Why Food Tastes Different & Other Eating Issues Related To Aging

Senior friends enjoying ice cream in the city early in the morning.As we get older, our bodies change.

These changes happen slowly over many years, and because we often don’t pay attention to our mouths unless we’re in pain, it may not be obvious that something there has changed.

Do any of these experiences sound familiar to you?

  • Food tastes and feels different. You may find that it takes more sugar or salt for something to taste sweet or salty, or that stronger foods no longer seem to have as much flavor. Even the texture and “feel” of food may seem different.
  • Chewing and swallowing is more difficult. You may find that you tend to “swallow wrong” or get food “stuck in your windpipe” more often than you used to.
  • Your mouth feels excessively dry.

For many, these changes can have a profound impact on how and what we eat. This can mean bad food choices that have a direct impact on our health.

How Taste Changes Affect Your Health

If you have high blood pressure, you should limit the amount of salt in your food. Adding salt to improve taste may be a poor option.

Those managing diabetes may find it hard to avoid added sugar to make food taste sweet enough,  which makes diabetes harder to control.

When foods no longer taste the way we remember, many of us may be tempted to replace them with options that have stronger flavors. Many of these foods have higher fat, salt, and sugar content with less of the good stuff. Are you getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep your body healthy?

Chewing and Swallowing Changes

As you age, your tongue may lose some of its ability to work the way you expect, and it may be more difficult to move food while chewing. You’re also more likely to accidentally choke on food or drink if you are not paying attention. For example, you may try to swallow food before it is chewed enough.

If you have problems with chewing and swallowing, consider avoiding some foods and changing how you eat. For example, you may want to add water or other liquids to help you swallow.

Tips for Adapting to Taste Changes

These changes are a normal part of aging. They may be frustrating at times, but it’s important that we take steps to deal with them. Here are a few tips that may help.

  • Use spices and artificial sweeteners. Rather than relying on salt or sugar to improve taste, add more spices or use artificial sweeteners in your foods.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have more flavor and less salt or sugar than canned or processed foods. Adding more to your diet can help with nutrition and with taste.
  • Eat slowly. Take your time to chew and think about how you’re eating to avoid choking.
  • Cut meats into smaller pieces. Concentrate on completely chewing each piece before swallowing.
  • Have a glass of water with your meals.

About the Author

Leslie DeLong RDH, MHH
Associate Professor Lamar Institute of Technology, Co-Author of General and Oral Pathology for the Dental Hygienist-LWW

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

Leave a Comment