The Reason Food Tastes Different When You Have A Cold

Feeling achy, having a sore throat, and suffering from a stuffy nose are telltale signs you may have a cold. After an abundance of sleep, you still feel groggy and exhausted. Now to top it off, your go-to comfort food tastes different. As you're getting a spoonful of your favorite hot soup, you realize something is off. If you've experienced this, you're not alone. 

According to Live Science, researchers say that 80 percent of the flavors we taste come from what we're able to smell. Unfortunately, that's why when we're plugged up food becomes bland.

Stanford professor of otolaryngology, Dr. Zara Patel, explains that multiple viruses can cause colds that lead to a loss of smell. "Any of these viruses are known to cause inflammation, either directly around the nerve in the nasal lining or within the nerve itself," she told Stanford Medicine. "When the nerve is either surrounded by inflammatory molecules or has a lot of inflammation within the nerve cell body, it cannot function correctly — and that is what causes the loss or dysfunction of smell."

How to make food more enjoyable if you have a cold

So if you're sick, is there anything you can do to make food more enjoyable? To find out, Vice spoke with Julie Velthoven, who hasn't been able to smell anything her entire life. She has a condition called anosmia, which according to Medical News Today, means a complete loss of smell. This condition can result from a problem with the nasal passages, or a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.

Velthoven explains that to enjoy food more, she chooses foods that have interesting texture, like sushi. "And generally speaking, crunchy things are great," she says. "Which doesn't mean that you should just fry everything. It's mostly the mushy stuff like boiled asparagus or oysters that just doesn't do it for me. If I order pasta, I never get something slippery like carbonara, but instead a tomato sauce with vegetables and meat."

Luckily, your sense of smell should return after your cold has run its course and you'll soon be enjoying your beloved treats again. However, if it doesn't, Dr. Patel recommends seeking care as soon as possible. "Interventions, including olfactory training and medications, are more effective when you are treated early," she said.