The taste that signals health benefits
Some people might grimace at the thought of bitter foods, while others love the tart taste on their tongue. A certain bitterness is an accepted characteristic of foodstuffs like coffee, dark chocolate and beer; indeed, they are often prized for that very thing. Unsweetened grapefruit and bitter salad leaves like chicory or radicchio, on the other hand, are very much an acquired taste. Yet bitter substances should be part of any diet. Read on to find out why they're important, which foods are best for imparting this flavour and which recipes you can cook right now with your Monsieur Cuisine.
Natural bitter substances
‘Bitter substances’ is simply an overarching term to describe a range of chemical compounds, which occur in a number of different plants. Iceberg lettuce contains the bitter substance lactucin, while artichokes get their bitterness from cynarine. They have different names and different chemical compounds, but one thing they all have in common is their bitter taste.
Bitter substances also protect plants from foraging animals, as they don’t like their flavour. Children instinctively dislike bitter foods, which protects them from eating things that are toxic. But it’s easy to get a taste for bitterness. Coffee is a prime example, as a naturally bitter foodstuff that has a huge number of fans. Coffee drinkers learn to love this taste over time,
In other words, you can get your body used to bitter substances. It’s best to do this by consuming organic, untreated fruit and vegetables, as these will have retained all of their natural bitterness. You can often find this sort of produce at farmers’ markets. Not only will you be doing your body a world of good, but you’ll also be buying seasonal and locally-grown foods.
Foods containing natural bitter substances:
- Cabbage: kale, Brussels sprouts
- Lettuce: endive, rocket, chicory, radicchio
- Vegetables: chard, spinach, artichokes, olives, aubergines
- Spices: turmeric, ginger, thyme, cinnamon, tarragon, mustard seeds
- Drinks: Coffee, green tea, sage tea, grapefruit juice
Bitter substances and the human body
The human tongue has up to 25 bitter taste receptors. However, due to the fact that people are eating less in the way of bitter food, these are gradually diminishing and we are becoming less able to enjoy such items. As a result, the bitter substances have been phased out of many foods. This is a real shame, because in small quantities they are hugely beneficial to human health.
Every bitter substance benefits the body in a different way, Generally speaking, all bitter substances can be said to have a positive effect, particularly on the digestive system.
In fact, they’re just the thing to help you regulate your calorie consumption, as they keep you feeling full for longer and thus support the body’s fat-burning process. In other words, if you’re watching your figure, you should definitely incorporate foods containing bitter substances into your diet.
Not only do they burn away fat, but they also trigger other important processes in the human body. Bitter substances have an antioxidant effect, which means that they can help prevent tumour diseases. They are especially important for the digestive tract, too, as they stimulate blood circulation and promote healthy digestion. They guard against bacteria and viruses, counteract hyperacidity and have a positive effect on blood sugar levels. Bitter foodstuffs can help to purify the blood and assist the work of the liver. Anyone suffering from gallstones would be well advised to up their intake of bitter foods: if the body is getting too little in the way of bitter foodstuffs, it runs a greater risk of gallstones developing in the first place. Last but not least, bitter substances are also beneficial to those with sensitive gums, as they prevent them from becoming inflamed. The more bitter foods you eat, the better your oral flora will be, making your dental check-ups all the more pleasant. :-)
Here are the most important effects of natural bitter substances at a glance:
- They assist with burning fat
- They increase the body’s production of bile
- They stimulate the appetite and regulate the feeling of hunger
- They keep your digestion healthy
- They stimulate intestinal activity and can protect against inflammatory bowel disease
To plan some of these foods into your diet, see here for a few Monsieur Cuisine recipes featuring ingredients that are great sources of bitter substances. Have fun cooking and eating!