The Sweetness of Bitters In Our Diet

By Dr. Neela Sandal

Culturally we have moved away from appreciating bitters – foods and herbs with bitter flavors -- which our ancestors knew the importance of and practiced in their diets. A lot of our daily food stuff has adapted fruits, vegetables, oils and fats to intentionally reduce bitterness.

Look at olive oil, for example: true olive oil is bitter and spicy. But now you have to really look for it to avoid getting lighter olive oil that's had its bitter flavor processed out of it. Italy and France have far less problems with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol because people in these countries have regular exposure to more bitters, mostly through real olive oil.

The bitterness is a manifestation of a food's biological uniqueness. This bitter flavor should key us to understand there's something special about this plant, and one thing very special about such foods is how they help regulate our gut ecology. For example, people in Italy may eat the same amount of carbs an America eats, but much less cumulative metabolic damage because their pasta is slathered in real olive oil. Real olive oil can mitigate the effects of carbs on the gut in ways that a sweet marinara sauce can't.

An enormous number of our pharmaceuticals created after studying effect of bitter plants, based on how bitters can help people lower diabetes or cholesterol. For example, scientists have discovered that people who live in the Italian region where bergamut, a small fruit, is grown, don't have cholesterol issues. So scientists studied it, and they found that people drink a glass of this bittersweet bergamut juice, which acts exactly like satins do in the body, but without side effects.

In contemporary America, we've kind of shunned bitters, but eve