Sweet, sour, or salty, there is a sensory playground housed in every meal we eat. Many consider taste a “lesser” sense, but current research may change your mind.

When looking at all birth records to date, there are plenty of cases of those born blind, deaf, and even without a brain, but not one documentation of a child born without a sense of taste. Why? To survive, we need cues that signal us to either ingest or spit out what we’ve eaten. Simply, taste perception acts as poison control. Feel especially drawn to sweet? A sweet taste tells our brain that energy is readily in front of us, so when we are tired or haven’t eaten enough during the day, we naturally crave it. Think about kids downing pixie sticks: children have a higher tolerance to sweetness than most adults related to higher energy needs during growth. You might think you’re still holding on to your sweet tooth, but chances are it has faded dramatically since you were 7.

This awesome sense develops before birth as the child forms in the womb. So start eating those veggies early, ladies: research shows that moms who eat vegetables during their pregnancy will increase their infant’s tolerance to eating greens, too.

But ultimately, we live in our own chemical world. Asking someone to taste a food we LOVE will not always give a shared response. And it’s because our chemical balance, genes, and rate of exposure to foods as a child profoundly affect what we like and what we don’t. Another reason to feel unpressured to eat the freak casserole your neighbor makes for the Memorial Day barbeque.

No need to argue, taste is a sense that serves us in more ways than one. Many designers would agree.

(Love the cleanliness of this ad from fashion photographer Fulvio Bonavia.)

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