Articles > Tamiko G

Bitterness

By: Tamiko G

Through the passage of years, I have become a strong advocate for bitterness. Not the emotional state of constant pessimism and negativity, but the acquired taste for bitterness in foods. As a child bitter food was tried as a dare to siblings and friends in attempts to show one’s bravery and refined adult taste and sensibilities. This contest often ended promptly, as bitterness in food overwhelmingly goes against youthful taste for sweetness.

As we enter mature stages of life, health and vitality are of foremost importance. Living through a pandemic creates added incentive upon the need to eat mindfully and fortify the immune system. Overwhelmingly, many people are partial to foods with a sweet taste. Even if one is not a fan of sugary foods, the shelf lives of processed foods are extended through high fructose corn syrup which is responsible for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It may taste good, but everything that tastes good is not necessarily good for us.

With the dangers associated with poor health and accelerated aging, it is worth giving bitter foods a try. When we speak of bitter foods, we mean just that; foods that are bitter in taste, the opposite of sweet. Foods such as bitter melon/bitter gourd, brussels sprouts, dandelion leaves, radish, kale, and apple cider vinegar. This includes fermented foods such as Korean kimchi and sauerkraut. All these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals. More importantly, they are antioxidants in nature.

Think of the body as a well-maintained sports car. If left outside in extreme elements such as sun, wind, snow, and rain, it will begin to show oxidative stress or premature aging. Sugary-sweet foods are notorious for creating oxidative stress or rusting in the body, while antioxidant-rich foods act as protection against harsh elements and create an anti-aging environment. Perhaps most important is the effect of bitter foods on gut health. Scientific research reveals that the gut is virtually a second brain. At least 90% of all diseases originate from gut health or a healthy balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Creating a healthy gut microbiome is as equally important as aerobic activity and weightlifting.

Now that bitterness and its promising qualities have your attention, how can we incorporate them into sweet-inclined preferences Start slowly with hot or cold green tea (with no honey). One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water 30 minutes before a meal can dull the palette and make bitter foods such as kale bitter melon bearable. Eat bitter vegetables 15 minutes before the main course for positive effects upon gut health and avoid unwanted side effects such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea.

Making the decision to focus upon healthy food choices is an admirable one. A strong, fortified body is key to a better quality of life as we advance in age. Give yourself ample time to slowly incorporate bitter foods into your diet so as not to shock the system and cease your efforts before seeing the positive effects.