By Carl Hanson

Padma Lakshmi isn't just host of Top Chef on Bravo. She's also a supertaster. She made the revelation recently while promoting her memoir, Love, Loss, and What We Ate. "I only found out recently from a scientist in Seattle at the Science Museum that I am a supertaster," she told NPR.

What is a supertaster? It's a person who experiences a more intense sense of taste than normal folks. It's not that they've refined their palates through dedicated practice at the table. It's purely genetic, and affects more women than men. Simply put, supertasters have more taste receptors on their tongues than normal tasters.

It may sound incredible, like an amazing superhero's ability. (Supertaster! Able to pick out every nuance in a glass of wine! Capable of identifying every so-subtle flavor in a bowl of soup!) And for Padma Lakshmi, it's hard to argue it hasn't been a plus. But being super, it turns out, has its drawbacks:

1) The taste of bitter, for example, is highly pronounced among supertasters. Which can mean black coffee and hoppy brews are out.

Bitter pills

2) What's more, because bitter flavors can be disguised with sodium, supertasters run the risk of being heavy-handed with the salt shaker.

3) Because many vegetables have subtle bitter flavors, supertasters are more likely than average tasters to shun healthy veggies.

4) And forget about spicy foods. Because along with all those extra taste receptors come extra pain receptors that feel the burn.

Photo by Baasinator

The result? Supertasters can end up being picky, finicky eaters. So take heart, strictly average joes and janes of the world. We regular-ol'-tasters are more likely to enjoy a wider range of foods. We're not disturbed by bitter flavors. We don't shrink away from spicy foods. And we're OK going easy on the salt.

Let's rejoice in our normality with some recipes. Bitter foods like cabbage, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts; hot foods like chili and spicy wings; and alcoholic drinks like gin & tonics and negronis. Just don't torment your poor supertaster friends by flaunting your freewheeling food- and drink-tasting ways.

Chef John's Braised Red Cabbage | Photo by Allrecipes

For more about supertasters, check out "Super-Tasters and Non-Tasters" in Harvard's Nutrition Source.


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