20 Bitter Foods That Are Actually Good For You
Whenever we think of delicious food, we think of sweet, salty, or savory. Unfortunately, rarely are these types of food ever healthy. It is often calorie-laden and could potentially be life-threatening if it is not eaten in moderation. So what is healthy food? We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but according to experts, not just any kind. The bitter ones are healthier than most.
Our human body is designed to identify bitterness to detect poison, but health experts claim that not all bitter-tasting food is poison. There are many studies supporting the benefits of including bitter foods in your diet. If you are considering adding bitterness to your diet, here are 20 bitter foods that are good for you.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Thanks to consumer media, we have all probably heard of apple cider vinegar (ACV) as the magic elixir for weight loss. But is this true? ACV is a vinegar made by fermenting apples with yeast and sugar. There are claims that vinegar is perfect for people looking to lose weight. Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence to back this claim.
However, it is still a wonderful addition when consumed with a high-carb meal, as it keeps blood sugar and insulin levels stable after eating. High blood sugar levels can increase cravings for sweet food. This can cause you to overindulge in unhealthy food and in the long run bring in health complications.
You either hate or love broccoli. There is no in-between. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a phytochemical that causes broccoli’s bitterness. A study by PubMed Journal found that the phytochemical may aid in enhancing the detoxification of airborne toxins like carbon monoxide emitted from cars and cigarette smoke. This, in turn, reduced the risk of chronic diseases like cancer.
The vegetables also contain powerful antioxidants like carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin that promote eye health. Two separate studies by PubMed Journal found that these antioxidants had a hand in decreasing the risk of age-related eye disorders, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
3. Dark Chocolate
Ever wondered why some chocolates, like dark ones, are bitter? It is because these chocolates contain 50-90% cocoa solids compared to milk chocolates, which only contain 10-50% cocoa solids. This is why dark chocolates are bitter. But it is not as bad because, unlike other food on this list, it has a sweet aftertaste.
Dark chocolates are superfoods or foods jam-packed with nutrients. These nutrients may improve blood flow, decrease bad cholesterol, increase good ones, and improve brain function. Do not go overboard with dark chocolates just because they are healthy. Having one ounce per day is the way to go.
4. Brussel Sprouts
Like broccoli, brussels sprouts are part of the brassica family. These vegetables are low in calories and full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These essential nutrients prevent cell damage that can cause cancer, reduce inflammation related to heart disease, and protect against diabetes. The vegetable is also wonderful for digestion and gut health.
There are many ways you can prepare it to curb its bitterness. Most people enjoy it when it is oven-roasted. Cut the sprouts in quarters, lightly toss them in salt, pepper, and olive oil, and cook them in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. However, if this is time-consuming, you can shave them and have them with salad.
There is nothing like a cup of coffee to jumpstart your day. The popular beverage is chock full of nutrients that provide many health benefits. Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, claims coffee might lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. Coffee drinkers may even live longer if they drink in moderation.
For maximum benefits, experts advise drinking filtered coffee and not going overboard on the sugar and cream. Also, refrain from drinking coffee if you are pregnant or giving it to kids, as caffeine could be harmful.
6. Chicory Coffee
Unlike coffee that comes from coffee beans, chicory coffee is made from the roots of a chicory plant. A chicory plant is a herbaceous plant with a tough, hairy stem, light blue flowers, and leaves. The coffee is made by roasting, grinding, and brewing the roots of this plant.
Chicory coffee has a slightly earthier and nuttier flavor than regular coffee. It provides similar benefits to coffee, such as lowering the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. However, some experts claim it is better than coffee, as it is caffeine-free. High amounts of caffeine can cause nausea, heart palpitations, restlessness, and insomnia.
The leaves of the chicory are as useful as the roots. Chicory is high in fiber and contains a prebiotic known as inulin. Fiber keeps blood glucose levels stable to prevent humans from experiencing hunger pangs. Meanwhile, inulin helps beneficial bacteria to flourish, which aids digestion and keeps our gut healthy.
Chicory is also rich in antioxidants that slow down aging. It contains retinol, a powerful chemical that targets many skin care concersn. We can eat these leaves raw in salads like celery, but it can be bitter. If you want to curb the bitterness, you can cook them on the grill or steam and saute them.
8. Green Tea
After coffee, green tea is the most popular bitter beverage in the world. The tea gets its bitterness from the catechin and polyphenol contents. Despite the bitterness, catechins like epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, offer powerful health benefits. EGCG has antioxidant properties that can reduce stress and inflammation in the body. And we know that stress and inflammation in the body could lead to cancer in the long run.
Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps calm our mind and body. According to an international journal, consuming 200–400 milligrams of L-theanine daily reduces anxiety and stress.
Kale is the most popular leafy green out there. It is the go-to choice of greens in salads for most people. This is because, when cooked properly, the compounds that cause the bitterness are vaporized, making it delicious. People consume kale salads as a delicious meal for weight loss.
It is also one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables in the market. Kale contains antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C, flavonoids, and polyphenols. They help our body deal with oxidative damage, which causes chronic diseases like cancer. It also helps prevent the production of bile acids, which increases the bad cholesterol in our body.
Arugula is a green leafy vegetable and a close cousin to kale. It is a popular salad green despite its bitter flavor, and much of its popularity has to do with its health benefits. The vegetable contains essential nutrients like calcium and folate. Calcium strengthens our bones and teeth and aids muscle and nerve functions.
It also contains folate, a much-needed nutrient for pregnant women. Folate is a type of vitamin B that helps in the development of a baby and prevents birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Saffron is the one of the most expensive cooking spices in the world. One pound of saffron can cost up to $5000. It is harvested from the saffron crocus flowers and has a bitter and sweet flavor. Despite the cost and bitterness, it is a sought-after spice because of its impressive health benefits.
Saffron contains nutrients that may improve mood and help with depression symptoms. The Journal of Integrative Medicine found that saffron supplements are as effective as antidepressants for mild-to-moderate depression. Saffron also helps alleviate Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). PMS refers to a combination of symptoms that affect women’s psychological and emotional health before their period.
12. Sesame Seed
Sesame seeds are edible seeds often used as a flavoring in food. Unhulled sesame seeds are bitter, but once manufacturers remove their shell, they become white and have a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
Sesame seeds offer many health benefits and are used in medicine. This edible seed contains compounds like lignan and phytosterols, which lower cholesterol and boost the immune system. Out of all the edible seeds, sesame seed has the highest phytosterol content. It also contains antioxidants like sesamin and sesamolin that have antibacterial properties. These substances help fight fungal skin infections like an athlete’s foot.
Cranberries are often known as sour or bitter berries and considered a superfood. It contains tannins, a phenolic compound that contributes to the bitterness and imparts health benefits.
Tannins have been medically proven to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI) in women. UTIs are infections that occur when bacteria enter the urethra and infect the urinary tract. These infections can cause urinary and bladder discomfort. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, tannins reduce UTIs in women by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract. Similarly, these phenolic compounds also reduce bad cholesterol and improve cardiac health.
Most people confuse the leafy greens of the dandelions as weeds and remove them. These greens actually contain essential nutrients and provide health benefits. Everything from the leaves to their roots and yellow flowers is valuable and can be consumed.
These edible plants are diuretic due to their high potassium content. Diuretics are substances that prevent fluid from building up in the body through increased urine output. This causes the blood pressure to go down. And like most food on this list, dandelions contain antioxidants that help our body fight against chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. Some people might be allergic to the plant, so an allergy test might be advisable before consuming.
Dill is an annual herb used to elevate the flavors of different dishes. It is a staple in yogurt-based sauces and protein dishes like salmon. Apart from flavoring dishes, it also offers substantial health benefits.
Dill is an essential source of vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is a retinoic acid that helps preserve our vision, support a healthy immune system, aids growth and development, and reduces the risk of acne. Vitamin A also helps organs like our heart and lungs work properly. Meanwhile, vitamin C helps prevent iron deficiency and protects our cognitive abilities from old age-related diseases.
Ginger belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and looks very similar to galangal. In recent years, ginger has been recognized for its health benefits and is classified as a superfood. Food is given this title when it has essential nutrients and health benefits, making it seem like they have superpowers.
Ginger contains a bioactive compound known as gingerol, which imparts many of the health benefits of ginger. According to Molecules Journal, the superfood contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It can also treat nausea in pregnant women or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, it can reduce pain and disability in joints by preventing its degeneration.
Grapefruits are citrus fruits that have sweet and tart flesh with bitter outer peel and white pith. The fruit contains flavonoids, which give it a bitter taste to protect itself from pests. These flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation and fight cancer.
Apart from flavonoids, grapefruits are high in fiber, making them great for weight loss. Fiber lowers sugar levels and prevents us from getting hungry. It is also low in calories and high in water content, making it all the more perfect for weight loss. According to the Nutrition and Metabolism Journal, participants of a study experienced reduced waist size after consuming grapefruit.
Mint is a popular herb used in many dishes and drinks. The herb provides many health benefits and has a long history of use in medicine. Like most bitter food, it contains antioxidants that prevent free radical damage. But mint is most commonly used to alleviate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Mint derivatives like peppermint oil contain menthol, which soothe the muscles in the digestive tract and provide comfort from IBS.
The peppermint oil is also useful for breastfeeding mothers. They apply it to their skin after breastfeeding to soothe the pain. Additionally, menthol is often used in toothpaste as well. It provides freshness and eliminates plaque and bacteria that can cause bad breath.
Eggplants or Aubergines are purple fruits that offer many health benefits. They are high in fiber and low in calories, making them the perfect weight-loss food. It also contains antioxidants that protect our bodies from free radicals that cause cancer.
Thankfully, we can enjoy these benefits pleasantly because eggplants are scrumptious if you know how to temper the bitterness. Firstly, you should choose small and less mature eggplants because they are less bitter. Then, you slice or chop the fruit, sprinkle it with salt, and cook it. You can also grill it to intensify its naturally nutty flavor.
20. Bitter Melons
Out of all the bitter foods on this list, the bitter melon is the most bitter of them all. A bitter melon is a green and bumpy melon that looks like a cucumber. It is a staple in a lot of Asian cuisines and taste delicious in stri-frys and soups.
A bitter melon contains several important nutrients that provide a host of health benefits. It is commonly used in the treatment of diabetes as it helps lower blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. According to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, a one-month study found that diabetic people experienced significantly lower blood sugar levels after consuming 2,000 mg of dried, powdered bitter melon every day.
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