The taste of your favorite foods can be euphoric – that sweet burst of berry in a pavlova, the rich and sweet flavor of chocolate, the spicy heat of a Thai curry.
Foods we love can be nostalgic, with research showing that food we consider to be comfort food is actually just tied to good memories from our past.
So, imagine how horrible it would be if you couldn’t taste any of it.
What can cause you to lose your sense of taste?
There are many different health conditions that can alter your sense of taste, and sometimes resolving them can take a long time.
While you might still enjoy the texture of foods during this time, not being able to taste and savor them can be depressing. You still need to eat, though.
Here’s your guide on what to eat when you can’t taste anything so that food is nourishing and eating it is still enjoyable.
How Do Taste Buds Work?
Taste buds are sensory organs located on the tongue that help you to taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter foods.
Basically, these buds contain microscopic hairs that send messages to your brain about how food tastes.
On average, you have approximately 2,000 to 4,000 taste buds that get replaced every week. As you age, you lose taste buds, but they can also be damaged from unhealthy practices such as smoking.
What Causes A Loss Of Taste?
Recently, experiencing a loss of taste has become newsworthy as it’s been listed as a possible symptom of the Covid-19 virus.
However, there are many other reasons why you might lose your sense of taste. These include:
- Sinus infections
- Middle-ear infections
- Dental problems, such as gingivitis
- Poor oral health
- Surgeries that have been performed on the nose, ear, throat, or mouth
- Head injuries
- Radiation therapy for cancer
- Medications, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, antihistamines, protein kinase inhibitors, and proton pump inhibitors
You might think you have a problem with your sense of taste, but the culprit could actually be your sense of smell, and this is the case for many people. Your sense of smell and taste are highly connected.
When you chew your food, it releases aromas that trigger your sense of smell via a channel that connects your nose to the roof of your throat. If this channel is hampered, aromas cannot get to your nose, which can cause food to lose its flavor.
This is why it’s important to consult an otolaryngologist (otherwise known as an ENT) as he/she will be able to figure out the source of your loss of taste, such as by conducting physical examinations of your nose, throat, ears, and teeth, as well as performing a taste test.
If you’re experiencing a loss of taste as a result of an illness, such as a sinus infection, then it will come back once that health condition has been treated.
If you’re experiencing a loss of taste from medications you’re on, your doctor could help you regain your sense of taste by switching you to a different type of drug.
What To Eat When You Can’t Taste Anything
It’s natural to feel depressed when you can’t taste anything you eat, but it can also lead to a reduction in your appetite.
This can cause you to lack important nutrients your body needs to be healthy. It can also hamper your recovery from a health condition that’s causing you to lose your sense of taste, so you need to ensure you eat healthy food to keep you strong and help you recover.
Here are some tips for how to approach food during this stressful time.
- Engage your other senses. How does the food feel in your mouth? How does it smell? Provided you still have a sense of smell, use fragrant spices and other ingredients that will still give you some enjoyment and might even help you recall good memories. Research has found that volatile compounds in herbal plants can help to stimulate your smell and taste in a powerful way, so add turmeric, thyme, mint, oregano, and ginger to your meals.
- Try to eat different foods. You might not be experiencing a complete loss of taste, so there could be foods that you can still taste. By experimenting with different types of food, you could find ones that you enjoy more than others. These are valuable additions to your diet.
- Eat more snacks. You might battle to eat large meals because you can’t taste the food, so focus on eating small snacks throughout the day. Just make sure these are healthy and contain protein, healthy fats, and carbs so that you get nutrients you need.
- Flavor your food with acids. Avoid adding too much salt to your food. You won’t be able to taste it and it will bump up your sodium intake. Rather try adding vinegar or lemon juice to your foods as acids are strong and their flavor tends to be detected even when your smell and taste are impaired.
- Enjoy meat with sauces. Some people who are experiencing a lack of taste sometimes find meat difficult to eat because it tends to taste metallic. This is why it’s useful to cook meat in sweet or acidic sauces. It might also be useful to replace meat with other sources of protein, such as eggs, peanut butter, and tofu.
- Make smoothies. Sometimes it can feel easier to drink food instead of eat it, especially if food isn’t as pleasurable as it used to be. Just make sure that you pack your smoothies with nutrients, such as with healthy foods like nut butter, full-fat yogurt, fruits, and fresh leafy greens like kale.
Should You Use This Time To Lose Weight?
If you’re not gaining pleasure from the foods you used to love, this could cause you to lose weight.
But, weight loss can also happen as a result of you having less of an appetite. You might try to look for the positive in this experience and use it to shed some extra pounds.
It could feel easier to eliminate entire food groups from your diet, such as carbohydrates or fats, because you’re not craving the foods that you used to when you could smell and taste them.
This should be avoided as cutting out lots of food could result in you lacking important nutrients.
If you want to lose some weight, you should do this wisely. Gravitate towards healthier foods, perhaps the broccoli and spinach you could never enjoy before, but focus on following a balanced diet. This will also prevent you from putting on weight by eating unhealthy foods.
While it might sound strange, research (as reported by Food and Wine) has found that when people lose their sense of taste it can result in them reaching for more flavorful or sweeter foods to compensate for the loss. This has the consequence of making them eat unhealthy foods that can cause weight gain.
Reaching for unhealthy foods in the hope that they will help you to taste more of what you’re eating could worsen health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Can Alzheimer’s disease cause a loss of taste?
Health conditions such as Alzheimer’s can damage parts of the brain that enable the sense of smell and taste, as well as your ability to process them.
Is it normal to feel a reduced sense of taste as you age?
Some reduction in one’s taste and smell is a natural part of the aging process, and this is especially the case after the age of 60.
Losing your sense of taste can be a real damper on your life.
You could be missing out on the pleasure you used to experience from food and find that you’re gravitating away from food you used to love.
It’s really important to maintain a healthy diet during this time. In this article, we’ve shown you how to make healthy food choices when you’ve partially or completely lost your sense of taste.