Oh, to have been born loving broccoli instead of chocolate! Truth is, your DNA alone doesn’t dictate what you like (and don’t like).

Like mother, like son

You can’t just blame your taste buds for not liking certain foods. DNA doesn’t define taste preferences; it’s just one piece of the puzzle that involves nurture at least as much as nature. Cultivating a “taste” for a specific something (be it expensive handbags or Brussels sprouts) requires exposure. Nutrition experts frequently counsel mothers about the importance of exposing young children to lots of different tastes: it conditions them to accept a variety of healthy foods. They advise parents to try and try again, as research shows that it can take as many as 10 to 15 tastes before a child will learn to appreciate a new flavor. But our first flavor experiences occur even before we’re able to eat solid foods.

Infants are exposed to flavors through breast milk, which reflects the flavors of foods, spices and beverages in mothers’ diets. (Bottle-fed babies are limited to the standardized flavors of infant formulas, one of many reasons that nutrition experts recommend breastfeeding.) Food chemicals with distinct tastes and smells also are transmitted to the amniotic fluid that cushions a growing baby; the fetus swallows this fluid and can sense the flavors. “Taste and smell are fairly well developed in utero,” says Mennella.

Next: The Carrot Juice Study »

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner