Sour can be a taste that divides people. Some of us have a palate that is more accustomed to sourness, or even revel in the taste – while others can’t stand it! Sour is one of the five basic or primary tastes, along with salty, bitter, umami (savory), and sweet – and our diet would be a lot less exciting without it!
In this article, we will consider sixteen sour foods that are delicious, beneficial, and healthy. Go ahead and experiment!
What Makes Foods Sour?
Sour foods have properties that stimulate the digestive juices, thus helping to improve food absorption. They do this by provoking taste receptors on the tongue to stimulate increased enzyme production and bile flow.
The better the digestion of food, the greater the number of nutrients absorbed. It is not the amount of food you consume that matters, but the nutritional value the foods bring to your system.
Sour foods have their particular taste thanks to acidity and fermentation.
The term “acidity” describes the amount of acid in food. For example, there is a high amount of citric acid in citrus fruits, which makes us pucker our lips when we eat them.
Some acids produce a more pungent taste than others. Researchers have not yet been able to precisely understand how our sour taste receptors work.
Many nutritious sour foods are rich in plant compounds called antioxidants, which help avoid degenerative damage and strengthen cells.
Food ferments when carbohydrates are broken down by bacteria. Microorganisms and enzymes transform the organic matter, which changes the taste and shelf life of foods. A food is considered fermented when one or more of its chemical components are attacked by microorganisms, modifying its chemical composition.
Three types of microorganisms are used in the food industry: lactic and acetic acid bacteria, molds and yeasts. These microorganisms are considered beneficial, and the fermented foods they produce are often easy to digest.
One of the advantages of detecting a sour taste is in cases of survival. It helps us identify when foods have undergone fermentation, meaning they are contaminated with bacteria or yeast. While fermented foods can be good for you, food that has gone bad also undergoes fermentation and would have a sour taste.
The List: 16 Foods that are Sour
We list below 16 sour foods you can add to your diet to make it more nutritious and healthy.
Of all the fruits of the forest, blueberries are possibly the sourest! These berries are small with a sweet taste and a touch of acidity. They are one of the healthiest fruits with a high content of antioxidants, helping to combat premature aging, neutralize free radicals, and fight inflammation.
Blueberries are very good for your heart, memory, and eyesight. They are used in weight-loss diets as they are low in calories and fat, and are high in dietary fiber and carbohydrates. They also have high water content and zero cholesterol, making them a dieter’s best friend!
They are rich in flavonoids, tannins, and essential minerals such as manganese and vitamin C, as well as several B vitamins.
Adding blueberries to your diet is easy, as you can get them frozen, fresh, pressed, dried, jellied or juiced! You can use them in desserts, juices or add them to breakfast cereals.
Blueberries are perfect to:
- Protect the heart.
- Improve memory.
- Protect eyesight from deterioration.
- Stop urine infections.
- Help with weight loss and maintenance.
Currants are small rounded fruits, which come in a wide variety of colors from black to red or even pink! They vary in taste from quite sour to sweet. They are rich in organic acids, including malic and tartaric acids, which give them their acidic, sour taste.
They are rich in minerals, especially potassium, calcium and magnesium. This fruit is also rich in vitamin C: just one cup provides 46% of the daily recommended amount. Currents can be added to cereal, yogurt, desserts, and salads or used in baking.
Currants help with heart health, and they have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
Grapefruit is a fruit with a citric and sour taste that is available most of the year. Although its exact origin is unknown, we know it is a natural cross between the sweet orange tree and the pomelo.
Grapefruits are often eaten at breakfast, or added to various dishes to provide color and flavor. They are often combined with sweeter fruit or with sugar to offset the sour taste. They can be sprinkled with brown sugar and put under the grill for a special treat. Grapefruit juice is also a favorite.
The “grapefruit diet” was popular for a time, as it was thought that the acidity of a grapefruit would help burn fat and lead to weight loss.
Its nutritional composition includes beta-carotene, vitamin B2, B3, C, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and potassium. In addition, it is rich in water (more than 90%), high in fiber and low in sodium.
It is perfect for preventing cardiovascular diseases and providing blood pressure control because it contains antioxidants. In addition, it can help prevent colon cancer.
Other properties of grapefruit are:
- It accelerates the metabolic process, so it is ideal for weight reduction.
- Strengthens the immune system.
- Prevents deterioration of eyesight.
- Its malic acid content helps in digestive processes.
- It increases collagen production, making it perfect for delaying premature aging.
- Moisturizes hair and stimulating its growth.
Kefir is a fermented drink with a pleasant taste and a tangy smell. The word in Turkish means “blessing” and this fermented drink has been consumed for thousands of years in the Caucasus area. It is considered the elixir of a long life.
Kefir is traditionally made from goats milk, but can also be made from cows’ milk, sheep’s milk, or even rice, coconut or soy. It is combined with living kefir ‘grains’. The grains are grown from other fermented strains, and usually contain Lactobacillus-type bacteria. The result is a thinner yogurt-like mix.
Kefir is a probiotic with high nutritional content including calcium, B vitamins, and protein. It is also rich in vitamin K2, A, D and biotin, and minerals such as phosphorus and potassium.
The unique properties of kefir are the insoluble polysaccharide called kefiran, a potent natural antimicrobial. Like yogurt, it can be suitable for some people who are lactose-intolerant, and can improve gut health.
- Improved digestion.
- A more effective immune system.
- Increased calcium absorption.
Kimchi is one of the most used elements in Korean cuisine. It is often used as a garnish or side dish, but also a dip or as an ingredient in a main dish. It is listed as one of the top 5 most healthy foods.
It is made from fermented and seasoned vegetables, with a base of Chinese cabbage. Among the ingredients are onion, garlic, and peppers. The result is a spicy and sour food that you can find in specialized stores and restaurants worldwide.
Kimchi is low in fat and carbohydrates, and high in fiber. It’s also high in Vitamins A, B, and C. The healthy bacteria in kimchi are good for a balanced digestive system.
- A good source of probiotics.
- Useful for reducing the risk of stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Kombucha tea, which dates back more than 2,000 years, has long been used by the Chinese for its healing and stimulating properties. It has a tart taste with an underlying sweetness, and it is fizzy.
This tea is made by a fermentation process that takes between 7 and 14 days. It uses green or black tea with sugar and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY, which is also known as Kombucha fungus, is a jelly made from bacteria and yeast, and it floats on the top or around the mixture as it ferments.
This refreshing drink is somewhat acidic. You can change the flavor by adding natural fruits after the fermentation process. It provides vitamins C and B, zinc, iron, manganese and copper.
The claimed benefits of this drink are many, but it shouldn’t be over-used. It should not be taken by children or pregnant women. Care should be taken if you are making it at home, as it can become contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, helicobacter pylori and staphylococcus. Commercial preparations are available.
With kombucha, you can:
- Reduce cholesterol.
- Help the liver and kidneys.
- Strengthen the immune system.
- Lose and maintain your weight.
- Detoxify the body.
- Benefit from its probiotic properties.
Lemon is one of the best-known citrus fruits with a vibrant color and a distinctive flavor. It originated in Southeast Asia but is now produced in all tropical and temperate areas of the world.
Lemons have a high concentration of citric acid, making them one of the best sources of vitamin C. This vitamin is essential for strengthening the immune system and maintaining healthy skin.
Lemons are also one of the best sources of many other nutrients such as vitamin B, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, copper and magnesium. They also contain plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They are low in calories and fat.
Lemons have many uses in the kitchen. They are used to dress salads, cook food or make liqueurs. They’re also popular in confectionery and baking, for their unique aroma and essence.
Other health benefits of lemon include:
- Antibacterial properties.
- Strengthening the immune system.
- Maintaining the pH of the body.
- Helping to dissolve kidney stones.
- Aiding blood flow to the brain.
8. Pickled gherkins
Pickled gherkins, also known as baby pickles, are obtained after a cure in brine or lactic fermentation of fresh gherkins. They are preserved in vinegar, salt and various condiments and spices that provide aroma and flavor.
The vinegar gives these pickles a preservative and antiseptic action, which extends their life thanks to its acidity.
Pickles provide a dietary source of protein and vitamins B6 and C, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron and folic acid. They are low in calories, fat-free, rich in fiber, and have high water content.
You can add them with confidence (but in moderation) to your daily diet. If you want to lose weight, they will be a great ally!
With pickled gherkins, you can:
- Prevent constipation.
- Improve skin condition.
- Avoid glucose peaks in the blood.
- Avoid fat accumulation, activating the metabolism.
9. Quark cheese
Quark cheese is a soft, spreadable cheese with a mild, sweet and sour flavor and creamy texture. It can be confused with thick yogurt, like skyr or Greek yogurt. It can be compared to cottage cheese, although it does not have the same lumpy texture.
To make this cheese, milk is soured by adding lactic acid. It’s heated until it curdles and then filtered before adding bacterial strains that ferment the lactose.
Quark cheese is a food rich in calories and proteins, low in fat. It provides sodium and calcium, and essential amino acids. Quark cheese contains various amounts of vitamins A, D and B. It is consumed by incorporating it in salads, smoothies, sauces and dressings.
Quark cheese is good because it:
- Helps in muscle repair. It’s a good post-workout snack.
- Improves gut health, taking care of the intestinal microbiome.
- Boosts the immune system.
- Increases bone density.
- Is a source of healthy fat.
Rhubarb has the appearance of celery or slightly pink chard. This vegetable is well known in the United Kingdom, but it is originally from Asia.
The firm, pink stalks are the part that is used – make sure to discard the leaves as they are toxic. The flavor is very sour when raw, but it is more often served cooked. It is often used in desserts as long as sugar is added to reduce the sourness. It can also be used in savory dishes.
Because of its similarity with celery, rhubarb is a great low-calorie food choice. It is rich in fiber, and keeps the bowel functioning regularly. It is also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Rhubarb helps to:
- Protect blood vessels from cardiovascular diseases.
- Aid digestion.
- Absorb iron more easily.
Sour cabbage, or Sauerkraut comes from the Alsace area, an area in eastern France which borders with Germany. Despite being highly nutritious, it has very humble origins, and is a fermented form of cabbage.
Its name comes from the German word “sauerkraut”, which means “sour vegetable”. The flavor of this food comes from the high concentration of lactic acid acquired from the fermentation process. The concentration is usually around 2%.
Sauerkraut is rich in vitamin C, A, B1 and B2. It also provides minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, iron and magnesium.
It is used in soups or stews, or served with sausages or smoked fish dishes. It’s also used by adding a few tablespoons to prepared salads. A sauerkraut salad accompanied by apples and walnuts is a classic.
Sour cabbage helps to:
- Give balance to the intestinal flora acting against diarrhea and constipation.
- Improve digestion.
- Strengthen the immune system.
- Help the proper functioning of the nervous system.
- Improve learning and memory.
- Delay aging.
- Aid healthy hair and nails.
12. Sour cream
Sour cream is one of the products obtained from the fermentation of sourdough in cream. Its origin is attributed to French and Slavic cuisine, although today it is used worldwide.
This cream is one of the ingredients in sauces, baked goods; it’s also added to meat dishes and is regularly used in Mexican food. You can use it to help offset the piquancy of spicy dishes.
Sour cream is high in vitamins A, B, C, and minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and iron. It is high in calories and is should not be consumed in high quantities if you suffer from hypertension, heart conditions, or obesity.
Fans of sour cream claim we should not limit its use to the kitchen: it is also an ingredient in home-made cosmetology products, for its benefits to the skin. It is claimed to help rejuvenate and beautify the face.
The health benefits of sour cream include:
- The assimilation of complete proteins, fats, amino acids and sugar.
- The improvement of the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.
- The stimulation of mental activity and improved memory.
- Benefits for malnourished patients or those with poor appetite.
13. Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread is a popular type of artisan bread. It is made with sourdough, which uses fermented flour and water as a raising agent, giving the bread a unique tangy flavor. It is chewy and has a crisp crust.
The sourdough improves the texture and flavor of the bread, thanks to the natural mix of yeasts and bacteria involved in its fermentation process. This process also breaks down the gluten, which makes it more digestible than bread made with traditional yeast, and can make it suitable for people on a gluten-free diet.
Sourdough bread contains many vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins B1 to B6, B12, thiamine, folate, niacin, vitamin E, riboflavin, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
With sourdough bread, you can:
- Improve digestion.
- Absorb minerals.
Tamarind is a tropical fruit that is widely cultivated. Although it is thought to be native to Africa, it has also been grown extensively in India, where it is known as “Indian Date”. It is rich in fiber, which has a laxative effect when taken in high concentrations, helping to purify the body. It is low in calories and fat.
This fruit is high in vitamin C, E and B1. Tamarind also has minerals such as zinc, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. All those minerals favor the transport of oxygen in the circulatory system. It also regulates cholesterol levels in the blood and protects the body from free radicals.
Tamarind is used to prepare refreshing drinks. It is also frequently used in pickles, sauces, desserts, jams and ice creams. Many south-east Asian recipes rely on tamarind for its unique sour flavor. In some cultures, the leaves and flowers are used as condiments for food.
Other health properties of tamarind are:
- A natural diuretic.
- Aids healthy skin and hair.
- A natural laxative.
A list of sour foods would not be complete without mention of vinegar. Vinegar is one of the most used components when dressing salads. Its composition is simple: water, acetic acid and sugars. It is rich in vitamin C and potassium, and low in calories and carbohydrates.
Vinegar can be obtained from fruit juices that transform sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas when fermented. Another way it is produced is by the action of a group of aceto-bacteria that can combine oxygen with alcohol, thus forming acetic acid.
The most commonly used vinegars are apple, wine, balsamic and malt vinegar.
- Suitable for everyone if consumption is moderated.
- A good antioxidant.
- Helpful in reducing the chance of neurodegenerative diseases and cancers.
- Helpful in the prevention of aging.
Yogurt is a food that helps prevent many diseases, thanks to the fermentation produced by lactic acid bacteria. This food is considered a natural medicine.
While store-bought yogurt is readily available, you can also make yogurt at home! The process of making yogurt begins with pasteurization, heating the milk to eliminate pathogens. Then, when the milk has cooled to just above body temperature (around 40°C), good bacteria are added.
You can get specific mixes of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, or use a spoonful of plain yogurt as a starter. The yogurt is then kept at a temperature of 38-40°C for a few hours until the yogurt reaches the correct consistency.
This food is rich in vitamins A and D and provides potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and calcium. In addition, yogurt contains the full range of amino acids which aid protein synthesis. This means it enables proteins in our body to repair and develop cells, and maintain immunity, bone health, and healthy muscles, nerves and skin.
Yogurt is also more readily absorbed by people who are lactose-intolerant.
With yogurt, you can:
- Improve your intestinal health.
- Help fight bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.
- Enjoy a natural antibiotic.
- Strengthen the immune system.