Bitter Taste and Sobering Realization

Pine Nuts, Food Additives and Pollutants
Aug 3, 2009 8:00 AM ET

A bitter taste in the mouth, literally. Cause: Pine Nuts? Yeah! If 12 small pine nuts can have that effect, think of the effects of all we eat, drink, breathe, wash with, absorb, and ingest. Sobering.


At breakfast last Monday, I had some melon. It was ripe and smelled great but it had a bitter, lingering aftertaste. So did my tea. So did my protein shake. And everything that day. Troubling, no doubt.

Next day, with the bitter taste still strong, Cynthia googled “bitter taste” and stumbled into a ton of threads and comments about people with the same experience — one or two days after having eaten pine nuts. We had had salad with pine nuts on Saturday and Sunday. Very weird; I’ve eaten pine nuts hundreds of times with no problem. But that was the same experience all these people had had. Check out this blog: pinchmysalt

Even Wikipedia has an entry referring to taste disturbances (Pine Nuts) and a reference to a 2001 scientific article European Journal of Emerg Med. Who knew? Talk about the information superhighway!

People are searching for the “why” and are postulating all sorts of things about: pine nuts from China; cadmium content; rancidity and oxidation, but no one knows the why of it. And there seems to be no suggestion of long term problems.

It’s been four full days now, and the bitter taste is nearly gone. Seems like it’ll be complelely gone by tomorrow. But this has got me thinking and feeling unsettled. Obviously, we are all aware of the problems and effects that chemicals and foods and other substances, by natural exposure and otherwise, can have.  But when everything you eat tastes horrible, it brings it home in a big way.

If eating a dozen or so pine nuts can have that kind of physiological effect, what other physical effect were those pine nuts having? Good and bad. And what about other raw, whole foods I eat? Makes the value of superfoods — blueberries and antioxidants, etc — have real, and immediate impact. Maybe the positive effects are not simply minuscule and over decades — maybe they are profound and immediate.

And what about other substances that are not as generally benign as whole foods? What about food additives? Artificial sweeteners? Preservatives to “maintain freshness” and a host of others? What about untested shampoo or lotion ingredients? What about atmospheric particulates? Air pollution?

Maybe pine nuts will turn out to have been a “canary in the mineshaft” as far as how I organize my life. I was already eating a relatively clean diet — almost no processed food, lots of whole foods, and raw foods, and superfoods. But a bitter taste for four or five days will give one pause. Time to reflect and examine. Keep it in the consciousness even after that ruinous taste leaves my mouth.

I can always do better. How about you?