People all over the world delight in sweet tasting foods – who doesn’t enjoy a decadent chocolate mousse cake or a hot fudge sundae?  It would be quite odd to not enjoy a slice of birthday cake when celebrating a special occasion, or rewarding yourself with your favorite frozen treat.  While our sugar consumption has steadily increased over the last 50 years, so has the incidence of diabetes and obesity.  You see our bodies were designed to consume 5 basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.  We’ve got the sweet & salty mastered, but could use some work on the bitters.


Bitter compounds have considerable health benefits, and need to be sought out.  Here are several foods with these healthy bitter compounds.

  • Anthocyanins give berries their vibrant hue and are considered “bitters”. They improve vision, are anti-aging, and protect against heart disease and cancer.  They are found in berries, black beans, cherries, peaches, pomegranates, plums, red onions, eggplant, and red cabbage.
  • Catechins may prevent heart disease, lung- and prostate-cancer, and keep LDL cholesterol down. It is found in tea (black & green), cocoa, grapes, and red wine.
  • Chlorogenic Acids reduce chronic inflammation, and may lower risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, and arthritis. They are found in coffee and black tea.
  • Glucosinolates have been shown to prevent the progress of cancer. Sulforaphane – a component of glucosinolates, has tumor-fighting properties.  Cruciferous vegetables are a great source of glucosinolates: arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, & kale
  • Isoflavones can improve blood/oxygen flow, bone density, and are linked to a lower risk of breast and prostate cancer. Soybeans, Soyamilk, tofu, and tempeh are known sources of genistein and daidzein – two components of isoflavones.
  • Naringin is associated with improvements in diabetes, obesity, and UV damaged cells. It is found in tomatoes and citrus fruits.
  • Proanthyocyanidins mitigate tumor growth, and help prevent bacterial infections. They are found in apples, berries, cocoa, grapes, kiwi, avocados, and mangoes.
  • Quercetin has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect against heart disease and cancer. It is found in apples, onions, leeks, radicchio, and radishes.


The next time you find the odd bitter on your plate, don’t turn up your nose at it – instead allow your tongue to savor the flavor and invite the goodness in.