Taste buds… hopefully we all have them and use them accordingly. Sadly, if you are eating what is referred to as the Standard American Diet (SAD) then chances are your poor taste buds

are under attack every single day!

Additives to “enhance” flavor, preservatives to “protect” texture, and a multitude of other chemical processes to keep food products on the shelves longer and make them seemingly more palatable. I can’t help but refer to this as taste bud terrorism.

Just say “NO” to Taste bud Terrorism!

I imagine poor little gustatory cells everywhere are quaking in their proverbial boots every time you reach for a packaged food item or place an order off the random fast food menu.

Does it matter if your taste buds are terrorized? Are taste buds really all that important? I mean, other than helping you taste your food, what’s the big deal?

Your mouth contains somewhere around 10,000 taste buds. Each taste bud contains around 100 receptor cells, all of which are designed to detect one of the five flavors we find in the food world. That’s a lot of tasting going on!  To make things even more interesting not only do you have taste buds in your mouth but believe it or not, you also have them in your gut. That’s right, your stomach and small intestines have taste receptors as well.

But wait! That’s not all… believe it or not, you have gustatory receptors in your reproductive organs! So yes…. taste and flavor matter! 


In fact, here’s the big deal: More than being just a means to help you identify bad food vs. good food; taste buds are critical to signaling your body’s satiety mechanism. Satiety is what helps you stop eating when you’ve had enough and keeps you from grazing when you’re not hungry.

Your taste buds are your best buds…

Unfortunately, in much of the processed food we eat, we aren’t really getting the flavors that we need, instead we are being inundated with processed variations of salt, sugar, and fat…and not the good kind. We are getting chemicals and additives that trick the brain into thinking there is more flavor than their actually is. But just because your brain can be fooled doesn’t mean the rest of your body can be.

Flavor: Real or Illusion?

You’re probably thinking “what do you mean I don’t get flavor?” “The packaged and fast food I eat tastes really great! In fact, I can’t get enough of it!!” and to a degree you are correct. Your brain believes that the processed food you eat tastes great. Unfortunately, it believes that because it has been bamboozled and dazzled by the additives and flavor enhancers that don’t typically exist in real food and can only be found in a test tube. So that whole “I can’t get enough of it!!” is exactly true. You can’t get enough because it doesn’t really exist.

Take for instance Monosodium Glutamate, better known as MSG, which by the way is also present in hydrolyzed protein, caseinate, yeast extract, and a multitude of other names that you might not think of as containing glutamic acid. MSG can be ‘manufactured’ and it also occurs naturally MSG is a flavor enhancer but it’s a trickster because it doesn’t really enhance flavor, rather it excites your neuroreceptors and makes them believe there is more flavor. It’s all an illusion. This is one reason that people can experience fatigue and headaches after eating foods with MSG in them. MSG is considered an excitotoxin. Not only is it tricky but it can also cause damage to your brain.

Keep in mind, this is referring to added and isolated MSG used to enhance flavor in food. Foods with naturally occurring MSG do not deliver the toxic punch, mostly because they are accompanied by other enzymes and nutrients that balance everything out. MSG is only one a multitude of excitotoxins and additives that trick you into thinking you want more than you actually want, or you want it when you’re not hungry…or worse yet, that it tastes better than it actually does.

Don’t believe me? Try this little experiment; get a small glass of water, taste it to be sure it tastes, well, like water. Then add a pinch of Accent or some other synthetic flavor enhancer. You can find them in the spice section of your market. Now taste the water. Notice a difference?

Taste buds and Weight Gain

So basically here’s what happens when you eat processed foods with additives; your brain is tricked into believing there is more flavor than there actually is, in fact, it sends a message to your body to be prepared for more food than is really showing up, which is its own set of problems if you are trying to manage things like blood sugar and cholesterol.

Your gustatory cells (taste buds), however, are not at all fooled and they want what they want when it comes to real nutrients and food value. In addition to the taste buds in your mouth feeling unsatisfied, the ones that are located in your gut and intestinal tract are unimpressed and refuse to engage in signals of satiety. No satiety means you keep reaching for more. This brings a whole new meaning to ‘you can’t eat just one’. Because thanks to the chemical soup on your potato chip (and in your salad dressing, your bread, your lunchmeat, your stir fry, etc.) you most definitely cannot eat just one. And believe it or not, it’s intentionally designed that way. 

You keep putting food in your mouth, your belly gets fuller, and yet your body still ultimately remains unsatisfied and you are left wondering why in the heck you ate so much. To top it off, now you have excess insulin running through your system because your body was told (thanks to things like High Fructose Corn Syrup and other manufactured sugars) that more food was on its way than actually showed up.

As you can imagine and may be already experiencing, over time, this packs on the pounds. Worse news… this isn’t only happening with foods that are manufactured. Some foods, like the newer varieties of grains (wheat and corn mostly) have been hybridized in such a way that they stimulate your appetite and override satiety signals.

How to Avoid Taste bud Terrorism

Here’s the moral: you actually have to TASTE the real flavors in your food to be satisfied by it.

This means, first and foremost, slowing down and letting yourself salivate over what you are about to consume. Really important digestive enzymes are present in the saliva in your mouth. They can only be activated by “anticipating” your meal.

Secondly, since taste also includes smell, it means taking a few deep breaths before you eat so you can really get present and your olfactory senses can help you enjoy your meal. Be sure that you are including a nice balance of flavors, not just salt and sweet. Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Salt, and Umami (yep, it’s a real word and a real flavor). If you can include naturally occurring components of all of these flavors in your meal, you are in for a real taste bud treat and the ultimately meal satisfaction.

The truth is Real Flavor stops you in your tracks and makes you go ‘mmmmm’. It can give you goosebumps and stimulates an immediate nervous system response. Upping the mmmmm factor in your meals and in your life will help you feel happier and healthier. Your body will thank you by shedding unwanted pounds and clearing up any nagging digestive issues it may have been plaguing you with in an attempt to get your attention.

So give it a try…treat your taste buds to some genuine tantalizing flavor and see what happens!

(I love food and all things foodie, including talking about it…if you have questions or want more information about any of the information covered in this article, feel free to email me.)

Just for starters:

Here is an exceptional recipe for the summer months. The first time I came across the recipe I was skeptical… I mean cheese and melon?? Sounds like a digestive nightmare. However, much to my surprise the feta cheese coupled with the mint was the perfect addition to the watermelon, turning it into a beautiful accompaniment to a summertime meal. Remember all those flavor options? They’re all met in this simple little salad.

Watermelon Feta Salad

Simple version:

  • 1/2 medium Watermelon cut into cubes
  • 1/2 c Feta Cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 c. Fresh Mint leaves

Combine ingredients and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving so flavors can combine.

All taste version:

  • 1/2 medium Watermelon cut into cubes
  • 1/2 c Feta Cheese
  • 1 tbs of Olive Oil
  • Juice from one Lime
  • 1/2 cup of Arugula – minced (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 c. Fresh Mint leaves

Toss all ingredients and enjoy!