My girlfriend Patrice and I like to joke about how our kids developed their taste for spicy foods while in the womb. Our little ones can slurp down salsa with the adults and one of my baby’s first words was “spicy!” These are the things that make mommas like us so very proud. And it turns out we may deserve some of the credit.
According to NPR, science shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy shapes her baby’s food preferences later in life.
“Things like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, mint β these are some of the flavors that have been shown to be transmitted to amniotic fluid or mother’s milk,” says Julie Mennella, who studies taste in infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. In fact, Mennella says there isn’t a single flavor they have found that doesn’t show up in utero. Her work has been published in the journal Pediatrics.
To do the study, researchers had people smell the amniotic fluid of women who had garlic or sugar capsules. And people could pick out the smell quite easily.
To test food memories, pregnant women were divided into three groups — one that drank carrot juice every day during pregnancy, one that did the same during breastfeeding and a third that avoided carrots completely. When their babies began eating solid food, researches fed them carrot juice and videotaped their responses:
“And just like the European rabbit, the babies who had experienced carrot in amniotic fluid or mother’s milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal,” says Mennella. “And when we analyzed the video tapes they made less negative faces while eating it.”
It stands to reason that this would be the case, but it’s still cool to see a study backing it up. Just as important, I think, is introducing a wide variety of flavors to children’s palate early on, regardless of whether you ate a wide group of foods in pregnancy or not.
I know young kids who love sushi and Szechuan-style and hot peppers and the like. I parent some of them. It’s really just as easy as letting them eat it or having it around. Sometimes my girls dislike something and I’m sure we’ll reach that phase where they get super picky — but at least they have a wide variety of food options from which to choose what to be picky about.
According to the story:
University of Florida taste researcher Linda Bartoshuk says babies are born with very few hard and fast taste preferences. She says Mennella’s work shows that very early exposures to flavors β both before and after birth β make it more likely that children will accept a wide variety of flavors. And when those early exposures are reinforced over a lifetime, Bartoshuk thinks they might have far-reaching implications, even promoting good eating.