How to Improve Your Palette

As we age, we may feel over time that our sense of taste is becoming a little bit dull. Sometimes this is due to lifestyle habits as opposed to the actual aging process, which means there are some things we can do to amplify our senses. Keep in mind as you read that your sense of smell is closely tied to your sense of taste. Here are some of the most effective steps you can take:

  1. If you smoke, quit. Cigarette smoking causes permanent damage in the olfactory nerves (your nose nerves), and the sooner you quit for good, the better your chances are of avoiding large amounts of long-term damage.
  2. Check your medications. There are literally hundreds of medications that affect our senses of taste and/or smell. Also, medications that cause dry mouth can secondarily be affecting your taste buds as well. While you should not decrease or stop medications without consulting your physician first, you should report bothersome side effects to him/her, such as decreased ability to taste or smell.
  3. Stay hydrated. A dry mouth does not sense taste as well as a well-hydrated mouth, so make sure you’re drinking enough water. If you’re exercising rigorously, you will need more than the average 48 ounces per day.
  4. Eat only when you are hungry. People that overeat report a decreased pleasure in their actual food items. Resolve to eat only when you are hungry. If you always eat while watching television or socializing, pay attention to whether you are actually hungry during those periods. If you feel you aren’t actually hungry, have one of those glasses of water we talked about in the previous item.
  5. Get more exercise. Study after study shows that frequent bouts of exercise, even moderate exercise, heighten our sense of smell, which in turn assists our taste buds. Scientists theorize that exercise moistens and clears the nasal passages, thereby helping us sense aromas more effectively.
  6. Humidify your air, especially in the winter. Humans show increased abilities to detect even subtle smells during the spring and summer. Scientists think that this is due to the heightened moisture in the air during these seasons. Once autumn sets in, run a humidifier in your home and pay attention to your senses of smell and taste to see if you detect an improvement (if you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s no accident: moist noses and mouths make the best climate for enjoying your food).