17 Foods that are Sour AND Very Healthy Too

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Sour foods can boost the immune system, improve your digestion, cleanse out toxins, and boost your energy levels. Many of them are rich in antioxidants that are good for your skin and your heart.

To stay healthy, try to eat at least one sour food or drink a day. You have so many options: sour fruits, fermented or pickled food, and dishes with souring ingredients. Aside from being good for you, they can complement other flavors and elevate a dish.

foods that are sour

Here is a list of sour foods, with some recommendations on how to include them in your everyday meals.

1. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits have citric acid. That’s what makes it taste sour—but on the upside, it’s rich in Vitamin C, which can boost your immune system and strengthen your skin.

Lemon and lime have the highest concentration of citric acid among citrus fruits. You can use them in juices, salad dressings, or sauces. Lemon is also excellent for marinades, because the citric acid breaks down tough fibers and tenderizes the meat.

Calamansi, which looks like a thumb-sized lime, is a little less sour with a hint of sweetness. It is also used for juices and dressings, and the size is perfect for garnishing a dish.

Oranges and kumquats have a sweet-sour flavor, while pomelo and grapefruit have a sour-bitter flavor. Incidentally, grapefruit juice is one of the healthiest drinks: studies show that it can lower blood sugar and help you lose weight.

2. Currants

These round fruits contain malic and tartaric acids, which give them that sour, tart taste. They contain a lot of minerals such as potassium and calcium. Add them to cereals or salads, blend into ice cream or yogurt, or use in desserts like pies and cakes. Overripe currants can also be made into jam.

3. Cherries

Sour-sweet cherries pack a lot of flavor and health benefits. Studies show that it can lower uric acid by as much as 36% (perfect for people with gout and osteoarthritis), and can relieve muscle pain after exercise.

4. Rhubarb

Rhubarb stalks, which looks like a pink celery, is actually a vegetable. It is so sour that nobody eats it raw; instead, it’s cooked in a lot of sugar to create a delicate tart taste that is perfect for jams, sauces, and pastries.

Rhubarb is rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

See Also: Foods that are red

5. Cranberries

Cranberries’  sharp, sour taste comes from its high citric and malic acid content. Because of its the high concentration of organic acids, cranberry juice is used to treat urinary tract infections.

Meanwhile, fresh cranberries are rich in many vitamins and minerals, and is the best source for quercetin. That is a super antioxidant that can fight inflammation, and bacterial and fungal infections. Use it for salads, sauces or a sour chutney.  

Preserved cranberries lose a lot of their nutrients during the heating process, but that still makes them a tasty dessert (and an epic Thanksgiving dressing).

6. Tamarind

Tamarind contains a lot of tartaric acid, which gives it the sour, tart flavor. Unripe tamarind is often used as a souring agent in soups, such as the Filipino sinigang and the Thai tom yung goong.

You’ll also find tamarind paste in Vietnamese, Indonesian, Indian, Latin, Mexican, and Caribbean cuisines—it adds that delicate sourness to pad thai and curries!

7. Bilimbis

This small green fruit is so sour and acidic that it is almost never eaten raw—you’ll feel the acidity on your tongue. Instead, it is used as a souring agent for soups (similar to the tamarind), made into a chutney, or pickled.

8. Green mangoes

Unripe mangoes are very sour. Some varieties can actually make you cry when you eat them! However, many Asian cultures actually love to eat green mangoes that way, dipping each piece into salt or fish sauce, for a salty-sour treat that cleanses the palate.

Green mangoes are also pickled with vinegar and a little sugar, or made into refreshing shakes.  

9. Umeboshi sour plums

Sour plums are actually not plums: they are made from ume fruit. The Japanese love to preserve it by adding salt, and the sourness actually intensifies as it dries.

Umeboshi sour plums are usually cut into pieces then added to rice porridge, rice balls, or even pasta.

10. Vinegar

Vinegars are actually made from fermenting something that is high in carbohydrates, such as a fruit (apple, coconut, grape, etc.) or grains.  

Vinegars will also retain some of the flavor notes of whatever it was made from; for example, balsamic vinegar, which is made of pressed grape juice, has a hint of sweetness.

Some vinegars are made from aged alcohol. For example, white vinegar is made by fermenting distilled alcohol. There is even champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, and red wine vinegar. Malt vinegar is actually made from fermenting beer.

Vinegars have different levels of sourness and acidity. White vinegar has one of the highest acid content, which is why it’s so effective as a household cleaning product. Rice vinegar is milder, so it’s used to flavor food like sushi rice.

11. Kimchi

This staple in Korean cuisine—made from fermented vegetables or fruits—gained worldwide popularity after it was listed as one of the world’s healthiest foods.

It contains probiotics which can improve digestion, lower cholesterol and inflammation, and boost the immune system. It also has antioxidants like beta carotene, which lowers risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

While people are most familiar with cabbage kimchi, there are actually over 100 types of kimchi in Korea.  

12. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. The beloved German side dish comes from the word sauer (sour) and kraut (cabbage)

Like kimchi, sauerkraut gets its sourness from the fermentation. The yeast and bacteria that’s in the cabbage digest the sugars to produce organic acids. That means that it’s full of probiotics that support the heart and the gut.

Sauerkraut is also rich in fiber, which can help with lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, and lutein which is good for the eyes.  

13. Pickled vegetables and fruits

You’re familiar with pickled gherkins (a hamburger wouldn’t be the same without it), but there are actually hundreds of pickled fruits and vegetable dishes in the world.

India has aam ka char (pickled mango), the Philippines has atchara (pickled green papaya and carrots), Morocco has L’hamd Markad (preserved lemon), Japan has gari (pickled ginger).

In fact, you can pickle practically any vegetable. It’s one of the best ways to make the most of a big garden harvest. You can get an interesting mix of flavors, like the deep flavor of pickled beets, to the light tartness of pickled carrots, to the sour-spicy kick of pickled jalapenos.   

The pickles get their sourness from the lactic acid in the brine and the acetic acid in the vinegar. Usually, a plain white vinegar is used so that it doesn’t change the color of lighter fruits and vegetables. In most cases, the sourness is balanced by adding sugar and other spices.

14. Kombucha tea

This is actually black or green tea that is mixed with sugar and kombucha fungus, then fermented for 1 to 2 weeks. Sometimes, fruits are added after fermentation to deepen the flavor.

The tea is fizzy, sour, and refreshing. According to Chinese medicine, it can lower blood pressure and soothe irritable bowel syndrome.

However, kombucha tea has to be properly prepared and stored, in order to prohibit the formation of mold and other dangerous bacteria. It should not be consumed during pregnancy, because of possible risk of bacterial contamination.

15. Yogurt

Yogurt is a kind of fermented dairy. In its natural and unsweetened state, it is actually quite sour and tart. It has probiotics, and is also full of calcium, protein and phosphorus.

Greek yogurt uses the same fermentation process as regular yogurt, but is strained to have a thicker consistency.

Yogurt can be eaten on its own, or used for baking, salad, dressings, marinades and cooking. Since it is low in fat, it is a healthy substitute for mayonnaise and cream.

16. Kefir

Like yogurt, kefir is fermented milk. However, it has a thinner consistency and is meant to be drank rather than eaten.

Kefir has about 30 species of probiotics, so some say it is actually healthier than yogurt. Research has found that some of those probiotics can help with weight loss—but only if you use the varieties that aren’t flavored by fruits.

17. Quark Cheese

This is also made from fermenting milk. Milk is mixed with lactic acid, then heated. Once it curdles, it is strained and then mixed with bacterial strains.

The sour, tart taste may take getting used to, but it has lower fat content than other cheeses. It is typically used in smoothies, dressings and sauces.

Final Thoughts

Sour foods have numerous health benefits, and there are so many delicious ways to enjoy them every day. Eat them fresh, turn into a drink, or use as an ingredient. It is an easy way to increase the nutrition of your meals and add an extra depth of flavor.

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