Bitter foods are a cosmopolitan bunch, They are loaded with biochemicals such as glucosinolates, tannins, terpenes, isothiocyanates, alkaloids, phenols, isoflavones, flavonoids, catechins, and saponins (all of which can contribute bitter flavours), which help the plants to fight pests.
In humans, bitter herbs can stimulate the appetite, aid digestion, tone up the liver and kidneys, and derail a host of diseases. Including bitter foods in the diet isn’t simply a matter of reviving tradition or taste. Bitter flavoured foods also have a rich history in the healing arts. From the wine infused herbal concoctions used by Ancient Egyptians to the 16th century prescriptions of famous physician Paracelsus and beyond, elixirs brewed from carefully selected bitter herbs have been treasured as cure-all remedies across the ages. Studies have confirmed that getting an adequate amount bitter flavour is important for digestive balance and linked with many related health benefits. Eating bitters regularly has been shown to:
- Help digestion
Production of digestive enzymes in the body can be increased by eating bitter foods. Bitter foods help stimulate our taste receptors on the tongue, which subsequently stimulates enzyme production and bile flow. The better digestion of food, the more nutrients can be absorbed by the body. It also helps to soothe occasional heartburn, bloating and nausea.
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
Vegetables like bitter melon offers a myriad of nutrients that are good for the body. Bitter foods contain vitamin C, K, and A, and minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Bitter vegetables are also rich in fiber, and foliate, but low in sodium and fat.
- Against free radicals
Recent studies have shown that bitter foods, including one of which is a dark chocolate can help fight free radicals in the body. In other words, it can prevent cancer or neurological diseases.
- Expel toxins in the liver
Health care plays an important role on the health of the overall body. Bitter vegetables such as kale and other vegetables contain phytonutrients that may help the liver do its job as balancing hormones, maintaining cholesterol levels, and remove toxins from the blood.Bitter foods also contain sulfur-based compounds which support the natural detoxification pathways in the liver; helping it to do what it is meant to do – keep your body clean and clear.
- Reduce sugar cravings and balances the taste buds
Eating a lot of sugar or sweet foods can give a negative impact to the health of the body, especially if you have problems in controlling blood sugar. Addiction to sugar or sweet foods can be reduced by eating bitter foods.Green tea has also been shown to inhibit fat absorption—the movement of glucose into fat cells, [support healthy] glucose levels after eating a meal, prevent insulin spikes which prevents fat storage, and reduce appetite.
List of some bitter foods and herbs
There are a wide variety of bitter foods and herbs. Some of them are best taken as a tea to help your body register the bitter taste to get the digestive juices flowing. Some bitter foods include:
- Dark chocolate
- Milk thistle
- Bitter melon and gourd
- Japanese eggplant
- Fenugreek seeds
- Leafy greens
Grapefruit Bitters Recipe
This bitters recipe is perfect for daily use to support healthy digestion. This can be taken straight on a spoon or added to sparkling water.
- 1/2 of a large grapefruit
- 1 Tablespoon dried artichoke leaves (1 gram)
- 1/4 cup dried hawthorne berries (20 grams)
- 1/4 cup dried whole hibiscus flowers (7 grams)
- 2 Tablespoon dried coriander (5 grams)
- 4 dried star anise seeds
- 1 Tablespoon dried fennel seed (5 grams)
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper (3 grams)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup honey
- vodka or brandy
- quart sized jar
- Cut up the half grapefruit including the fruit and peel.
- Add this to a quart jar.
- Place the rest of the herbs and spices in the jar.
- Add honey to taste.
- The sweetness of the honey brings out the flavours in the recipe but is not meant to overpower the bitter flavour.
- Fill the jar with vodka or brandy.
- Cover and shake well everyday.
- Macerate for 4-6 weeks and I suggest tasting it regularly to see when it is to your liking.
- Strain and use as required. If you avoid alcohol you could try this with vinegar instead of brandy or vodka.
- Keep in mind that it may not preserve very well with the added water content of the grapefruit.