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Only About 25% Of People In The World Are Supertasters—Are You?

Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
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Everyone has different flavor preferences, but some foods tend to be more polarizing than others. Take black coffee for example: The bitter beverage generally sparks a love or hate relationship, wouldn't you say? This could be due to the fact that some people are more sensitive to this kind of taste. Some people are so sensitive, in fact, that geologist David R. Montgomery, Ph.D., and biologist Anne Biklé call them "supertasters."

On a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, the husband-wife duo, and co-authors of What Your Food Ate: How To Heal Our Land And Reclaim Our Health, share how to know if you fall in this rare genetic category. Here's a summary. 

What is a supertaster?

Your body has specific receptors for different tastes (think sweet, savory, umami, etc.). "Supertasters probably have more receptors, and/or they have receptors that are more sensitive to these bitter substances," Biklé says. So a supertaster is particularly in tune with the bitter taste, thanks to genetics.

About a quarter of the population consists of supertasters, and another quarter are described as "non-tasters," which essentially means their taste is a bit weaker than the average person. As for the rest of us, we all fall somewhere in between the two extremes, Biklé explains. 

The bitter taste is, scientifically speaking, naturally more reactive as is. "When it comes to the bitter substances, we have around 23 or 24 different kinds of receptors," Biklé explains. Other tastes have significantly less; sweet tastes, for example, only have two or three. That's why many people might not favor bitter tastes in general. Supertasters, on the other hand, might truly only be able to handle a couple forkfuls.

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How to tell if you're a supertaster.

In order to tell if you're a supertaster, you should first think about how you feel about bitter foods. A few common ones include: 

  • Kale 
  • Citrus peel 
  • Cacao
  • Broccoli 
  • Red wine
  • Coffee

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Now, being a supertaster doesn't necessarily mean you'll hate bitter foods in general. However, most supertasters will be hesitant to consume these foods in abundance, as Biklé explains. Of course, things like dressings, sugar, and other additives can get in the way of tasting the all-natural bitter flavor of some of these foods. 

However, Biklé explains that consuming plants grown in healthy soil will result in the most authentic flavor to test your taste buds, thanks to the phytochemicals present. Specifically, green, leafy vegetables can taste bitter, because they contain chemical compounds known as glucosinolates; but they're also packed with vitamins and nutrients, including potassium, calcium, vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and fiber.

Again, being a supertaster doesn't mean you're any better or worse for it, but it does serve as one reason some of us are more hesitant toward these bitter foods than others. It's worth scarfing down at least a few forkfuls, though, if you can stand it—bitter greens, especially, provide key nutrients that boost digestion, heart health, and more.

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The takeaway. 

About 25 percent of the population are supertasters, meaning they're particularly sensitive to bitter flavors like those found in kale, coffee, or citrus peels. If you tend to lean away from consuming bitter foods, you just might be a supertaster. This isn't good or bad for your health, necessarily, but it does help to explain some flavor preferences. Pretty cool, right? If you want to learn more from Biklé and Montgomery, check out their nutrition tips or tune in to the full episode below. 

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