A new Stanford University study found that at least 30 percent of us are super-tasters. We dislike bitter flavors and love sweets. And half of STs came into the world that way. The rest? Well, repeat exposure to added sugars, red meat and fatty flavors ruins your ability to appreciate the delicious goodness in veggies, 100 percent whole grains and lean protein.
Super-tasting leads to super-size health problems: Your risk for metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer goes way up. And so does the likelihood that you have high blood pressure, an oversize waistline, higher-than-healthy blood sugar levels, low levels of good HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides.
But there’s hope. You can pull a Bob Vila and do a total renovation – on your food choices. You’ll love the results, including the way you feel and look! Here’s how.
• Go for fruit, nuts, dark chocolate (70 percent cacao) – A whopping 31 percent of adults have genetically based cravings for sweets. Turn that to your advantage by redefining dessert. You’ll sidestep empty calories, artery-clogging saturated fat and Food Felon refined sugars and syrups, and get a boost of extra fiber, vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant-based nutrients. Keep your favorite fruits on hand: frozen raspberries and strawberries; fresh bananas, pineapples and seasonal goodies like sun-ripened cherries and mangoes; and canned-in-juice pineapple, mandarin oranges and peaches. Then get super-creative. Grill fresh fruit on skewers. Layer dried cherries and toasted nuts over Greek yogurt. Make a sumptuous, over-the-top fruit salad spiked with mint leaves or a handful of dark-chocolate chips. Serve with green or herbal tea.
• Bring out the sweetness in bitter veggies – Super-tasters are turned off by the strong-tasting compounds in super-healthy broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and other cruciferous vegetables. Skipping these super-nutritious goodies can ramp up your risk for colon cancer.
So what can STs do to bring out the sweetness in these important veggies? Try cooking red cabbage in apple juice. Roast the cauliflower with a brushing of extra-virgin olive oil. Pair kale and broccoli with lemon juice and a dusting of Parmesan. Try a drizzle of honey on Brussels sprouts. We love them with grated fresh ginger and garlic.
• Explore more big, meaty flavors – Yup, some of us are born with an outsize taste for meat, too. Getting away from the red stuff is great for your arteries. Make the transition to healthier proteins easy by replacing red meat with foods naturally rich in “umami” – the satisfying, meaty flavor also found in some seafood and veggies. Satisfying your taste for meat this way adds more fiber and nutrients to your diet. Mushrooms (they are packed with vitamin D-3, too), sweet potatoes, carrots and tomatoes with the seeds are overflowing with maximum umami. Add them to soups, stews and chicken, fish and bean dishes. Mix roasted mushrooms and tomatoes with ground skinless turkey for a meaty burger. Or dive into seafood like salmon, ocean trout, cod or mackerel more often. And do make sure you get two to three servings of omega-3-rich salmon and ocean trout a week.
• Go for the good fats – An odd taste-bud glitch means some people’s taste buds overlook the fat in food – so their bodies don’t tell them, “Whoa, you’ve had enough!” That can lead to overeating and weight gain. If you tend to overindulge in ice cream, cheese or creamy salad dressings, that could be you. Your fix? Switch to good fats (and keep an eye on portions). Have salmon instead of red meat, nuts instead of cheese on your salad, use olive oil instead of mayo and creamy dressings.
Give yourself a month of these taste treats, and you’ll renovate your palate. Pure, healthy flavors become more appealing than fatty, sugary ones. Enjoy!
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.