Bitter foods actually are more likely to contain healthy chemicals, according to an article in last weekend’s WSJ. I eat lots of broccoli and sweet potatoes , for example.
One study found that only 5% to 8% of the calories we eat are bitter. But the compounds that make foods taste bitter (carotenoids in sweet potatoes and spinach, flavonoids in cranberries and kale, polyphenols in wine) also make them good for us. Consider the initial taste shock of bitter foods such as cranberries, cocoa and kale to be positive, rather than negative. Bitter = healthful.
With each new overly sweet food that we consume, whether it is high in calories or not, we dull our palates to other tastes and flavors, especially those of nutritious fruits and vegetables.
We also may be altering our brain chemistry by eating more and more sweeter and sweeter foods. New research shows that the excessive consumption of calorically dense foods changes the way that our brain responds to future foods. The effect is akin to a drug addict’s need for more and more heroin to satisfy his craving.
Delicious flavor starts with good ingredients. These provide varied textures, a backbone of balanced basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) and aromatics that give it beauty. Too much sweetness and not enough bitterness make food taste flabby. And that is what we’ve become: a nation of flabby palates. It isn’t surprising that the rest of our physiques are flabby, too.