Babies’ “flavor memories” – another reason for pregnant and breastfeeding moms to eat their veggies.

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My kids are total chilie addicts. They love both red and green; the kind used to smother combination plates in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and that tumble in roadside roasting barrels from late summer through fall, inducing a soporific euphoria among entire populations.

Now I know why. While babies are still in utero, “flavor memories” are storing information about the foods their mothers ingest. My kids were seriously brainwashed in the ethos of Northern New Mexican cuisine.

According to an Aug. 8  report by Gretchen Cuda-Kroen on NPR’s  Morning Edition, research shows that foods consumed by a pregnant mother change the taste of the amniotic fluid, and later, her breastmilk. Flavor “memories” formed during pregnancy and breastfeeding can last a lifetime, said Cuda-Kroen. So if you want your child to eat a variety of foods in life, start as early as possible.

A quick check on when babies develop the sense of taste revealed the unborn can detect flavor as early as the eighth week of gestation. According to, the near-term human fetus swallows 500 to 1000 Mls/per day of amniotic fluid. Spinach, cauliflower, grapefruit, pineapple – it all filters through. 

Even the taste for sweets, which research shows babies prefer – starts  in the womb. If you don’t want little Fiona to turn up her nose at broccoli and carrots when she’s 18 months, better start getting her used to those flavors now.

Flavor memories can last into adulthood and carry forth what our cultures and families value, said Cuda-Kroen. I imagine Korean babies learn early on to appreciate kimchi.

By eating a variety of healthy foods – all the colors and flavors – during pregnancy and breastfeeding, mothers help ensure their children’s future health. 

When my new granddaugher arrives next month she will already have “memories” of her family’s favorite foods.  But I’m going to buy her a rattle in the shape of a chilie pepper, just to make sure.  FFG

Here’s the link to the NPR story:

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