Do you find it nearly impossible to eat Brussels sprouts? Do broccoli and spinach make you want to gag? How about cabbage — does the sight of it make you want to shove your plate across the table? Well, you certainly are not the only one — a lot of people have a strong dislike of certain vegetables that keeps them from indulging. According to new research it turns out that this aversion to certain veggies could be more than just personal preference — it could be rooted in your genetic makeup.
This new research has now helped uncover a possible reason for why both kids and adults alike have a shared hatred of certain veggies: a genetic defense mechanism we all inherently have that tells our bodies to avoid potentially dangerous compounds found in certain types of vegetation. Previously, it was assumed that the reason people avoid certain vegetables is due to their bitter taste alone, but this may not be the case.
The study, which is being published in the medical journal Current Biology, is the first of its kind to point out a direct link supporting the claim that bitter taste has evolved in humans as a defense mechanism to detect and protect us from potentially dangerous and harmful plant toxins.
The lead researcher in the study, Paul Breslin, noted that “The sense of taste enables us to detect bitter toxins within foods, and genetically-based differences in our bitter taste receptors affect how we each perceive foods containing a particular set of toxins.”
According to the researchers, they have managed to establish that variants of a certain receptor, which recognizes bitter taste, known as “TAS2R38,” can also pick up on glucosinolates. These are part of a class of compounds having physiological actions that can be potentially harmful. These compounds are found naturally in certain foods, including such vegetables as broccoli, kale, watercress, bok choy, turnip, and kohlrabi, for example.
This doesn’t mean that you should shun vegetables just because they contain glucosinolates. In fact, the veggies I just listed contain a lot of excellent vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help your body stave off the effects of aging and a whole plethora of illnesses. These are veggies that you should add to your daily diet on a regular basis, thus helping you reach your daily fruit and veggie quota.
In the study, 35 healthy adult participants were put into classifications according to their “bitter taste receptor genotype,” meaning how sensitive they are to bitterness, basically. The three classifications include “sensitive to the bitter-tasting chemical PTC,” “insensitive,” and “intermediate.” The subjects were then required to rate how bitter they found each vegetable to be, where some contained glucosinolates and some didn’t.
It turned out that the participants who were sensitive to the bitter-tasting PTC chemical found the veggies to be, on average, 60% more bitter tasting than did the other participants who were insensitive to bitterness. According to the researchers, the findings show that taste receptors are indeed capable of detecting toxins in vegetables. They also noted that how an individual responds to any given veggie containing a toxin is dependent on a multi-level experience that includes genetic, receptor, evolutionary, and perceptual factors.
While glucosinolates can inhibit your thyroid from taking in iodine correctly, since we live in an industrialized society, this isn’t an issue for the general population, as iodine is added to many foods. Basically, you get enough iodine from other food sources, so it isn’t a problem. Plus, the researchers noted that you should enjoy bitter veggies, as they provide you with so many beneficial properties that help fight off a whole slew of illnesses and disease. So go ahead, load up your plate with veggies and try to get over your disliking the taste — you are missing out on a lot of great nutrition!