The Benefits of Bitters

Contributor: Andrea de la Chapelle
Photographer: Sarah Shreves
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Bitter foods are not very common place in Western cuisine for a couple reasons. While sweet foods usually indicated high caloric intake, bitter foods usually signified toxicity to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. After many years of trial and error, bitter foods began to suppress our ancestor’s appetites while sweet foods offered a safe source of energy. While bitter foods may not be our first choice, they provide a variety of health benefits. They stimulate the metabolism and immune system, help absorb nutrients, fight free radicals, and can help control your sweet tooth. 


There are many ways to add bitter foods into your diet. Consider adding any of these beneficial bitters to give your body an extra boost this summer:


Herbs and Spices


Sprinkling a pinch of herbs and spices such as basil, cilantro, dill, saffron, sesame, and turmeric can provide all the benefits of bitter tastes. Add a sprinkle of cilantro to balance spicy tacos or a dash of dill in plain Greek yogurt for an amazing vegetable dip.

 
 

Leafy greens


Arugula, kale, and dandelion greens are not only full of a variety of nutrients and fiber but also a great source of bitter flavor. Toss a variety of these bitter greens with some seasonal fruit and a sweet vinaigrette to create a bitter-sweet, fresh, and light lunch or blend with fruit to create a nutrient packed smoothie. 

Dark Chocolate


If you need to indulge your sweet tooth stick with a small portion of dark chocolate. This sweet treat contains many phytochemicals that have been shown to maintain a healthy heart. Add some shavings to a bowl of granola for an extra special treat. 

Aloe


Known for its skin soothing properties, aloe juice is a great digestive aid and immune booster. Mix with a splash of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice and a few drops of honey for a refreshing drink. 

Bitter melon


Feeling adventurous? This melon is in the same family as the cucumber and has a very intense bitter flavor. It is high in fiber, a variety of vitamins, and is being researched as a treatment for type II diabetes. Bitter melon can be enjoyed in stir fries, lightly fried with turmeric as chips, and even drank as a tea.

Give bitter foods a try this summer to stay healthy and energized!