Along with bitter, sweet, salty, and umami, sour is one of the five basic flavours (1Trusted Source).
The acidity of meals is what makes them taste sour. For instance, the sour taste of citrus fruits is due to their high citric acid content (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
However, unlike the other five sensations, the science underlying how sour taste receptors work and why some acids result in a more sour flavour than others is still not fully understood by scientists (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Similarly to bitterness, it is believed that the ability to sense sour is crucial to survival. The sour taste that develops on ruined goods as bacteria multiply is a useful indicator of whether or not they are safe to eat (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
However, this is not to say that all meals with a sour flavour are harmful.
The antioxidants found in plants, of which there are many in sour meals, help prevent cell damage (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Thirteen mouth-puckeringly sour items that can be beneficial additions to your diet are listed below.
All eyes are drawn to the bright hues and unique flavours of citrus fruits.
Though they are all slightly sour, the sweetness and sourness ratio varies widely amongst varieties.
Citrus fruits with more of a sour flavour include:
Calamansi: a small green citrus fruit that tastes similar to a sour orange or sweeter lime
Grapefruit: a large tropical citrus fruit with a sour, slightly bitter flavor
Kumquats: small orange fruits with a sour-sweet flavor and edible peel
Lemons: yellow citrus fruits that have a strong sour flavor
Limes: small green citrus fruits that taste more sour than sweet
Oranges: a type of citrus with many varieties that range in size and flavor, with some being sweeter than others
Pomelo: a very large citrus fruit that’s yellow when fully ripe and tastes similar to grapefruit but less bitter
Citrus fruits have a lot of citric acid, which is a chemical found in many different kinds of fruits and is responsible for their characteristic sour taste (9Trusted Source).
These fruits are well-known for their high levels of vitamin C, which is important for maintaining both an effective immune system and healthy skin (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Besides being rich in fibre, B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper, they also contain phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities (12Trusted Source).
To brighten up marinades and salad dressings, squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice, then nibble on an orange or pomegranate as a healthy alternative.
In its natural habitat, the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica) in Africa produces the tropical fruit tamarind (13Trusted Source).
Green pulp, which is particularly sour, can be found in unripe fruits.
When fully mature, the fruit’s flesh turns into a smooth paste and takes on a more complex sweet-sour flavour (13Trusted Source).
Tamarind, like citrus fruits, is high in citric acid. The high proportion of tartaric acid, however, is responsible for most of its sour taste (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
It has been established that tartaric acid, a naturally occurring molecule, has antioxidant qualities and may aid in preventing the formation of kidney stones (15).
Tartaric acid is utilised as a food ingredient because of its naturally sour taste and because it may be found in fruits like tamarind and grapes (15).
Tamarind is rich in a number of important elements, including B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium (14Trusted Source).
In addition to being a delicious fruit on its own, the pulp can also be used to flavour marinades, chutneys, drinks, and sweets with a tangy sweetness.
The high quantities of malic and oxalic acids in rhubarb give it a distinctively tart flavour, making it a really one-of-a-kind vegetable (16, 17).
Rhubarb stalks are not only quite acidic, but also very poor in sugar. Consequently, their tartness is off-putting, and they are rarely consumed in their raw form.
They are often prepared and added to other foods or drinks during the cooking process. They’re also common in sweets like pies, crisps, and crumbles, when they’re baked with sugar and other fruits.
In terms of vitamins and minerals, rhubarb is not very rich except in vitamin K. However, it contains a high concentration of antioxidant plant chemicals, such as anthocyanins (16, 18Trusted Source).
The antioxidant anthocyanins are largely responsible for the brilliant red colour of rhubarb stalks. Heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are only some of the many chronic illnesses they have been found to prevent ( Credible Sources 19 and 20
Small, red, and sour, tart cherries (Prunus cerasus L.) are a type of stone fruit (21Trusted Source).
The tart flavour of tart cherries comes from their high malic acid content and low sugar content in comparison to sweet cherries (Prunus avium L.) (21Trusted Source).
Antioxidants, particularly polyphenols, can be found in abundance in sour cherries. Anti-inflammatory properties, as well as benefits to brain and heart health, have been linked to these plant components (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
In addition, some research suggests that sportsmen and active individuals who consume tart cherry juice had less muscle damage and discomfort after exercising (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
Add them to salads, sprinkle them on top of yoghurt or oatmeal, reduce them into a sauce or marinade, or combine them into a smoothie to incorporate them into your healthy diet.
Gooseberries are little spherical fruits that can be either sweet or fairly sour, depending on the kind and environment in which it was grown (26).
Their sour taste comes from the organic acids they contain, specifically citric and malic acid (27Trusted Source).
Recent studies have shown that certain of these organic acids have beneficial effects on heart health, as well as antioxidant and antibacterial capabilities (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
Gooseberries also have a lot of vitamin C, which is a huge plus. It just takes 1 cup (or 150 grammes) to deliver 46% of the DV (29Trusted Source).
Gooseberries, once washed, can be enjoyed as a standalone snack or mixed into savoury dishes like porridge, yoghurt, and salads. Don’t forget that they have a sour side. Gooseberries with a more developed sugar content are worth seeking out.
Due to their low sugar content and high concentration of organic acids, especially citric and malic acids, raw cranberries have a harsh, sour flavour (30Trusted Source).
Cranberry juice and capsules, in addition to their sour taste, may be useful for preventing and treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to their unique combination of organic acids (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
Whole cranberries, in contrast to cranberry juice, which can be heavy in added sugars and low in fibre, are a nutrient-dense supplement to your diet, providing vital elements including manganese, fibre, and vitamins C and E. (32Trusted Source).
Cranberries are also high in quercetin, a plant chemical associated with a variety of health benefits including protection from free radicals, inflammation reduction, cancer prevention, and fungal and bacterial resistance (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
Dried cranberries can be used in homemade granola bars or trail mix, while fresh cranberries can be used to provide a tangy pop to green and grain salads, sauces, and chutneys.
Vinegar is an acidic liquid produced by fermenting a grain or fruit to convert its carbohydrates into ethanol. Bacteria are frequently used as an aid in this process because they digest sugars more efficiently than humans (36Trusted Source).
Vinegar’s signature sour flavour comes from acetic acid, which is produced during the fermentation process (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
Acetic acid has been proven to help with weight loss, fat loss, hunger control, and managing blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes in animal research and a few modest human trials (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
More research is needed to identify a safe and effective dose for humans to experience these effects.
Vinegars come in numerous varieties, each with its own distinct flavour due to the fermentation process and the particular glucose source used. Vinegars made from rice, apples, wine, and grapes are among the most common.
In most cases, vinegars are utilised as a component in sauces, marinades, and dressings. Pizza, pasta, and sandwiches can all benefit from a drizzle of a flavoured vinegar like balsamic.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables and spices.
Commonly made with cabbage, the vegetable and spice mixture is first pickled in a salty brine. It’s then fermented with Bacillus bacteria, which further break down the natural sugars in the vegetables, producing lactic acid (41Trusted Source).
It’s this lactic acid that gives kimchi its signature sour smell and flavor.
Used as a side dish or condiment, kimchi is a good source of probiotics. As a result, regular consumption of kimchi has been linked to benefits for heart and gut health (42Trusted Source
Sauerkraut, a sort of fermented cabbage, is a staple in German cooking but has long been traced back to China.
Sauerkraut, like kimchi, is fermented cabbage that has been shredded using Bacillus bacteria to create lactic acid. Sourness in sauerkraut comes from lactic acid (44Trusted Source).
Fermentation makes sauerkraut a good source of probiotics, good microorganisms that aid digestion (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
Fiber and several essential vitamins and minerals, including manganese, vitamins C and K, can be found in abundance in this food (47Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that sauerkraut, while a healthy method to add flavour to sandwiches or meat meals, may also be rich in sodium.
Sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage condiment popular in German cooking, has its origins in China.
Sauerkraut, like kimchi, is created by fermenting shredded cabbage with Bacillus bacteria to produce lactic acid, just like kimchi. Sauerkraut’s signature sour taste comes from lactic acid (44Trusted Source).
Because of the fermenting process, sauerkraut is frequently loaded with probiotics, good microorganisms that aid with digestion (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
In addition to being high in fibre, it also contains a number of useful nutrients like manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K. (47Trusted Source).
Sauerkraut is a great way to add flavour to sandwiches and meat meals, but it is important to bear in mind that it can be rich in sodium.