Our post on the benefits of bitter flavors introduces the taste category of bitter and the many reasons why bitterness is an important part of our diet and how bitters can help to control appetite. We have also covered some herbs and foods that contain the various bitter flavors that we can incorporate into our diet and the various health benefits of bitters.
Now we expand on some of these foods that are classified as natural digestive bitters 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 to improve your digestive health, 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 bitter and tart tastes. 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. Artichokes are also a natural bitter that can aid digestive health — not to mention they taste great too.
The powerful exotic roots, ginger and galanga add unique, spicy bitter flavor to soups, curries, salads, and tea. These are also well known for treating nausea, motion sickness, and strengthening the immune system. As a natural bitter, ginger is a great asset to any modern diet.
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. It’s high concentration of antioxidants places it near the top of cancer-protecting vegetables.
The Radicchio is an Italian breed of chicory and closely related to the endive. Radicchio typically resembles red lettuce or cabbage and has a noticeably pleasant bitter taste. This decorative salad garnish prepares particularly well with other salads and vegetables.
In antiquity, both Romans and Egyptians valued arugula for its naturally 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 antibacterial and the high antioxidant content is great for strengthening the immune system and digestive health.
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 due to modern distaste in naturally bitter foods. 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. Incorporating this natural digestive bitter into your diet can do wonders for digestive health and function.
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 — both preserving the healthy bitters of the plant.
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 — all natural sources of healthy digestive bitters. These winter vegetables contain nutritious vitamin-rich components ideal for the colder seasons. 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 abundant source of natural bitters. 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 natural bitters for digestion in oranges.
Pure cocoa is extremely bitter. Connoisseurs know that chocolate with 80% cocoa content provides 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
The health benefits of red wine are often debated, but when it comes to bitter substances red wine contains more in the way of bitter substances than white wine. The bitter substances contained in grapes are primarily concentrated 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 because of modern dietary preferences, 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 — thus adding healthy bitters to the drink. Hops have many medicinal uses and beer can also offer some interesting health benefits, in moderation of course.
Dandelion possesses several bitter substances, vitamins, and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which together help regulate the heartbeat and overall heart function. 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. That being said, the bitters that it provides are an excellent digestive aid.
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.
Learn More About Healthy Bitters Today
For more information about bitter and its health benefits find our post on what foods are bitter.