Bitter is Better

Yes, it is true.  Sweet foods do not pack the same nutritional punch as bitter foods. 

The natural compounds that make foods taste bitter also make them good for us. Although they may not go down as easy as pie, these compounds (also known as antioxidants) may improve immune function and perhaps lower your risk for infection, cancer and heart disease.

If your palate is less than thrilled with bitter foods, consider adding lemon juice, olive oil, or vinegar to help foods taste less bitter. Sweeten the pot by combining bitter foods with caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash or beets to tone down the bitter while preserving and even adding nutrition. 

You don’t need to try to get a certain number of bitter foods per day.  Eat well-balanced meals and enjoy a wide variety of foods!  Experiment with bitter foods like cranberries, pomegranates, unsweetened cocoa (think dark, dark chocolate), kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, mustard and collard greens, broccoli and other leafy green vegetables. Remember, sometimes it takes 5-10 times of trying a new food before you learn to like – or at least accept – it.

Filling half of your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables is a good start to eating a healthier, antioxidant rich diet. Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ to learn how to build a healthy plate!

Amy Bowen RD, LDN is a clinical dietitian at WakeMed Cary Hospital.

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