Our post on the benefits of bitter flavors introduced the taste category of bitter and the many reasons why bitterness is an important part of our diet. We have also covered some herbs and foods that contain the various bitter flavors that we can incorporate into our diet.
Now we expand on some of these foods with our list of 17 foods that contain bitter substances. Some of these may be familiar to you, while others may be less familiar. Try incorporating some of these foods into your regular diet and let us know what you think. Here you find more information on what foods are bitter.
A delicacy prized by ancient Egyptians and Romans alike, the artichoke derives its unique flavor from Cynarine. This bitter constituent gives the vegetable its tart taste. Artichokes are associated with reducing cholesterol, preventing gallstones, and stimulating bile runoff from the liver. Artichoke contains vitamins C and B1, the provitamin A, as well as the minerals iron, calcium, and magnesium.
This powerful exotic root adds a unique, spicy bitter flavor to soups, curries, salads, and tea. It is also well known for treating nausea, motion sickness, and strengthening the immune system.
Broccoli contains the bitter substance Sinigrin, albeit less than the Brussels Sprouts. Broccoli is an all-around healthy plant, high in vitamin C and fiber. Its high concentration of anti-oxidants places it near the top of cancer-protecting vegetables.
The Radicchio is an Italian breed of chicory and closely related to endive. Radicchio typically resembles red lettuce or cabbage and has a noticeably pleasant bitter taste. This decorative salad prepares particularly well other salads and vegetables.
In antiquity, both Romans and Egyptians valued arugula for its bitter flavor and the oil content of its eruca sativa seeds. This leafy green lettuce is grown worldwide. The bitter substances and spicy mustard oils are naturally anti-bacterial and the high anti-oxidant content is great for strengthening the immune system.
6. Brussels sprouts
Like with the sinigrin found in broccoli, the same compound in Brussels sprouts contributes to the potent vegetable’s cancer protecting properties. Commonly, the naturally bitter flavor of Brussel sprouts has been intentionally bred out of many varieties. Natural heirloom Brussels sprouts contain valuable bitters, Vitamins B and C, potassium, and fiber.
Chicory ranks among Hildegard’s the most valuable digestive vegetables. Chicory is low in calories, contains minerals and trace elements such as potassium, magnesium and manganese and is also an important source of vitamins in the winter. Chicory is also a great natural alternative to coffee.
8. White Asparagus
20 years ago, white asparagus still had a strong bitter aroma. Today, in an effort to improve broad appeal, most of the bitter substances have been bred out in favor of a pleasantly sweet taste. Natural heirloom white asparagus is a great source of bitter flavor but conventional white asparagus is still a healthy source of bitter flavors.
The uniquely spicy and bitter flavor associated with endives derives primarily from lactucopicrin (Intybin), a pleasant bitter herb with a sedative and analgesic effect. This bitter substance makes the endive lettuce particularly good for overall health. It can be eaten raw or stewed.
10. Kale and Brassica Vegetables
Vegetables within the Brassica family have preserved most of their bitter flavor in spite of widespread cultivation. The Brassica family of vegetables includes: cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. These winter vegetables contain nutritious vitamin-rich components ideal for the cold season. These are generally strong plant protein suppliers with added protection from carcinogenic substances.
11. Citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes
Of all the citrus fruits, grapefruit is the most bitter. You’ll find the best source of bitter flavor among grapefruits with a yellow rind. Though they may contain some trace amount of bitter aroma, you won’t find much in oranges.
Pure cocoa is extremely bitter. Connoisseurs know that chocolate with 80% cocoa content provide a special taste experience. You can improve your tolerance for bittersweet chocolate by starting with some variety of milk chocolate, and gradually increasing the cocoa content. In addition to the natural bitterness of cacao, chocolate can provide several other healthy benefits.
13. Red wine
Red wine contains more in the way of bitter substances than white wine. The bitter substances contained in grapes concentrate primarily in the skin and cores. Since wine becomes milder through the ripening process, younger wines preserve a prominent tartness. As with so many fruits and vegetables where bitter flavors have been intentionally eliminated, we typically find only sweet varieties grapes. For an all around healthy way to consume red wine, try Hildegard’s parsley wine.
As with many fruits and vegetables, most modern mass-produced varieties of beer are made with milder flavored hops. Luckily, the rapidly growing craft beer market is producing a wide variety of beers and ales with a healthy dose of hops. Hops have many medicinal uses and beer can also offer some interesting health benefits, in moderation of course.
Dandelion possesses several bitter substances along with vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which together help regulate the heartbeat. Dandelion tastes best as a salad with oil and vinegar, or as a cold pressed juice / elixir. Dandelion is also well-known for its medicinal uses.
Eggplant not only tastes good, but also has impressive healing properties. Eggplant juice has a particularly positive effect on rheumatism, sciatica and kidney ailments. Generally raw eggplant may cause stomach and intestinal discomfort, due to strong bitter flavors.
17. Bitter Melon
Recently, modern medicine has recognized the potential of bitter melon. The constituents contained in bitter melon contribute to diuretic flushing, aid in detoxifying, metabolic stimulation, stomach strengthening, and are antiviral and immune enhancing.
For more information about bitter and its health benefits find our post on what foods are bitter.