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7 bitter foods beneficial to our health

Not all bitter foods they are well received in gastronomy, since their flavor floods everything and it is difficult to get the point. However, if you are the type of person who likes this strong flavor, you are in luck since most of them usually have health benefits.

This bitter taste comes from the presence of different chemical elements that have a positive impact on our health, especially antioxidant level.

In this article we want to carry out a scientific review about the advantages of some bitter tasting foods, and their effect on the main diseases of the XXI century. Yes, we talk about diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and heart disease, among others.

1. Bitter foods from cruciferous vegetables

Within the cruciferous family (Brassicaceae) we found different vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, Brussels sprouts or kale, among others. In any of them you have to recognize that they have a special taste, especially bitter, and that not everyone likes it.

Within each product mentioned, there are a number of compounds, such as glucosinates, which have a bitter taste, but offer beneficial properties for health in different areas.

Among glucosinates, there are two particularly interesting substances, such as sulforaphane and the indole-3-carbinol (I3C), related to a wide variety of anticancer mechanisms.

Small human trials suggest that supplementation with indole-3-carbinol may prove beneficial in the treatment of indole infection. human papillomavirus, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, but more research is needed to draw stronger conclusions. [1]

In the scientific review carried out for a great diversity of diseases, the following conclusions have been found, for consumption 1 time per week of bitter foods of cruciferous vegetables [2]:

Have significantly reduced cancer formation (multivariate OR ratio)

  • Cancer of the oral cavity
  • Pharyngeal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Rhino cancer

They have not reduced the evolution of cancer

  • Endometrial cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Prostate cancer

As you can see, this variability requires more in-depth studies to analyze the importance of the consumption of these bitter antioxidant substances (glycosinates). In any case, it is more than advisable to eat this type of vegetables, at least 1 time a week, as we have seen, for protection against certain types of cancer.

2. Citrus

Citrus fruits straddle a sweet, bitter and acidic taste, depending on the harvest time or the type of fruit consumed.

In any case, lemon can be considered within bitter foods due to its concentration in citric acid and various flavonoids and tannins.

In citrus fruits we find flavanone glycosides (hesperidin and naringin), especially in the bark, when used as molasses by-products and food additives.

Both substances have a great antioxidant potential, and there are numerous studies that have sought to attribute preventive properties against cancer and anti-inflammatory activity. [3]

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are considered bitter foods loaded with antioxidant substances and, in some cases, they call it as superfood.

The fundamental thing is to consume it raw, since in this way the greatest accumulation of v is guaranteed.itamines.

One of the antioxidant components mainly found in blueberries are different polyphenols, such as proanthocyanidins type A, which manage to reduce the activity of pathogenic bacteria in different body tissues.

At the dental level, it is interesting to reduce possible interdental caries, and at the digestive level, it is very interesting to reduce the infection caused by H. pylori in the stomach or E. coli in the intestine and urinary tract. [4]

A scientific trial with a duration of 90 days found that the consumption of natural cranberry juice at a dose of 500 ml favored the elimination of stomach infections caused by H. pylori up to three times faster than placebo

On the other hand, we must not abandon the excellent nutritional properties of blueberries, with a large amount of vitamins and antioxidants to reduce inflammation processes, regulate blood sugar and control the blood pressure. [5]

It is one of the fruits with the highest concentration of antioxidants, so keep it in mind when introducing them into your diet.

4. Dark chocolate

The pure chocolate it is a bitter food that not everyone likes. Hence, they choose versions with less concentration in cocoa and higher in milk (milk chocolate). If it is not sweetened, its taste is very bitter, due to the presence of tannins from the plant kingdom.

Dark chocolate has many antioxidant properties, and several scientific trials have found a link in consuming at least one serving per week to considerably reduce hypertension and increase good vs. bad cholesterol. [6]

Its beneficial properties at the coronary level are due to the presence of different polyphenols and antioxidants, such as the famous Flavonols with protective cardiovascular effects.

At the nutritional level, its composition is very balanced and contains a large amount of essential microelements, such as manganeum, copper, magnesium, or iron.

5. Coffee and other infusions

The coffee it has always been a bitter food that has been subjected to criticism and praise, although the scientific community relies on the numerous studies carried out, and considers it a beneficial drink as long as we limit its consumption.

Coffee, along with other teas containing theine, is one of the most consumed beverages globally, and one of the main sources of antioxidants in the American diet (well, that says pretty little about your diet, though it’s nothing new).

An essential component of coffee, the hydrocinnamic acid, It is a very interesting compound to neutralize the free radicals present in the body, so that it acts actively in the prevention of oxidative stress.

However, we also find other important components such as the acid chlorogenic, an antioxidant that reduces oxidative damage and is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

  • Drink 3-4 cups daily: reduction of cancer and heart disease between 15% and 18% respectively, compared to those who do not take it.
  • Drink 1 cup a day of coffee: reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%. [8]

6. Green tea

The green tea it is categorized within bitter foods or, rather, bitter drinks. We all know or are aware of the antioxidant-level health properties of green tea.

As we saw in our article, it is beneficial given its content in polyphenols and Catechins (epigallocatechin gallate).

What are catechins?

Catechins is a group of flavonoid-type polyphenols with great antioxidant power. Traditional Chinese medicine has pursued and studied since its inception all the plants that contained these elements among its components.


In the Vegetables, acts by inhibiting the development of other plants (such as herbici(da) and reducing seed germination. In living beings, it has a high antioxidant power and a great list of benefits for our body.

We find the following in green tea:

  • Epigallocatechin (EGC)
  • Epigallocatechin-3-gallictate (EGCG)
  • Epicatechin-gallictate (ECG)
  • Epicatechin (EC)

These substances present in bitter foods can offer us the following benefits:

  • Delayed formation of cancer cells (especially the development of oral digestive tract cancer)
  • Reduction of free radical damage.
  • Decreased inflammation.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease.

7. Red wine

In general, bitter foods contain an adequate ratio of polyphenols and tannins with beneficial properties. In the case of red wine, the fermentation of the grapes allows a good conservation of those known as proanthocyanidins. From this substance comes the characteristic flavor and deep color of red wine.

These polyphenols are linked to reducing heart disease, given their potential effect to oxidize cholesterol and reduce blood clotting.

However, although bitter foods based on proanthocyanidins have been shown to be positive for reducing coronary heart disease, in the case of red wine, their alcohol content can be harmful and encourage the development of liver diseases and even cancer.

These properties without the presence of alcohol would be the definitive food to enjoy the benefits mentioned.

References consulted

[1] Cruciferous vegetables and risk of human cancer.

[2] Cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk.

[3] Chemopreventive agents in citrus fruits.

[4] Oral health benefits of cranberry

[5] Consumption of blueberries and cardiovascular diseases

[6] Consumption of dark chocolate and coronary heart disease

[7] Coffee Components and Cardiovascular Risk

[8] Coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus

[9] Wine and its cardioprotective properties.


About Andrew Parkinson

Andrew Parkinson is a highly accomplished pharmacist with a passion for improving healthcare. With a wealth of experience in both community and clinical pharmacy settings, he's known for his dedication to patient well-being. Mr. Parkinson actively engages in medication management, offering personalized solutions and promoting better health outcomes. He has also played a pivotal role in educating patients on proper medication usage and potential interactions. Andrew's commitment to advancing the field of pharmacy and ensuring safe and effective drug therapies has garnered him recognition as a trusted and invaluable healthcare professional, making a positive impact on countless lives.

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