Does Going Veg Make Your Tastebuds Mutate?

Forkful of brussels sprouts halfway to mouth, I am stricken with the sudden, not entirely welcome epiphany that I am now an adult who voluntarily eats brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts. The one vegetable I despised as a child who had to be reminded to share the green beans and broccoli. I’ve become one of them, those scary brussels-sprouts-loving-vegetarians that the rest of the world thinks have aberrant tastebuds. 

Naturally, I hopped on Google to find the answer to the question: does going veg screw with your tastebuds? There don’t seem to be many studies on this topic, and I can’t really answer it myself. I went vegetarian at an age when most people are transitioning to adult taste preferences anyway, so it’s hard to say whether I’m now more into spicy food, bitter greens, and mushrooms because I stopped eating meat or because I grew up, moved out, and discovered Ethiopian food. Probably a little of both. I have noticed that roast chicken no longer smells appetizing, though bacon is another story entirely.

What really prompted this post, however, was my recent experiment with kale chips. The idea is pretty basic. Tear kale up into pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, and spices, and bake at a low temp until crispy. The vegans from whom I got the idea have written gushing panegyrics to kale chips, including: “More addictive than potato chips,” and “like fries,” and “amazingly delicious.” I was skeptical, so I made my own. They were interesting. Texture not unlike desiccated autumn leaves (not that I’ve ever eaten one). Mostly salty, with a hint of roasted broccoli (not one of my favorite vegetables to roast), and a slightly bitter finish. Verdict: OK as a way to eat kale, but not life changing, and not even close to replacing my Kettle chips (chipotle barbecue flavor, please). And that’s to say nothing of the gastro-intestinal distress the kale chips caused me later. Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to details.

Without really meaning to, I’ve filed kale chips in the ‘foods only vegans could love’ mental category. There it is joined by anything in which tofu is used to substitute for cheese. Any dessert that calls for a significant quantity of beans. Anything raw and sprouted, but especially for breakfast. Wheatgrass or other dark green smoothies. (Note: I am not a ruminant.)  That’s where my ovo-lacto vegetarian tastebuds draw the line. If I went vegan, would these things start to taste good? The question, at present, is unanswerable.

While I’m certainly aware that plenty of vegan food is simply food without animal products, the fringier recipes definitely strike me as acquired tastes. What do you think? Have your taste preferences changed significantly since going veg?

15 responses to this post.

  1. Omg yes. My tastebuds are so clear now I’m happy eating just quinoa or brown rice plain. I can taste all the little subtleties of the grain. I need way less salt or seasoning in general. And I eat all kinds of things I always hated like eggplant, beets, and bananas, not to mention all the new amazing things I discovered after going vegan like burdock, kabocha squash, and fermented vegetables. Animal foods pollute and clog our tastebuds just like they do to our arteries.

    Reply

  2. Hmm…

    I didn’t think it screwed my taste buds. I tend to think of that term as negative, although I think I get where you were going with your point. I do know my taste buds were enhanced. I found I didn’t need to add a lot of extras to the dishes I prepared.

    At times I felt like I had brand new tastebuds, some of the same foods I’d eaten before tasted differently. With whole foods, I was able to detect a lot more flavors from the whole foods I ate. Although I didn’t eat too much processed foods or things with chemical, I was able to detect them a lot easier the more whole foods I ate. Those processed foods no longer tasted good.

    Reply

    • Posted by ailanna on 08/25/2010 at 10:26

      I agree with the processed foods. Yuck. I had a frozen burrito for the first time in ages a few months ago, and it was so salty and overseasoned I could barely get it down. (And it was one of the organic ones!) I’ve always liked my vegetables relatively unadulterated, but I haven’t gotten fonder of plain grains. Rather, my palate has gotten more adventurous, and I eat a much wider variety of cuisines and vegetables than I used to. I don’t think I really got into food until after I went veg, which coincided with when I learnt how to cook. This is also about the same time I started preferring dark to milk chocolate. I’m sure there’s some correlation there, but it’s hard to pinpoint!

      Reply

  3. Posted by @TlTSD on 08/25/2010 at 11:10

    I think it’s just your body adjusting to a different food composition. I’ve stopped eating process foods for a while & when I started to eat them again they tasted really different.

    Reply

  4. I have to admit, my tastebuds have mutated, and I love it! Like Christy, I now appreciate foods I never enjoyed before, and I’m more willing to try new things. Nothing made of plants grosses me out (okay, except those jerky strips). When I ate dead things, my tastebuds were dead as well, but now, food is like a joyful and diverse party in my mouth!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Emily on 08/25/2010 at 20:21

    I am not a vegan or vegetarian (sorry!), but I’ve been on a low-sugar diet for the past four years. I was a total sugar addict before that, with an uncontrollable craving for candies, pastries, etc. I experienced terrible sugar highs and lows and also had headaches, hence why I decided to go low sugar. The first two weeks were tough, but after those withdrawal symptoms were over, I haven’t craved sugar since. My partner bakes cookies and sometimes buys icecream and I’ll eat a little sometimes, but I really don’t care if eat sweets or not. I definitely now have a sense of freedom, in that I’m no longer controlled by sugar.

    Also, I was on a strict gluten-free diet for over two years. Similar process; the first two weeks were tough, but then I completely stopped craving bread, pancakes, pastries, etc. Its pretty amazing how the human body adapts to diet changes.

    Reply

    • Posted by ailanna on 08/26/2010 at 21:10

      Taste is definitely an adaptable thing. I remember eating rice pudding with two other exchange students when I was studying in England. I thought the rice pudding was a good sweetness (actually less sweet than most American desserts), but the two other students (from Japan and the Dominican Republic) thought it was much too sweet. What were withdrawal symptoms like for you?

      Reply

  6. Hi, just wanted to say I really like your blog, your writing is very dry and funny, your description of ‘kale chips’ really tickled me! I have just become a vegetarian which is how I stumbled upon your blog, looking forward to your next posts.

    Reply

    • Posted by ailanna on 08/26/2010 at 21:03

      Aww, thank you! And congrats on going veg! Maybe we can swap recipes sometime.🙂

      Reply

  7. Posted by Jacki on 09/12/2010 at 20:48

    I agree that your palate definitely changes, and a while back I read an article (can’t remember where, sorry!) about how it’s possible to train your palate. I like the idea and have paid attention when I’ve made different changes in diet, like when I switched to wholegrains (and when I quit smoking). Once you’re aware of it I’ve found it can be a useful concept, helping with a long-term persepctive when I want to change things.

    Reply

  8. Exceptional article

    Reply

  9. Posted by Brittany on 09/03/2012 at 00:52

    Hahaha I’m one of those crazy kale loving vegans. I actually grew up on kale and it was the only veggie I ate cooked. As an adult I still disliked peppers, asparagus, squash,avocados, blueberries and probably a few others. Now most of those are staples in my house.

    I never imagined that I would eat tofu scramble regularly and rice milk would be my non dairy choice. I also didn’t think I could make an amazing soup from one can of whole peeled tomatoes and some spices (I make it spicy to encourage me to drink more water). When I was single and wanted to lose weight I cut out all soda and drank lite flavoured water (low cal). I didn’t miss pop one bit and it sure helps rein in that sweet tooth.

    So while your taste buds dont mutate I do think that they are constantly changing.

    Oh and I am one of those people who couldn’t imagine a dessert with beans. It makes me want to try and see how it turns out but it seems like a hit or miss. Soy cheese I can see but tofu doesn’t melt so that I can’t.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Dion on 10/17/2012 at 01:31

    I hope someone does find something scholarly about this subject, I personally would attest to a difference in taste buds!

    This time last year I was eating meals like: 50% roast chicken pieces, 50% rice, veges etc. It slowly morphed to 25% meat and just over a month ago I became full Vegan and I am eating dinners that are 50% lettuce with some hummus, sweet chilli, satay, brown rice tomato, avocado, mushroom. I just love it, I crave crunchy fresh lettuce more (I’m pretty sure) than I ever did fried chicken or bacon and that feels weird to me I guess its partially attributed to the social perspective on Vegans diets / cravings. I’m happier than ever eating simpler, less fatty, less salty, less fried meals lately, it has been a very fast change in my opinion.

    Reply

    • Hi Dion,

      It sounds like you’re doing your body quite a favor.🙂 Mine have changed more slowly; bacon still smells good to me, and I’ve always eaten lots of veggies, so no change there. I don’t think I’ll ever crave wheatgrass juice or green smoothies!

      Reply

  11. Posted by DEBORAH COLLINS on 06/06/2016 at 10:10

    Never like goat made anything, no matter how well fed they were… now 8 months later I really love goat yogurt…, cheese etc… go figure

    Reply

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