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Avoiding Certain Foods? Blame Survival

Humans were wired to avoid potentially harmful foods. Those who succeeded, survived.


Photo: Chandrika Nair (flickr)

The strong smell and flavor of coconut can be uncomfortable if your brain has associated it with illness.

Have you ever avoided a food you formerly enjoyed but once made you sick? It could be in your head.

Taste aversion is your brain’s way of protecting you from potentially harmful food by warning you not to eat something that had made you ill in the past.

Taste aversion is smart — in the old days, if a gatherer came across poison berries or another harmful food, the body would react by becoming violently ill. The brain recognized the food was bad, and caused an aversion to avoid consuming it again.

Unfortunately today that same reaction could misfire. If you eat your favorite food while sick, for instance, you might form an aversion just by association.

Can’t stand the wiggle of Jello? Never forgot when you ate lasagna before you got the flu? Whatever your taste aversion, share below!

Read More:

  • The psychology of food aversions (CNN)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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