Confused about why you suddenly seem to not mind - and even enjoy - foods you once despised? Don't worry, you're not alone.
Unlike most kids, I was an avid vegetable eater growing up, but the one thing I could NOT stand was coffee. Every morning I would watch my dad fill up a tumbler full of coffee and head off to work, but I distinctly remember not understanding why anyone would choose to drink something so foul....until my freshman year of college. Now, the only thing that motivates me to get out of bed each morning is a steaming hot mug of black-as-night (decaf) coffee. The stronger, the better.
I'm sure I am not alone. Ask any adult if they now eat foods they once detested as kids, and most will list off a few things. Red wine. Beer. Dark chocolate. Kale. Any of the cruciferous vegetables. After all, if our tastes didn't change, we'd all be eating Pop-Tarts and frozen chicken nuggets (or are some of you still doing that?). Our changes in taste are normal and dictated by two major factors: exposure and aging.
As we age, our taste buds change - but not in the sense of perceiving flavors differently. Rather, we just begin to lose sensitivity.
Everyone starts out with 10,000 or so taste buds and every few weeks they regenerate. However, as we get older, we start being not-so-proficient at cell regeneration and not all of the taste buds get replaced. Less taste buds means less sensitivity to strongly-flavored foods and more tolerance. (Hence your open arms to dark chocolate, Brussels sprouts, red wine, and all other foods offensive to small children).
A recent study done in the UK actually pinpointed the age at which we begin to lose sensitivity....and that is the ripe, old age of 22. Yup, after that it's all downhill.
This, in part, explains why young kids have a difficult time adapting to strongly-flavored foods and why old people add salt to everything.
Outside of actual physical changes to taste, the other major determinant of taste preference is exposure. You may have heard that you can create a new habit in 21 days....well, you can also do the same with taste.
I mentioned earlier that I was one of the few kids in the universe who didn't gag at the sight (or taste) of vegetables. This was largely due to the fact that, as my mom comes from Southeast Asia, a Southeast Asian diet is high in vegetables. Day in and day out = vegetables. This repeated exposure makes intense foods seem less offensive over time. (This is the same reason why Mexican kids have a higher tolerance than you for chili peppers).
Exposure to foods plays a big role in whether or not we enjoy them. So, if you're an adult and you still haven't reached the point of enjoying vegetables, keep eating them. Your taste will change with repeated exposure (and your health will improve). As for kids, don't be afraid to repeatedly offer them foods they "hate." Over time, they will adapt AND they won't be so picky as adults!
Get out of your comfort zone and try new foods (or old foods that you think you used to hate)! Sampling foods from different cultures is another great way to add diversity to your diet and introduce all sorts of nutrients you might be missing out on.