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In General

As a general matter, our ablity to taste depends on a complex system. Detecting the flavor of food involves taste receptors on the tongue that tell you if something is bitter, salty, sour, sweet or savory. Taste also involves the smell, texture and temperature of food.

As a side effect of a variety of reasons, such as treatment, drugs and infections, food may have less taste or certain foods (like meat) may be bitter or taste like metal. Your sense of smell may also change. Sometimes, foods that used to smell good to you no longer do. Taste changes are different for each person.

Tastes can change from day to day, or week to week. 

Taste changes can create a problem getting adequate protein and calories, making good nutrition difficult.

If you experience taste changes, following are "dos" and "don'ts" to consider:


  • Eat foods that taste good to you - even if this becomes boring because of eating the same foods over and over. 
  • Try foods or beverages that are different from the ones you usually eat. 
    • Keep a list with you of foods that taste good to you.
    • Do not taste new foods when you are around unpleasant odors.
  • Look for foods or fluids that require less chewing. The less time a food or fluid is in your mouth, the more likely you will tolerate it.
  • Keep your mouth, tongue and teeth clean and well rinsed to help keep away bad tastes
    • Rinse your mouth during the day, especially before and after eating. Rinses can be as simple as adding a slice of cucumber, lemon or orange to water or l/2 teaspoon of salt to a cup of water. Also consider a rinse with tea, ginger ale, or a baking soda and a salt rinse. 
    • Brush your teeth and tongue often. (Use a soft toothbrush). 
    • Ask your dentist or doctor whether they would recommend a special mouthwash that may help as well as other ways to care for your mouth.
  • With respect to salt:
    • If salty foods taste bad or too salty:
      • Decrease the amount of salt. 
      • Try a variety of low-salt and sodium-reduced products.
      • Add sugar to mask the salt taste. For instance, in soups, gravy, or mashed potatoes.
    • If salty foods taste good:
      • Try adding salt to bland tasting foods or even drinks. 
      • Consider salted foods such as salted crackers or pretzels, salted nuts, instant or canned soups, salted peanut butter, or mashed potatoes
  • With respect to sweet foods:  If sweet foods taste good, consider sprinkling sugar on foods - even foods that you would not normally add sugar to. For instance, consider adding sugar to such foods as: soups, casseroles, meats, and vegetables.
  • Appeal to your other senses to make up for your lack of taste. For example:
    • Eat foods with a strong aroma such as garlic or onions. 
    • Look for foods with pleasing colors and textures.
  • Use plastic eating utensils instead of metal ones.
  • Consider marinating foods.
    • You can improve the flavor of meat, chicken, or fish by soaking it in a marinade. 
    • You can buy marinades in the grocery store or try fruit juices, wine, or salad dressing. 
    • While soaking food in a marinade, keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it.
  • Try tart food and drinks.
    • Tart foods include oranges and lemonade. 
    • Tart lemon custard might taste good and add extra protein and calories. 
    • Do not eat tart foods if you have a sore mouth or sore throat.
  • If carrot tastes bitter, it may be because of the carrot skin. 
    • Peeled sweet baby carrots or peeled large carrots will not have a bitter taste. 
    • Dipping carrots in salad dressing or hummus adds extra flavor (and nutrition)
  • Add extra flavor to your foods. For instance, consider:
    • Add bacon bits or onion to vegetables.
    • Use herbs like basil, oregano, and rosemary. 
    • Use barbecue sauce on meat and chicken..
  • Get rid of unpleasant tastes in your mouth after eating by chewing gum or by sucking on lemon drops, mints or other tart hard candies. 
  • Visit your dentist to make sure that your changed sense of taste or smell is not from dental problems.


  • Foods that taste bad to you.
  • Foods with no nutritional value.
  • Hot spices if the tissues of your mouth are inflamed.
  • Smells that bother you.

The other sections of this article cover:


  • For tips about coping if food odors change taste or make you feel ill or nauseated, click here.
  • If taste changes continue and you are unable to eat or drink enough to eat nutritiously and maintain your weight, speak with your doctor or nutritionist/dietitian. (For information about weight changes, click here.

If Food Tastes Metallic

If food tastes metallic, consider the following:

  • Eat foods cold or at room temperature.
  • Try foods from among the following list:
    • Applesauce
    • Baked beans
    • Canned tuna or salmon
    • Cheese
    • Cold sliced chicken or meat
    • Cottage cheese
    • Hummus
    • Milk or milk shakes
    • Pea or Lentil soup
    • Red pepper jelly
    • Quiche
    • Yogurt
  • Marinate foods. For instance, fish, meat or poultry. Marinades can be as simple as orange or lemon juice, vinegar or barbeque sauce.
  • Use plastic utensils or chopsticks instead of metal utensils
  • Avoid canned foods.
  • Cook foods in glass cookware instead of metal pots and pans.
  • Suck on frozen pineapple chunks.

If You Have A "Cotton Mouth" Feeling

If you have a "cotton mouth" feeling, try sour tasting foods and liquids.  They can stimulate your taste buds and increase saliva production. For example:

  • Drink 
    • Cranberry or cranapple juice
    • Grapefruit or orange juice
    • lemonade or iced tea
  • Food
    • Pickles
    • Plain yogurt
    • Sour cream
    • Sweet and sour sauce

If Strong Food Odor Affects Taste

Avoid foods and drinks with smells that bother you. Consider the following tips which have helped other people:

  • Eat foods cold or at room temperature.
  • Use a fan when cooking.
  • Cook outdoors
  • Microwave your food
  • Ask family or friends to cook 
  • Order take out
  • Keep foods covered
  • Use cups with lids (such as travel mugs)
  • Drink filtered water. Carafe-type water purifiers are not expensive. They reduce the chemical odors common in tap water.
  • Drink through a straw
  • When cooking:
    • Lift lids away from you
    • Use a kitchen fan 

To Learn More

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If Food Tastes Strong Or Bitter

If food tastes strong or bitter, consider the following tips which have helped other people:

  • Eat food cold or at room temperature
  • Try mild tasting foods. For example:
    • Bean Curd (tofu)
    • Bread soaked in milk
    • Crackers (unsalted), perhaps with cream cheese
    • Custard
    • Mashed potato
    • Noodles, the plainer the better. For instance, with butter, or olive oil and basil.

If Food Tastes Bland After A Few Mouthfuls

If food tastes bland after a few mouthfuls:

  • Consider alternating what food you eat with each mouthful.
  • Increase the flavor of foods. For example:
    • Add spices
    • Add condiments such as ketchup or mustard, barbecue sauce)
  • Consider strong flavored foods. For example:
    • Barbecued foods
    • Chocolate
    • Cured meats
    • Olives
    • Pepperoni
    • Pickles
    • Pizza