Those compounds that give certain foods a bitter taste also give them a host of health benefits.
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Learn how to complement, balance, soften, and harness the power of the most sophisticated—and underappreciated—flavor. Plus, why you should embrace beautifully bitter flavors to boost your health.


Credit: Christina Holmes

Green tea is rich in catechins (also present in red wine and chocolate). They have been shown to defend against skin, breast, lung, and prostate cancer and may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease by disrupting amyloid plaque buildup in the brain. Beautifully vibrant matcha (a type of green tea powder) is prized for its outstanding flavor. It's earthy, grassy, and—you guessed it—bitter. When baked into a sweet, eggy dough, the taste is tempered to mild. Supporting bitter elements of dark chocolate and espresso powder in the glaze softly reinforce the bite.


Boursin is the key to the quick and easy sauce; the triple-cream cheese comes in a box and is found in most grocery stores with the specialty cheeses or in the deli. After blanching and cooling the broccoli rabe, it’s important to lightly squeeze out the water. That way, you won’t dilute the flavors in the sauce.

| Credit: Christina Holmes

Found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli rabe, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, and kale, these sulfur-containing compounds have been shown to protect against several types of cancer. Broccoli rabe ranges from moderately to seriously bitter, a quality that's mellowed by first blanching the veggie in boiling water. Tossing it with neutral-flavored pasta and a rich, creamy cheese sauce further balances the pungency. 


Though we love the blushing pink color from Ruby Red grapefruit, you also can use a yellow-fleshed variety, which will likely be less sweet. We find that a London-style gin works best here; the floral flavors of more botanical styles (such as new-wave gins) are likely to overpower the taste of the grapefruit.

| Credit: Christina Holmes

Ruby Red grapefruit gives the classic gin and tonic a seasonal spin. The drink gets a twofold hit of bitterness—from the fruit juice and peel, plus quinine in the tonic water. It's a double whammy of bold flavor that's balanced by the complementary sweetness of both ingredients. Naringin, responsible for grapefruit’s bitter taste, has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that, in animal studies, have shown to help improve blood pressure and cholesterol and prevent weight gain and fat accumulation.