You’ve probably been steering clear of more than a few bitter foods and for good reason. Not only do plenty dieticians recommend that you focus your energy on leafy greens, fruits, and protein, but bitter food has done a great job of convincing us they’re not worth the trouble. They don’t exactly taste good and there are tons of other things out there that we would much rather be eating.
But, there are lots of reasons why you should invest in bitter foods and we’re about to tell you the best ones to incorporate into your diet.
Why Eat Bitter Foods?
Bitter foods like dark chocolate, cranberries, and kale are jam-packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins. As such, a lot of bitter foods can be considered superfoods as these nutrients and vitamins are loaded with health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to improved eyesight to weight management.
But, what are bitter foods? Though some think they’re synonymous with sour food (and some sour foods definitely possess a bitterness), bitter food differs slightly from sour ones. When people say “bitter food” they’re usually talking about food that has a really strong, often pretty yucky taste. Sure, some people might thrive on the taste of black coffee or dark chocolate, but others find the taste way too strong for them. But, that doesn’t mean we should nix them from our diets.
Additionally, bitter foods, or “bitters,” are actually way more healthy than we may have previously thought and they certainly wouldn’t hurt to include in your diet. So, let’s go over the best kinds of bitters to start munching on.
Citrus covers a wide range of bitter food like bitter orange or grapefruit.
These fruits are a great source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. It really comes down to personal preference for which citrus fruit you’d like to eat, but there has been a lot of buzz surrounding various citrus fruits and what they can do for you.
You might not love the taste of grapefruit, but it’s packed with potassium and vitamin C, two things that help to promote a healthy heart. Vitamin C is also great for preventing scurvy and helping reduce bad cholesterol. This study published in 2013 also found out that potassium, something that’s also present in this bitter food, helps the prevention of kidney stones.
Bitter citrus foods possess lots of other great nutrients and antioxidants as well. They’re also loaded with fiber, which helps to promote regular bowel movements and helps to lower cholesterol.
You’ve seen the commercials, you’ve heard the buzz, and it’s time you learned the breaking news that yogurt is indeed good for you.
This bitter food is full of calcium, vitamin B12, and protein. As researchers figured out over 20 years ago, calcium promotes healthy bones and teeth, which make getting calcium into your system so important. Studies have also shown that a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to serious health problems like depression and dementia. With the advancement of medicine and further research, studies have concluded that high-protein diets can help with weight loss, increases thermogenesis, and promotes fat loss.
Yogurt also provides people with probiotics, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Probiotics seriously help to reduce the life of a common cold as well, which just adds to the list of things yogurt has to offer you.
Speaking of the common cold, ginger is a terrific way to reduce pain caused by sore throats and also helps calm your stomach down if you’re feeling nauseous.
Ginger has been known to help with digestion, soothe nausea, and help with typical symptoms of the common cold, such as a sore throat. A study published in 2016 discovered that ginger is a safe and effective way to calm your stomach when women are pregnant or for those undergoing chemotherapy.
Additionally, if you’re someone who spends a significant amount of time in the gym, ginger has been known to reduce muscle pain after a workout session. Studies have also shown that ginger has been linked to a healthier heart, so this little herb really does do a lot for your overall health.
Tomatoes seem to be one of those bitter foods that people either love or hate. But, if you’re not sold on tomato consumption maybe learning about its health benefits will sway you.
In 2013, Harvard Medical School published findings that stated eating tomatoes helps to lower the risk of prostate cancer. The reason why is because its red skin possesses an antioxidant called lycopene. While they also said that tomato consumption doesn’t prevent it, it certainly aids in lowering the risks of getting it.
Much like citrus fruits, tomatoes are also filled with vitamin C and potassium, but they also really help with skin protection. A study published in 2006 showed that ingesting tomatoes may help to protect the skin against UV rays from the sun.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, studies have shown that tomato consumption actually has a positive effect on blood pressure and that they have the power to reduce the cardiovascular risk associated with type 2 diabetes.
Prepare yourselves. I know that a lot of people warn against caffeine consumption (and make no mistake, ingesting too much does have negative effects), but coffee consumption does have some serious benefits too.
In 2012, Forbes spoke with author David Elmenhorst who said that caffeine has been known to protect people against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. “There is substantial evidence that caffeine is protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Several investigations show that moderate coffee consumption of 3 to 5 cups per day at mid-life is linked to a reduced risk of dementia in late life,” he said.
Studies have also concluded that coffee is a great way to promote liver health. The study stated that those who are suffering from liver issues should indulge in a cup of coffee because coffee has the potential to reduce the advancement of chronic liver diseases.
6. Dark Chocolate
Let’s stay on the party bus of delicious, bitter foods as we talk about dark chocolate.
You were onto something when you had a brick of dark chocolate to reduce stress. This bitter food does have some hefty health benefits, which include promoting lower stress levels and reducing anxiety. A study published in 2014 found that “consumption of 40 g of Dark and Milk chocolate daily during a period of 2 weeks appear to be an effective way to reduce perceived stress in females.”
Researchers also discovered that dark chocolate is a terrific source of antioxidants. In fact, they discovered that the antioxidant capacity in cocoa powder was higher than that of blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate powder! Cocoa powder also trumped these fruits in total polyphenol and flavanol content.
Of course, you’d need to ration it out so you don’t over-consume in calories, but you no longer need to feel guilty for having a square of dark chocolate after dinner!
We could write an entire piece on its own about all the benefits of kale, but we’ll settle and cover some of the basics instead.
When it comes to all the bitter foods on this list, kale definitely packs one of the biggest punches. Kale has some striking similarities to the other bitter foods though, such as sharing high levels of potassium, antioxidants, fiber, vitamin K, and vitamin B6.
However, kale is also a wonderful source of iron, has a significant amount of vitamin A, and has no fat. But perhaps one of the biggest benefits of kale is that it has the potential to slow down symptoms of cognitive decline. Studies have shown that ingesting kale and other leafy greens have the ability to reduce cognitive decline as you get older.
This low-calorie bitter food is something you could include in your diet to get a healthy dose of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K.
Studies have also shown that cranberries may have the power to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI), though drinking cranberry juice won’t do the trick. However, this study also said that you shouldn’t necessarily consider it to be conclusive given all the limitations of the study. Cranberries being able to protect against UTIs is just one of the theories out there, but it’s not something you need to bank on.
Though researchers might be on the fence about cranberries and UTIs, they have studied the effects of cranberries and cancer and found that the health benefits of this bitter food do help the inhibition of a variety of cancers such as esophagus, stomach, colon, bladder, prostate, glioblastoma and lymphoma. This study also wrote that cranberries improve immune function, decrease infections, and reduce cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, a team led by oral biologist Hyun (Michel) Koo, D.D.S., Ph.D., at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that “something in the cranberry juice disarms the pathogens that cause tooth decay.” He added that scientists think cranberries prevent UTIs “by inhibiting the adherence of pathogens on the surface of the bladder. Perhaps the same is true in the mouth, where bacteria use adhesion molecules to hold onto teeth.” Though, he was sure to remind you not to guzzle cranberry juice as a means to protect your teeth. The sugar in cranberry juice is bound to hurt your oral health more than you think. Instead, he hopes to extract compounds from the juice to help prevent tooth decay.
This one might sound a little weird and we’re not suggesting that you pluck these suckers out of the ground and start chomping willy-nilly (though technically you safely can). But, there are some health benefits to this bitter food and they’re worth reading about.
We may be quick to yank these weeds from our lawns, but dandelions might be a better snack instead considering they’re loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and vitamin B-6. Studies have shown that dandelion root is a terrific way to prevent hypercholesterolemic (high cholesterol), atherosclerosis (narrowed arteries due to plaque buildup), and reducing risks for coronary artery disease.
Additional studies concluded that dandelions also have a significant effect on type 2 diabetes. Though further research is required, scientists believe that dandelions have anti-diabetic properties that can be used to treat and control the metabolism disorder.
Last but not least we have the tongue-twister that is arugula.
We’ll start off one of the biggest benefits arugula has to offer you: studies have shown that this bitter food can actually be used as a cancer preventative. Arugula, along with other veggies such as kale and broccoli, have cancer preventative and anti-cancer activities. The study also suggested that because arugula’s a cruciferous vegetable (vegetables rich in nutrients) that having it in your diet is pretty important.
Arugula is also loaded with lots of healthy vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It’s also full of potassium, iron, and calcium. It also helps to detoxify and is a good way to boost your metabolism.
Those are some of the big bitter foods you can include in your diet to promote good health and clean eating! There are lots of others out there, but this list is sure to get you started on some of the healthiest eating of your life.