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Do You Eat Bitter Foods?... Here’s why you should

arugula is a bitter food

Do you eat bitter foods?

The answer to the question – do you eat bitter foods - is probably yes for many of us!

Dark leafy greens like arugula, kale, collards, and Swiss chard are bitter foods.

Artichokes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are also bitter foods.

Walnuts, cranberries, and even ginger and mint are all bitter foods. 

And, if you eat cacao, chocolate or drink green tea or coffee – then you are consuming bitter foods.


Why you should eat bitter foods

So, why should we care if we eat bitter foods each day?

First, bitter foods are nutritious, containing a wide variety of nutrients and plant compounds that provide us with health benefits.

For example, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and arugula, contain bitter-tasting glucosinolates which have antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer activity (1) (2).

Sulforaphane, a substance produced in cruciferous vegetables when they are cut or chewed raw, has been found to improve glycemic control and decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetic patients (1).


Benefits of eating bitter foods

Bitter compounds can affect gastric emptying and gut hormones that help to reduce hunger which leads to reduced blood glucose levels and food intake, resulting in weight loss (3).

Bitter foods help stimulate saliva secretion as well as stomach acid to help with the digestion of our foods so that we can make use of the nutrients that the food contains, which helps to protect us against nutrient deficiencies – because it’s not only about what we eat, but what our body can digest and absorb (4).

Many bitter foods contain prebiotics (specific fibers) that feed our gut microbes, which in turn produce substances that support our health, like short-chain fatty acids (5).  Bitters, like cocoa, contain polyphenols that promote the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and inhibit those that are more pathogenic like Clostridium perfringens (6) (7).

Bitter greens like kale, chard, and collard greens are high in carotenoids, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body and used to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1B and TNF-a to support immune health (8).


Bitter food recipes

If you’d like a little help deciding how to serve up your bitter foods, check out these recipes.

Eggplant is a bitter food, and here’s a Chicken & Eggplant Bake recipe that will not only help you add bitter foods to your weekly meal plan, but will also help increase your nutrient intake of many essential vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds to help keep you healthy.

This Oven-Roasted Vegetable recipe makes a great side dish as it provides you with many immune-supportive nutrients.

Here’s a quick and simple Bitter Greens Salad recipe, low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates.

With several bitter foods, this Jalapeno-Lime Cod over Mint Cabbage Slaw recipe could be another good addition to your weekly meal lineup.

If pizza is your thing – here’s a quick Spinach and Artichoke Heart Pizza recipe - and, feel free to add more of your favorite bitter foods, maybe some cruciferous veggies like arugula. 

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