One of the best things about quitting smoking is being able to taste food properly again. I love to eat, and I had no idea when I used to smoke just what I was missing out on, until I quit.
Inhaling smoke from cigarettes exposes your nasal passage and taste buds to a range of harmful chemicals. These chemicals dull your taste buds – building up over time to further inhibit your taste abilities. Because smell and taste are linked in your mind when eating, the effects of smoking on your sense of smell also contribute to a dulled sense of taste.
Because this happens slowly, it’s not something you actually notice … until you stop smoking. After just a few hours of quitting, these senses start to return, and within a few days of quitting, you’ll be experiencing tastes like never before.
The importance of taste and smell
You might be asking, so? What’s the big deal about being able to taste and smell properly? As long as my food still edible, does it really matter?
Kinda. Taste and smell are actually an important way your body senses danger. You can smell the burning of a fire before you see the smoke, or spoiled food before you put it in your mouth. Think of how often you sniff food in the fridge to see if it’s still okay to eat?
Without strong senses of smell and taste you don’t have this same level of protection. You’ll struggle to identify spoiled food or the smell of gas. One day, this could have nasty consequences.
What happens to smell and taste senses when you give up smoking?
The first thing you’ll notice is the intensity with which you taste things. You’ll experience a new depth of flavour you never knew existed before. This will start as little as a few hours after your last cigarette.
You’ll also notice that your tastes actually change. One of the side effects of having dulled sense is that you crave strongly-flavoured foods. You might have developed a taste for vindaloo or triple-layer German chocolate cake while you were smoking. But now when you eat these foods, you might find them too spicy, salty, or cloyingly sweet.
Foods that once tastes bland to you may suddenly develop new flavours. I never liked apples before I quit smoking, and now I love their crunchy, fresh taste.
It’s quite exciting rediscovering your sense of taste after quitting smoking. It’s one of numerous benefits. And the fun of it can actually help distract you from the desire to light up again. Plus, you have the perfect excuse to grab that ice cream split, moroccan lamb, or smokey cheese. I’m down with that.
If you’re struggling with your smoking journey, the SmokeFree website provides a list of services (many of them free) across NZ you can access. You don’t have to do this alone!