Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take
Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take

We all know vegetables and fruits are good for us, but produce repulsion is an unfortunate trait shared by many people, from your average three-year-old to the most powerful men in our country.

In the annals of presidential commentary on vegetables, it’s hard to beat George H.W. Bush’s infamous, emphatic opinion on broccoli.

“I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” he said.

For that he received 20,000 pounds of it from U.S. broccoli growers, including Apio.

His son, George W. Bush, reportedly favored cauliflower over broccoli but was graced with his own gift of 10 pounds of domestic asparagus after exclaiming in favor of the German product during a state visit, the Wall Street Journal records. Win some, lose some, I guess.

Not even President Barack Obama and the first lady are completely immune to vegetable dislikes, despite the White House kitchen garden.

During a late May appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to promote her new book “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America,” Michelle Obama spilled the beans on what the first family left out of the garden.

“One thing the President and I ... don’t really like are beets,” she said. “We don’t have beets. We’re a no-beet garden.”

Yours and mine both, Mrs. Obama.

“We believe there’s a beet gene. You either love beets or you hate ‘em, and neither of us have the beet gene,” she said.

While disliking any food, be it beets or broccoli, is more a matter of taste than of genetics, it’s also a matter of not tasting something enough, according to professional taster and food developer Barb Stuckey.

Stuckey, in a recent Journal article, said everyone is born with an aversion to bitter tastes. Kids who are picky eaters, for example, are more sensitive to bitter flavors in vegetables such as broccoli, kale or sweet potatoes.

Such picky eaters might have to try a food five to 10 times before learning not to reject it outright, Stuckey said.

Those bitter flavors are actually a sign of healthful compounds such as carotenoids or flavonoids within fruits or vegetables, she said.

The mnemonic “bitter is better” might not be encouraging to some timid tasters, but Stuckey makes a valid point when she says too many Americans have numbed their taste buds to natural sweetness by overindulging in hypersweet foods.

Stuckey suggests viewing the bitterness as a positive trait, rather than a negative.

That could be a sweet solution for picky eaters and presidents alike.

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