Cracking the Code on Strange Food Reactions

By Amanda Roland

Oh, cilantro — one of the world’s most controversial foods. Some love it, some hate it and some think it tastes like… soap! Do you experience strange reactions to foods that are kind of unexplainable? We are here to crack the code of some common — and strange — reactions to food. 

S M E L L Y   U R I N E

There are a few foods that commonly make some peoples’ pee smell. Two of the most common are asparagus and coffee! Asparagus causes a sulfur-like smell in some peoples’ urine, and this is because “our bodies convert the asparagusic acid it contains into sulfur-containing chemicals,” according to Healthline, an online health resource. Thus, making your pee smell super strange. 

Coffee on the other hand causes smelly pee simply because of an excess amount of coffee. “So, if someone drinks a lot of coffee, their urine may contain a high enough concentration of polyphenols and other coffee compounds” that will make the urine smell like coffee, according to Medical News Today. Drinking too much coffee can also lead to dehydration, leaving the urine to contain less water and be more concentrated. So, to avoid having smelly pee, eat or drink less of the foods that leave you smelly, and stay hydrated to avoid dehydration! 

B I T T E R   V E G G I E S

Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts taste extremely bitter to some people. Turns out, these types of veggies contain natural sulfur-based compounds that can cause this bitterness, according to 

“When you eat Brussels sprouts and broccoli, these compounds bind to a bitter taste receptor,” according to the article. “Depending upon genetics, each of us responds differently to that message of bitterness. Those who like it may be detecting a less intense bitter flavor and odor.” 

Also, heat can break down some of those bitter compounds, so try roasting these veggies in the oven with tasty seasonings to cut down on the bitter flavor! 

S O A P Y   C I L A N T R O

Cilantro is an acquired taste. The herb that is beloved by many as their favorite taco garnish actually tastes like soap to some people. Why? It’s all thanks to a specific gene that only some people have. People with this gene are able to identify the aldehydes in cilantro, aka organic materials that possess a distinct chemical structure, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These aldehydes come off as a soapy smell that affects the taste. 

“R E D   F L U S H”  A F T E R   D R I N K I N G   A L C O H O L

Some people get a very noticeable “flush” on their skin after drinking alcohol. Turns out, the “flush” is dependent on your ethnicity. Some populations have a deficiency in the enzyme that breaks down alcohol and “without enough of this enzyme, alcohol reaches toxic levels much earlier in your cells,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. After this happens, a red flush comes up on the skin. This can also happen to people who experience a skin condition called rosacea. 

The human body is a fascinating creature. Each of us is unique in chemical makeup and our physical reactions to food can vary just as much as our opinions on current events. The next time you experience one of these strange reactions, smile and know it’s your body’s unique way of interacting with that food. 


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