Our sense of taste is the result of a complex relationship between our tongue, our nose and our brain. The taste buds on our tongues work with our sense of smell and messages sent from the brain about certain foods and flavors. As we age, however, our taste buds lose some of their sensitivity. The aging process can also cause certain foods to taste different to us, while some foods becoming difficult to taste at all. There are a few ways to improve the way you taste and heighten your ability to distinguish flavors.
Quit smoking if you are a smoker. It has been found that smoking inhibits a person's ability to taste food properly. But these effects can be reversed. Taste buds regenerate about every 10 days. As a result, if you give up smoking you may be able to improve your tasting abilities in just a few weeks' time.
Consider the types of medications that you are using. Certain medications you take may also affect your sense of taste. Commonly prescribed drugs such as antidepressants, statins and blood pressure medications can hinder your taste buds. Speak with your doctor about the safety of giving up certain medications or switching to alternatives.
Pay attention to what you are eating. Often, we are distracted when we eat. Signals from the brain work closely with the nerves in our nose and mouth to create the full taste experience. If you aren't truly aware of what you're eating, taste is diminished. While you eat, take time to pay attention to the food that is in your mouth. It also helps to alternate different foods with each bite. This keeps the palate "awake" and keeps the food interesting. It may also help to keep your food in its "real" state as best you can. In other words, the food's appearance should be as close to its natural or raw state as possible. For instance, eat carrots whole, cook a whole fish or make a baked potato instead of mashed.
Keep your diet varied. Eating the same or similar foods over and over again can desensitize your taste buds for those foods. Varying your diet, trying new foods and even giving up certain foods for a time can help bring back tastes. People often need to increase the intake of salty and sugary flavors just to taste them if they eat a lot of foods with these flavor profiles. People who have given up salty or sugary foods for a time often find that they can taste them better later on when they resume eating them.
Be mindful of your sense of smell as well. Taste and smell work closely together in the tasting process. Keep nasal passages open by blowing your nose, using saline spray or using over-the-counter medications such as an antihistamine or cold medications. It also helps to avoid prolonged exposure to very strong smells, even those that are pleasant. Such exposure can damage the nerves in the nose and will impact your tasting abilities.