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  • Writer's pictureMikel Love MS RDN

The Health Benefits of Bitter Foods

What do dark chocolate, citrus and kale have in common? They all have bitter components in their flavor profile! Mention chocolate and you often can get people to listen to you.


For some people the bitter flavor is not a loved one but it can be an acquired taste! Remember tasting your mom or dad's coffee for the first time and thinking it was gross (especially if they were a black or no sugar added coffee drinker) and yet, despite your childhood feelings, you may have grown up to be one of the many coffee drinkers in the world. I encourage all parents to add bitter foods to their children's' diets so that the taste can be acquired when young. If you are a sweetened coffee or chocolate lover I encourage you to slowly lessen the sugar added to these foods (increase the cacao content for chocolate- try 70% dark for a bitter, slightly sweet treat) to increase your appreciation of bitter. Another option is to try unsweetened green or black tea- hot or cold. Pay attention to the bitter notes in your food and appreciate!


Health benefits of bitter foods abound!

Bitter greens: kale, chard, arugula, dandelion greens, mustard greens and more are vitamin and mineral powerhouses! They are a good source of Vitamins A, K, C and folate and the minerals potassium, iron and calcium.

Activating bitter taste receptors in your mouth leads to a cascade of events that ends in better digestion! Cholecystokinin or CKK is a hormone that can be activated by eating bitter foods. CKK initiates the release of bile and enzymes that are essential for the proper breakdown of the food we eat into its' smaller usable parts.

Studies have shown a correlation between eating bitter foods and better appetite control/satiety via hormone regulation. One small study indicated that eating bitter foods may cause us to eat less food at our next meal.


Most importantly: A list of bitter foods

Add these foods to your diet to get the health benefits of bitter foods. Aim for variety! Although the daily cup of coffee or tea can be good for you the bitter veggies are the real nutritional powerhouses! Eat them daily.





mustard greens



brussels sprouts




citrus: lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit


dandelion greens


cacao/cocoa- what chocolate is made of, the darker the chocolate the better!




apple cider vinegar



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