Difference between sweet and sour

Difference between sweet and sour


The taste of sweet and sour are the most elemental of taste pleasures. But, hands down, sweet wins the popularity contest. The sweet taste is the most appealing as a source of ready energy and the foundation of our food chain. Most people typically choose candy, soda or commercial pastries to satisfy this craving.

However, these refined simple-sugar products are not healthy fare for frequent consumption. What your body needs are the naturally occurring complex sugars found in whole grains and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet corn, yams, onions, cabbage and certain varieties of squash. This type of complex sugar tends to be the most satisfying and provides consistent energy throughout your day.

If a dish tastes too bitter or sour, you can add a sweet element. If a dish is too sweet, you can add a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon to diminish that sweet. with the sour taste. If a soup is too sweet, wait until it is completely finished cooking before you add extra ingredients (or other tastes) to reduce the sweetness. The longer the soup, or stew, cooks the more the ingredients will condense and become more powerful, often naturally reducing the sweet taste.


That funny mouth-puckering face we make when we put lemon wedge to our lips is a reliable indicator that we have trespassed into sour territory. This sensation can be triggered from the acids in citrus, sourdough bread, vinegar or other foods that feature this flavor. Some scientists have theorized that the sour taste originally signaled that the food was decomposing and potentially unsafe to consume.

Most commonly found in citrus (lemons/limes), as well as fermented substances (wine/vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, soy sauce, umeboshi plums and some dairy products), the sour taste is thought to stimulate digestion, aid circulation, promote elimination, energize the body, strengthen the heart, relieve thirst and sharpen the senses.

Sour foods such as citrus and vinegar can add zest to a dish and give it an edge to pump it up. Example: A squeeze of lime on an avocado, or lemon on guacamole. Young tomatoes and many berries can also add a touch of sourness that helps to perk up a dish. If a dish tastes too sweet or spicy (such as too much hot pepper), or even too bland, adding a bit of sour taste can be a perfect quick fix.

If your dish suffers from an overly sour taste, adding the sweet taste of vegetables can tone down the sour, especially if the vegetables are roasted or grilled. In Indian cooking, they will often serve a small side dish of yogurt to calm the heat of the spicy taste.

Sometimes, there is confusion distinguishing between bitter and sour tastes, since they can taste similar. Here’s how you can tell the difference: bitterness imparts a harsh, unpleasant taste, while sourness is more acrid. Example: Taste a grapefruit. It has a pleasant, but sour taste, right? Now, try tasting a small piece of the grapefruit rind. That’s the bitter taste! This is a simple way for training your palate to identify these two tastes.  


A little bitterness can be an interesting addition to any meal and a healthy one. In Chinese medicine the bitter taste, in moderation, is said to nourish the heart. Ironically, a large number of natural compounds that are bitter tasting are known to be toxic. The average American rarely eats bitter-tasting foods. In contrast, Asian cuisine routinely uses, burdock root, a bitter tasting and fibrous vegetable that the Japanese call Gobo.

 A popular Japanese recipe known as kinpira uses 3-times the amount of carrots to soften the bitter taste of burdock. In Asian folk medicine, kinpira was traditionally used to strengthen the reproductive organs. Some studies have suggested that burdock inhibits tumor growth and enhances immunity.

There are several easy ways to include bitter in the diet. Adding greens such as endive, chicory, dandelion or radicchio to salads, or garnishing soups with parsley are unique ways to include this antioxidant taste. The bitter taste is also found in herbs and spices (turmeric, fenugreek, anise, mustard and dandelion root), coffee, tea, unsweetened chocolate, citrus peel, and certain fruits (grapefruits, olives, and bitter melon). While bitter taste is usually not appealing by itself, it can stimulate our appetite, provide some real great health benefits, and help to accentuate other tastes.

Roasted dandelion rootThe bitter taste is also a powerful detoxifying agent (cilantro, burdock, parsley, dandelion) and has natural antibiotic, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic qualities. The bitter taste can also be helpful for weight reduction, water retention, skin rashes, fever, burning sensations and sometimes nausea. For overly bitter dishes, adding a sweet or salty taste can help neutralize this sometimes, overpowering flavor.

<< Click here to find out about spicy and pungent flavors…! >>

© Verne Varona



Please follow and like us:

14 thoughts on “Difference between sweet and sour”

  • Love you site as this is how I like, or want to eat all the time. Great wealth of information and suggestions for eating the right foods. I am bookmarking this page and anxiously await future post.

  • I have to agree with the lemon + guacamole — delicious! First time in awhile that an article has made me hungry. 🙂 I really appreciate the sweet and sour (and bitter) tips. I understand it all better now. Thanks!

  • Very informative! I’ve been getting big into smoothies, mainly adding pears, apples and frozen spinach in with some almond milk. But I found it wasn’t as exciting as I liked. It’s as you say, sweetness sometimes needs a kick. So I started adding oranges to my smoothies, and wow were they tasty! Not as extreme as a lemon, but sure worked for me. 😉

    • Hi Sarah – sometimes the green barley juice powder or the vegan protein powder makes for a delicious base. VegaOne is one of my favorites. You can even make the smoothie with water instead of the almond milk. Add some ground flax seeds, a frozen banana and a handful of organic spinach, and you’re good to go! Let me know how it works out!

  • Hi Amy,
    I love your post. I love sour fruits myself and often use them to add some zest to my cooking like you say. Especially lemons and limes in salsa and dips. I try to steer my kids to fruit instead of the typical candy and soda that has plagued many with sickness and poor health from high amounts of simple sugars like you say. Very good post showing contrast between our taste buds with sweets and sours and how to use them! Thanks for the info. I will be bookmarking!

  • Hi Amy,
    I love your site because this is what I’m into now. I’m on Day #9 of NO meat, NO fish and NO dairy.
    My cholesterol was high last appointment and then I went to give blood and it ran like cement.
    Too much animal protein in my diet.
    Thanks for the sweet and sour tips. I’m all about the plant based foods for now until I get my metabolism and body repaired. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)