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Everything You Need to Know About Supertasters — the Superheroes of the Food World

Editor
These powerful men and women walk among us, and you might be one of them

Each one of us experiences the world slightly differently. Short people look up at it; tall people look down at it; colorblind people see fewer colors; hearing-impaired people hear fewer sounds. Culinary preferences vary widely as well; some people love nothing more than a ripe summer tomato, while others can’t even stand the smell of one. But there’s one group of people out there who experience food on a completely different level from the rest of us, and you might even consider them the superheroes of the food world: supertasters.

Supertasters, put simply, have a lot more taste buds than the rest of us, which allows them to taste food on a far more intense level than everyone else. Far more women are supertasters than men (about 35 percent versus 15 percent), and Asians are more likely to be supertasters than any other ethnicity.

As opposed to simply being able to really enjoy bacon, supertasters are primarily identified as disliking a wide range of foods, making them pickier eaters than most. Many supertasters don’t like the taste of certain alcoholic beverages (including gin, tequila, and hoppy beer), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, grapefruit, cilantro, green tea, coffee, mushrooms, and anise. Since bitter and salty flavors tend to be amplified, very salty foods like olives and soy sauce, and bitter drinks like coffee and tonic water, may be deemed inedible. They also prefer foods that many people would consider to be bland over more rich foods, which can be overwhelming. Supertasters also tend to be thin, because many rich and fatty foods simply don’t taste good to them.

Sadly, being a supertaster doesn’t give you any great powers; many people falsely think that supertasters are able to identify more subtle nuances in foods and drinks, like wine for example, but in reality they’re just put off by red wine with lots of bitter tannins.

If you think you might be a supertaster, you can test for it at home: Punch a hole out of a sheet of thick paper using a standard hole punch, and spread some blue food dye on your tongue with a cotton swab. Hold the paper up to your tongue and look at it in a mirror through a magnifying glass (the blue dye helps you see it better), and count the number of taste buds you see inside the hole. Standard tasters will see around 15, but supertasters will see up to 35. 

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