bitter taste of certain vegetables there is good news!  Not all vegetables have bitter notes such as those found in kale, chard, brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach.  There are so many others to choose from - think alternatives like bell peppers, carrots, string beans, cauliflower, tender greens! 

Another option is to try to balance bitter flavors found in vegetables with sweet, sour or salty notes.  For example, add a bright vinaigrette or grated cheese over sautéed or roasted greens.  You can even add some berries to your spinach salad to sweeten it up! 

Here are a few examples to try: 

Spinach and Chicken Stir-fry Salad with Raspberries

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spinach

Easy 5-Ingredient Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

Published March 2020

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