When we’re young we tend to naturally favour sweet tastes and avoid bitter ones at all costs, it’s only as we mature that our sense of taste changes and bitter flavors become more palatable.
Even then it seems that only a small proportion of our daily diet is made up of bitter foodstuffs, only about 5-8% of our calorie intake, and that could be a big mistake.
It is well known that our tongues process five distinct tastes:
Arguably the hardest to get used to is ‘bitter’.
Back before the days of modern science bitter foods were often considered poisonous and not eaten at all.
Luckily for us however that theory has long been proved false and scientists are increasingly discovering that the bitter taste is an expression of the antioxidants within the food – and we all know by now how amazing and necessary antioxidants are for the human body.
Some examples include the caffeine, polyphenols in red wine and flavonoids in kale and cranberries and the carotenoids in spinach and sweet potato.
Bitter tasting foods are considered to have amazing health benefits and can aid in the prevention or fight against various diseases.
Consider for a moment the humble bitter melon (also called bitter gourd) which is full of phyto-nutrients such as dietary fibre and antioxidants.
Bitter melons contain a plant insulin which lowers blood sugar levels and an agent which increases glucose uptake of the liver and other muscles – it is these purifying properties which make bitter melon amazingly useful in the treatment of Type-2 diabetes.
It is also an amazing source of Vitamin C, a great antioxidant, flavonoids and Vitamin A. Bitter melon is full of beneficial minerals and aids easy digestion.
In addition to helping those with diabetes, bitter melon is reported to help sufferers of psoriasis and HIV. Bitter melon can easily be incorporated into a stir-fry, and to reduce the bitter taste you can try boiling it for 10 minutes in salty water or marinading it in yoghurt.
Bitterness increases with the age of the melon pod, so choose younger pods for a less intense flavour.
For many people eating bitter foods isn’t an issue, and if that’s the case for you, congratulations! But for many, the taste is not appealing in the slightest.
Bitter Foods Recommendations
So, to make these foods a part of your daily diet without grimacing at every meal why not start with some more acceptable items, dark chocolate and black coffee for example, or balance out the flavour with other, milder and even sweet tastes.
Also, be sure not to overcook, as this can sometimes enhance the bitter taste.
The same rules apply when thinking about introducing bitter foods for kids: introduce them slowly, in small quantities and balance out the bitter taste with mild flavours.
This will allow kids to become accustomed to the taste, if you rush in you may be met with an outright ‘no way’ – and kids can be pretty stubborn!
It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but incorporating these foods into your diet will be a choice you don’t regret!
*This article was written by Amy Corcoran; one of our favorite guest bloggers.