So, remember when I first started the nutrition nuggets and we talked about phytonutrients? These are the defense mechanisms of a static organism. Plants cannot run away, so they use chemicals with strong flavors and colors to warn away predators. These chemicals in plants that are colorful, pungent, bitter, astringent and strong are some of the healthiest chemicals to eat, and have been found to decrease the risk of many human diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) In extremely high amounts, these chemicals may be toxic, but humans don’t eat enough plant material for phytochemicals to be other than beneficial. This has been proven many times. Unfortunately, the current western palate has been blanded down, sweetened and salted so bitter-tasting foods are avoided, to our detriment. There is lots of evidence to suggest that foods with bitter properties (dark leafy greens, cocoa, cruciferous vegetables, citrus juices and rind among others) are good for us, and that we need to develop a more adult, open, and gourmet palate to include foods others than simply sweet and salty and that attract and satisfy our inner child.
An easy and interesting way to add bitter greens to your diet is by mixing some tender bitter green leaves to your regular lettuce salad (arugula, escarole, baby kale, dandelion, watercress…here is a list of some more) so the flavors become more familiar and pleasant to eat. You can also lightly sauté any of the greens with a little olive oil or butter and some salt. Throw them into soups – right at the end so they don’t over cook. Many of the beneficial chemicals are heat-sensitive.