Hate Broccoli?

6 March 2024

Looking at vegetables, probably the greatest differences in love or avoidance are broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale.  These are all cruciferous vegetables from the family of Brassica that have a large, flowering head, usually on a stalk, and small leaves.

In 1931 Arthur L. Fox, a chemist, uncovered that about a quarter of the population cannot detect bitterness.  It seems that this is a recessive genetic trait.  Actually there are 25 different receptors for bitterness, that we know of so far, and some people are more sensitive than others to this sensation.  Then it makes sense that some people are just naturally prone to dislike and avoid some or all cruciferous vegetables.

A more recent study by Damian Frank indicates that saliva plays an important role.  These types of veggies produce compounds and Frank indicates that saliva for some people contains a particular bacteria that produce the sulfuric enzyme that affects how someone might taste these flavors.  Those children with the greater number of the enzymes in their saliva disliked the raw vegetables the most.  However, adults with the same number of enzymes were more accommodating with the resulting theory that as we mature, we are more tolerant of food options. The study did not delve into which types of bacteria and their volumes were in each sample of saliva.

It is said that we eat first with our eyes.  If that is so, then the nose is a close second.  There is no question that the brassica each have a distinct, and rather pungent, aroma.  There is a real connection between the olfactory and taste receptors.  Think of walking into a bakery with all the warm and enticing smells and tell me that your mouth does not start to water.

This study also used gas chromatography to see if cooking changed the profiles of broccoli and cauliflower.  Both the raw and cooked vegetables produced an unfavorable odor.  In Australia researchers found that the enzymes in these vegetables can combine with saliva and then cause the smell to linger.

Scientists are saying that a compound, S-methyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide, that produces a scent much like sulfur in the plant and this ame enzyme is produced in the oral bacteria we mentioned earlier in this article.

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is also looking into this situation.  They worked with 98 pairs of parent/child, with the children all between six and eight years old.  Of course, they disliked the sulphurous odors the most.  Then the testers mixed raw cauliflower powder with saliva.  This time the scientists found large differences between those who couldn’t stand the scent and those that were able to tolerate it.  They also noted that most children had the same like or dislike as their parents, which is what you would expect.

So, what’s the bottom line?  Well, children are not necessarily just being obstinant when they are being asked to eat their veggies, especially the cruciferous ones.  As adults, they may grow to accept them.  And…it is just nice to see there is a reason for all of it.  There are any number of vegetable choices so if your child or children don’t seem to like one thing, keep trying until you find the right ones.  The trick is to get them to at least taste or eat several bites before they make up their minds.


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