The way in which we cook and eat is dependent on the senses of taste and smell. Our appreciation (or not) of food is reliant on these senses. It is widely known that if you cannot smell what you are about to eat (due to blocked nodes), food is far less appetising and enjoyable.


Just take a minute to think about the following questions:

  • Why do some people enjoy very spicy, flavourful and hot food and other don’t?
  • Why do some people prefer sweet foods to sour or salty foods?
  • Why is it that when we smell certain foods or drinks, we are sometimes taken on a journey through our memory banks?
  • How adventurous are you when trying new foods?


We have 2000 – 5000 taste buds in our mouths, each accounting for the different taste categories – sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Taste is a chemical sense and it has a short link in the brain. People are rarely overwhelmed by the sense of taste.  What and how we eat is dependent on our thresholds for taste. The higher your threshold, the more spice and flavour you will seek. The lower your threshold, the less adventurous and seeking you will be with regards to flavour in food.


People with high thresholds for taste will:

  • Enjoy a wide range of foods and be adventurous in trying new foods
  • Enjoy cooking from scratch and playing around with recipes
  • Enjoy several courses in a meal or a tasting menu
  • Enjoy spicy and flavourful food
  • Enjoy variety in choices of food (like a buffet)


People with low thresholds for taste will:

  • Avoid trying new foods
  • Prefer bland foods – avoid sauces and strong flavours
  • Prefer a set and familiar menu
  • Will not experiment with cooking


Sensory strategies for the high threshold person:

  • Be adventurous, try new foods and different flavours.
  • Experiment with food – adjust recipes as you cook.
  • Combine foods with different textures and tastes.
  • Keep the condiments close at hand – hot sauce, herbs, pepper, etc. so that you can add flavour to your food at your hearts content.
  • Have a varied and changing menu during the week.
  • Eat out – restaurants provide you with large variety of choices.
  • Join a dinner club.
  • Cook with others – the more the merrier and the more you will enjoy your meal.


Sensory strategies for the low threshold person:

  • Avoid rich and spicy foods.
  • Open doors and windows when you cook, so that the aromas don’t overwhelm you.
  • Have a planned menu for the week.
  • Eat at restaurants that cater to your sensory tastes and do so occasionally.
  • Follow recipes precisely.
  • Eat what you are familiar with – you still need to savour those flavours that bring you comfort.
  • When cooking, use recipes that include your favourite ingredients.
  • When in overload, remove yourself from the environment or avoid the sensory input as much as possible.


Many revolve their social and emotional wellbeing around food and eating – family dinners and gatherings are definitely made more memorable by the fact that we can share in the joy of spending time around the table.  Whether you are eating with many or whether you are eating with a small crowd, be aware that not all people have the same thresholds for flavour and spice in their food. It is always easier to add flavour if you find food a bit bland, but much more difficult to tone down if food is too spicy or full of flavour. I always have to remind my family when cooking curries or spicy food, that “our mild is very different to someone else’s “mild”.


Find out what your tastebuds are trying to tell you …

  1. For a quick summary of your sensory profile, do our short FREE Sensory Quiz
  2. For a comprehensive 25-page report with tips and strategies on how to use your senses to live a productive, healthy and happy life visit Sensory Matrix or contact us to make use of our special “Buy 1, get 1 FREE” offer at only R550 (incl VAT) – OFFER ENDS 31 OCTOBER ’18.
  3. Once you’ve done the e-profile and would like a one-on-one coaching session, we can put you in touch with one of our licensed practitioners.
  4. For team building with a difference, get your whole team to do the e-profile – you can contact us here.


Annabella Sequeira holds a BSc (Occupational Therapy) degree from the University of Cape Town, backed by 23 years’ experience in both the public and private sector. She has extensive practical experience in the area of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction in children and is passionate about empowering others to improve functionality and quality of life.

She is also part of our Gauteng-based Senses in Education team