Bitterness gets an undeserved bad rap
As a flavor, bitter often gets a bad rap; however, bitter foods — like arugula, frisee, rapini and their respective bitter edges — are showing up on menus and the vegetable aisle of supermarkets.
We are starting to understand that bitter flavors are important to our sense of taste. They help balance sweet, salty and sour notes. The bitter flavor elevates a meal experience and excites the nervous system.
For the most part, we should consider bitterness as the taste of health. That’s because the compounds that make foods come off as bitter to our taste buds — such as polyphenols in cacao, catechins in green tea, terpenes in citrus peel and glucosinolates in broccoli — also happen to be powerfully good-for-you antioxidants that may help lower the risk for certain deadly diseases like cancer and heart failure.
Also, developing a bigger appetite for bitter-tasting foods could help in the battle of the bulge. For one thing, bitter foods tend to be less calorie-dense than sweet or salty ones.
A study published in the journal Appetite found that individuals who frowned upon bitter-tasting fare were more likely to be overweight.
Sneak it in
While most people aren’t born with a craving for bitter foods, the grown-up palate can learn to enjoy this underappreciated flavor. The key is to look for ways to sneak a small amount of bitter-tasting foods into meals and work up from there.
It helps to pair bitter foods with other flavors — for instance, serve roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet-tart apple slices, or radicchio with crumbled soft goat cheese.
Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition.
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