Being A Picky Eater Is All In Your Head

Hate Brussels sprouts? Can't stomach mushrooms? Think cilantro tastes like soap? It's (pretty much) all in your head.
When studies linking the world's most polarizing herb, cilantro, to genetics made the rounds in 2010, cilantro haters everywhere felt validated. Hating cilantro wasn't their fault, cilantrophobes explained. It was a characteristic they were born with, like hair color or height.
But while these studies carry scientific backing, they don't present the full story, which is that we have all evolved to have an innate distaste for bitter and unfamiliar vegetables and herbs. Plants produce bitter, sometimes toxic chemicals to ward off predators, and humans evolved with an innate dislike for bitter flavors as a protection mechanism. There's even evidence that women are more sensitive to strong-tasting vegetables during pregnancy.

So what separates picky eaters from the kale enthusiasts among us? A willingness to try new things, for one. Becoming a better dinner guest could be as easy as trying your blacklisted foods over and over again, a phenomenon called "mere exposure."
The theory of mere exposure isn't revolutionary - generations of parents have cajoled their picky toddlers into repeatedly trying "just one bite" of broccoli - but the idea that there aren't foods we don't like, just foods we haven't given a fair chance, as Frank Bruni posited in the New York Times recently, is certainly novel.