Are You Bitter?


Are you bitter? You might be more bitter than you realize.

While attending talks at a national convention for dietitians, I was made aware of how different we as people are to bitter tastes from foods. The researchers in the program passed out edible test strips that they used to evaluate bitterness in the crowd. All participants were instructed to taste the identical samples and then with a show of hands they were then grouped based on the range of bitterness. Those tested chose between these levels:

  • Extremely Bitter
  • Somewhat Bitter
  • Not Bitter

The participants had very different responses in all areas. Some raised their hands to the extremely bitter taste with a look of disgust and others had very little to no taste aversion from the sample.

The evaluated attendees were also asked by another raise of hands to determine if they liked bitter foods such as coffee, grapefruit, Brussel sprouts, kale, and broccoli. Those that had extremely bitter tastes were less likely to drink coffee or eat foods such as kale or Brussel sprouts. What does this mean? Taste perceptions are influenced by our genetics! Our genes play a role in determining if we like certain bitter foods based on the amount of bitter taste receptors we carry. Researchers went on to describe how some people have multiple bitter genes and others have less and those with fewer, were the least sensitive to bitter foods.

Research also has suggested that people that find vegetables bitter, may associate that same taste with most or all vegetables, therefore avoiding them all together. I happen to like coffee and kale! But a friend sitting in the presentation with me detested both foods. I realized right away she must be bitter, towards food that is, not personality.

As a dietitian, knowing someone’s genetics would be useful information to help optimize food intake and healthy options. This idea is called Nutrigenomics, the study of the effects of food and gene expression in individuals. Now- just how bitter are you? Not sure, well do your own investigating with different foods and conduct your own experiment to see from the bitter list below.

Here is a list of a few foods that are considered bitter:
Arugula, bitter melon, beer, broccoli, unsweet cocoa, citrus, coffee, dandelion greens, dill, grapefruit, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, saffron, sesame seeds, spinach and turmeric.

What can you do about your bitterness? (Food Related only)
Try adding in some healthy fats and moderate salt or herbs to foods to mask or alter their bitter flavor. If it’s a food you feel bitter towards, try it again but prepared in a different way.

Try a new recipe with bitter foods to alter the flavor. Cook kale in stir-fry and soups instead of eating it raw, you might like it better. If it still isn’t your thing, try loading up on veggies you do like or haven’t tried in a while that are less bitter, remember to make half your plate fruits and veggies!

Nutritional Campus Tips: Dishes with spinach at the Asian, salad and pasta lines is a great way to get greens. Stop by Paciugo in the SUB (Student Union Building) today and add in spinach or kale to your smoothie! That wrap you love at The Market or Smart Choice’s is begging for spinach, ask for the spinach flavored tortilla too. Optimize your nutrition by adding greens to sandwiches, bagels, and pizzas. When heading to Fresh Plate, add spinach to the pasta. Look for Kale options at The Commons and in the SUB.

Websites to Check Out: Kale to Pale Ale, A Love of bitter may be in your genes! How to get kids to eat the vegetables they hate!

Our Director shared- Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Apples and Hazelnut Salad

This site Rocks! Recipes for the household or for 50 people! Choose the topic and the cooking equipment you own or use. Type a food in the search box such as Kale. Find options from .30 cents per serving and up. Need a low cost high fiber meal? Try 3 Can Chili-Total cost $2.27 and .38 cents a serving! Click this link: What’s Cooking USDA

Mindy’s Quick Chicken & Kale:
-3 Chicken Breasts (skinless and diced)
-1 Cup of Low Sodium Chicken broth or veggie broth
-1 Red Bell Pepper (sliced)
-1 Yellow Pepper (sliced)
-1 Bundle of Kale (Rinsed, drained and chopped in large pieces)
-Salt and Pepper to taste or your favorite herbs and spices (Try a Mrs.Dash salt free variety: Lemon Pepper, Tomato Basic, Extra Spicy)
– 2 Cups of Cooked Brown Rice
In a wok style pan or skillet, place 1-2 rounds of olive oi (~2 tablespoons). I warm the pan on medium, when the pan is hot, place chicken in and when it is almost cooked through with browned edges, add broth, herbs and spices. Then add in peppers and kale and cook ~5- 7min. or cook vegetables until desired tenderness. (We like a soft crunch to our cooked veggies). Serve over brown rice! Try adding in mushrooms, onion and garlic to this dish without chicken for an easy Meatless Monday Meal.

Spinach Balls Regular Batch: (A Holiday Favorite)
Makes 50
2-10oz pkg. Frozen Spinach-Defrosted/Drained (I squeeze out water by hand)
1 Stick Butter melted (I avoid using the entire stick)
1Cup Onion chopped fine
4 Eggs or egg beaters
1/4tsp. Thyme (I used parsley based on preference)
2 Garlic cloves chopped fine (use what you have if not fresh)
1 c. Italian bread crumbs (or gluten free)
½ c. Parmesan Cheese

In large mixing bowl- mix all ingredients and chill in fridge to firm up. Roll into 2” balls. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray and place on cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 15-20 min. or browned. (Tip: When making gluten free, try a gluten free cracker over breads, they hold shape better)

Prepared by Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD 


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