I like kiwi. I don't like omelettes. I love berry pies, but I'm not a big fan of potato chips or pretzels.

Human taste preference is seemingly universal, with even young children able to identify foods that they like and dislike, and react appropriately, hungrily seeking the former and rejecting the latter.

But what evolutionary purpose does this serve? Is my dislike of potato chips and pretzels a sign that my body is somehow predisposed to excess sodium, and this distate for the food a compensation mechanism? Is my love of kiwi an indicator of some deficit, perhaps of vitamins C and K, or my more general preference for sour flavors (which tend to indicate acidity) a part of pH regulation?

At its heart, does biological need or deficiency for particular components of a food explain personal preference for that foodstuff, and if not, is there research showing what does?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Also see: What are the main theories that account for why some people like X and others not? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ While candies and sweets might be self-explaining, before asking about evolutionary purposes, is there any correlation between one's nutritional needs and ones taste preferences at all? $\endgroup$
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ Probably people of different genetic setup have different nutrient needs and their specific taste preferences urge them to seek the foods beneficial to them. $\endgroup$
    – drabsv
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


Reasons why we do or do not like certain foods:

1. Taste

I may want to eat foods that taste pleasantly: chocolate, cakes, fried chicken and...sweet cabbage (?!).

2. Bowel regularity

I discover that whole-grain bread makes wonders to my bowel regularity, which makes my stomach to feel good, which overweights a bit bitter taste of such bread in my mouth, so I start to like it.

3. Health concerns

I read that fast food may not be healthy, so I stop eating it and start to feel better in general, and, with time, I will actually stop liking fast food.

4. Nutrient deficiencies

If I have a period in which I eat very few plant foods, I'll start to crave things, like green salad. I believe, I can start craving foods that contain certain minerals and vitamins I'm missing (iron, potassium, vitamin C, protein...).

5. Medical conditions

6. Beliefs

I can just hear or believe that certain food is "not good to eat" or "not good for me" and, just because of this, I might find that food disgusting.

7. Genetics and environment

Genetic and environmental factors can influence food preferences, especially in children and adolescents (PubMed, 2016).

8. Depression

Depression can be associated with craving for foods high in carbohydrates and fats, such as chocolate and chips (PubMed, 1995).

In conclusion: Nutrient deficiencies can be one of the factors for food preference.

  • $\begingroup$ The NHS source, you've linked says: "We found no reliable high level evidence on NHS testing for candida overgrowth in the bowel or the implications of candida overgrowth in the bowel." I've found no reliable source that would prove that candida overgrowth in the bowel in healthy individuals exists. On the other hand, differences in normal intestinal bacteria and fungi (microbiome) may affect food preferences; I didn't cover that here, but someone else may want to do so in a separate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 12:22

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