These Are the Most Hated Health Foods You Should Give a Second Chance

There’s no accounting for taste. But sometimes there’s no ignoring it, either. Despite your best intentions to eat a healthy diet, it’s incredibly difficult to choke down foods that taste awful. We all expect children to say things, such as, “Brussels sprouts are gross,” or “Beets taste like dirt.” But if we’re being perfectly honest, plenty of us retain those beliefs into adulthood — even though we know we’d be better off if we got over our hatred for kale, our aversion to lima beans, or our dislike of some other most hated foods.

Don’t get us wrong. Some healthy foods taste great. But others definitely make the list of our most hated foods, no matter how much we try to be adults and eat them politely. Read on to find out whether your food phobias are common or whether you’re alone in disliking whatever vegetable it was you struggled to choke down at childhood dinners.

1. Beets

beet being grated into a bowl

Beets number among many people’s most hated foods. | iStock.com

Beets quite famously number among the most hated vegetables. As The Atlantic reports, the problem “is that they taste like dirt.” In the U.S., you only infrequently meet somebody who grew up liking beets. Nobody likes the flavor or the gritty texture of canned beets. It doesn’t help that fresh beets don’t look so appetizing straight out of the ground. That means they probably don’t look that tempting in the cooler at the grocery store or farmers market.

But if you’re willing to give them a try, beets make a pretty nutritious addition to your diet. Researchers have found that beets — specifically, their juice — can lower your blood pressure. Beets are a great source of betaine, which is an important nutrient for the prevention of chronic disease. Still on the fence? Try out a recipe from The New York Times’ collection of “beet recipes even a beet hater can love.” Or turn beets from one of your most hated foods into one of your most loved meals with one of these delicious recipes

2. Brussels sprouts

Fresh raw Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are healthy — but are also one of the most hated foods at the grocery store. | iStock.com/dulezidar

Slate refers to the Brussels sprout as “the American vegetable villain.” Spinach used to play that role — until Popeye “rescued” it in the 1930s. And then broccoli became a villain when President George H.W. Bush reviled it. But in 2008, a survey named Brussels sprouts the most hated vegetable. They’re bitter if they aren’t picked at the right time. Frozen sprouts taste similarly offensive. They feel slimy, too. And overcooked Brussels sprouts have a distinctly off-putting smell. No wonder this green veggie is one of the most hated foods in America.

Our veggie grudges aside, Brussels sprouts are high in fiber and in protein. Plus, scientists have put forth some evidence that eating cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, might decrease your cancer risk. Ready to give them another try? Try out Epicurious’s aptly named recipe for “Brussels sprouts for people who think they hate Brussels sprouts.” Or take our advice, and try out the best way to eat Brussels sprouts

3. Carrots

cooked carrots on a plate

Many people’s lists of most hated foods include a few vegetables, such as carrots. | iStock.com

The Huffington Post scoured Chowhound and Serious Eats to find out what people talk about when they discuss the foods they hate.  Many people like raw carrots. But the opposite seems true of cooked carrots. That’s probably because carrots are easy to overcook. When they spend too much time over the heat, they turn soft. And they can even get slimy, which is almost never a quality that you want in your food.

But even if you hate cooked carrots, scientists have found some good reasons for you to hold your nose and choke them down. Researchers determined that cooked carrots actually have higher antioxidant levels than raw carrots. Carrots also might decrease your risk of bladder cancer. Plus, they might even help in the treatment of leukemia.

The Kitchn has a few ideas on how to use carrots when you don’t really like the taste of them. A few suggestions? Make homemade stock, stews, cake, slaw, and picked carrots. Or play up carrots’ naturally sweet taste with these tasty recipes.

4. Cauliflower

cauliflower in a white bowl

Cauliflower easily makes the list of America’s most hated foods. | iStock.com

When it comes to cauliflower, The Huffington Post found some funny complaints. One commenter referred to cauliflower as “the poor man’s broccoli.” Others complained about its mealy taste. Still others are grossed out by its “brain-like look.” And it doesn’t help that boiling cauliflower is one of the worst ways to cook vegetables.

But if you can get past your distaste for cauliflower, your health stands to benefit. Cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, are rich in carotenoids, vitamins, folate, and minerals. They also contain compounds called glucosinolates, which break down into biologically active compounds that might inhibit the development of cancer. Want to get over your hatred of cauliflower? Food.com offers a recipe that promises “easy, elegant cauliflower” for people who hate the vegetable. Or give these surprisingly delicious cauliflower recipes a chance.

5. Cilantro

Cilantro on a taco

Genetics determine whether you love or hate cilantro. Its taste makes sure it numbers among some people’s most hated foods. | iStock.com

Cilantro, like many herbs, is low in calories but high in useful nutrients. But unlike most other (innocuous) herbs, cilantro is one of the most hated foods. If you hate it, the reason probably has something to do with your genetics. The New York Times reports that some people seem to be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro. Also, the same or similar compounds that make up cilantro’s aroma also feature in soaps. That explains why, at least to some people, cilantro tastes like soap.

If you really hate the taste of cilantro, that’s probably not something that you can get around with creative cooking. After all, genetics are genetics. Cilantro’s major contribution to your diet is vitamin K. However, a quarter cup of cilantro provides just 16% of your daily intake of vitamin K. So you’d have to eat a lot of cilantro for it to fulfill your dietary needs. Nonetheless, you should give cilantro a try. There’s no better place to start than these better-than-takeout burrito recipes, most of which use cilantro.

6. Coconut

organic brown coconut

Coconut has become an incredibly trendy superfood — and one of the most hated foods in the nation. | iStock.com

The coconut finds a place on every list of superfoods. But plenty of people hate it. The Huffington Post explains that “it’s shredded coconut that takes the heat.” Coconut has a relatively mild flavor. But the publication posits that shredded coconut’s “hard-to-chew texture” might cause people’s disgust. However, even if shredded coconut makes your personal list of the most hated foods, you don’t have to forego its nutritional benefits completely.

Coconut is a nutritious superfood, with high levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can also get a healthy dose of antioxidants by eating coconut. (To refresh your memory, antioxidants might slow down the aging process. They can also protect your body from free-radical damage.) Coconuts contain medium-chain fatty acids, which can actually help you lose weight. Want to give coconut another try? Check out these unique and healthy recipes to do something new with coconut. And read up on truths and lies about coconut oil.

7. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese in a bowl

You don’t have to think hard to understand why cottage cheese is one of America’s most hated foods. Neither its texture nor its taste do it many favors. | iStock.com

One of the least surprising ingredients The Huffington Post numbered among the most hated foods? Cottage cheese. That doesn’t require much of a stretch of the imagination to understand. People complain that cottage cheese looks gross. It smells disgusting. And there’s pretty much nothing to combine with it that doesn’t taste weird or look like something that would be served at a nursing home. (Well, we might make an exception for these high-protein dishes.)

Cottage cheese offers several health benefits if you can stomach it. Most noteworthy, it’s a complete source of protein. That means it can help you reduce your risk of an amino acid deficiency. (Such deficiencies can be a problem, particularly if you eat a primarily vegetarian diet.) Cottage cheese also provides healthy fatty acids, which might reduce your risk of developing diabetes. To counter cottage cheese’s less-than-appealing reputation, BuzzFeed lists some delicious ways to eat this healthy food.

8. Eggplant

eggplant cut in half

The eggplant is one of our most hated foods, but at least it’s still one of our favorite emojis. | iStock.com

The same 2008 survey that pointed a finger at Brussels sprouts found that eggplant fares even worse than sprouts among children. The Awl notes that some common complaints include the spongy texture, bitter taste, or mushy feel of an eggplant. Fortunately, all of those problems result from improper cooking. But you might also want to keep in mind that eggplant isn’t as healthy as you probably think it is. (It lacks the vitamins and nutrients found in many other vegetables.) So if you really hate it, you can definitely skip it.

However, researchers have found that eggplants contain compounds that inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the liver and colon. Plus, a flavonoid pigment contained in the eggplant’s peel might decrease tumor cell invasiveness. MyRecipes collected a variety of recipes for you to try even if you dislike eggplant. Or, if you like stuffed veggies, you can try something novel with eggplant.

9. Kale

kale in a bowl

Anyone but the most enthusiastic health nut will probably tell you kale is one of their most hated foods. | iStock.com

Tons of people hate kale. So many people hate kale that The Kitchn pondered whether a “kale conspiracy” has overtaken the United States. Tons of people hate the rough texture and earthy taste of raw kale. Multiple chefs tell Thrillist that kale is an overrated vegetable. And Gizmodo reports that vegetables in the Brassica genus — including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale — taste extremely bitter to some people, thanks in part to genetics.

Even if kale is on your list of most hated foods, you might want to add it to your diet. Researchers have determined kale might help reduce your risk of bladder cancer. Plus, kale can reduce the risks of coronary artery disease. Kale also offers calcium that’s a lot easier for your body to absorb than the calcium in spinach. Sure, you might hate raw kale. But you can probably get used to having it in the kitchen. Thrillist offers some “ways to eat kale that don’t suck.” We can definitely get on board with that. We also like these surprisingly delicious kale recipes.

10. Kombucha

Jar and glass of kombucha

Kombucha offers incredible health benefits. But it earns itself a spot among the most hated foods and drinks because of its strong flavor. | iStock.com

Beer isn’t the only fermented drink that’s showing up in people’s refrigerators — and on lists of the most hated foods (and drinks). Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that’s brewed with a live bacterial culture. Essentially, you can make kombucha by adding yeast and the bacterial culture to a solution of tea, sugar, and flavorings. Kombucha is highly acidic (which is the source of many complaints about its flavor). And it contains some alcohol as a result of the fermentation process. So you probably shouldn’t share it with your kids. Plus, the beverage has a distinctive odor, which some characterize as “vinegary.”

Some people really hate the taste of kombucha. In that case, our only advice is to try different varieties and flavors until you find one that you can stomach. Kombucha might be expensive at your local Whole Foods, but you can easily make it at home. Fermented foods — including kombucha, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut — provide you with probiotics. These healthy bacteria promote a healthy gut. They also fight colds, lower cholesterol, and alleviate food allergies. Want to get kombucha off your list of most hated foods? Try XOJane’s guide to making kombucha “that doesn’t taste like yeasty piss-water.” We couldn’t have put the goal more eloquently ourselves.

11. Lima beans

lima beans

You can probably thank your childhood for making lima beans one of your most hated foods, even into adulthood. | iStock.com

Lima beans number among the inflammation-fighting foods you should be eating. But how many of us are really eating this maligned veggie? The Huffington Post reports that lima beans beat out green beans, peas, and other legumes as one of the most hated foods. Are these little beans really that bad? Some people despise the grainy texture of these beans. And others seem to associate it with soggy succotash. Another theory? Maybe so many of us count lima beans among our most hated foods simply because we associate them with the unpleasantness of being forced to eat unwanted vegetables as a child.

Whatever your theory on why you hate lima beans, you can’t deny their nutritional benefits. They can play a part in a heart-healthy diet because they contain no cholesterol and very little fat. They’re rich in insoluble fiber, which helps promote digestive tract health. Plus, research suggests foods rich in folic acid — including lima beans, spinach, asparagus, lentils, garbanzo beans, and orange juice — can help reduce the risk of death from breast cancer. The New York Times asks, “Who says you can’t love lima beans?” The publication offers a variety of recipes that might convert even the pickiest eaters.

12. Liver

Liver on bread

Liver is surprisingly healthy. But its icky origin and weird taste make it one of the most hated foods in the meat section. | iStock.com

Eating an animal’s internal organs doesn’t sound healthy. Yet liver is a nutrient-dense food that’s surprisingly healthy. It’s high in protein and is a concentrated source of important vitamins and minerals. But plenty of people have their reservations. To begin with, eating liver sounds pretty gross. And thinking more about it doesn’t make things better. The liver clears the blood of harmful substances and removes bacteria from the bloodstream. No wonder liver numbers among America’s most hated foods.

If you aren’t completely grossed out by the idea of eating liver, you can get some great health benefits by occasionally consuming it. Liver contains vitamin B12 and vitamin A. Those nutrients support healthy eyes, promote healthy skin, and boost both your immune system and the production of red blood cells. However, you need to keep in mind that all types of liver are high in cholesterol. (So you should eat liver in limited quantities.) Want to give it a try? Bon Appétit shares a chicken liver recipe that at least one staffer thinks is still gross. And registered dietician Laura Schoenfeld has some tips on eating liver even if you hate it.

13. Mushrooms

White mushrooms

The numerous varieties of mushrooms make every list of the most hated foods, probably thanks to their earthy flavor. | iStock.com

Mushrooms are a pretty nutritious food. But The Huffington Post reports that they number among the most hated foods. The reason why? Probably it’s at least in part because they grow from tiny spores in dark and moist environments. Plus, mushrooms that have gone bad have a slimy texture that’s a whole new level of disgusting.

If you’re ready to bump mushrooms off your list of most hated foods, it might help to choose the right variety. FitDay offers an easy rundown of some common varieties of mushrooms and their nutritional benefits. White mushrooms, for instance, can help with weight loss and prevent prostate cancer. Shiitake mushrooms can fight tumors and infections. And porcini mushrooms can bring down inflammation. If you want to give mushrooms a chance, follow Bon Appétit’s advice, and make sure you’re avoiding common mushroom cooking mistakes. That way, you’ll avoid gag-inducing texture issues. Or try these satisfying mushroom recipes

14. Okra

Okra over wooden table

Okra’s slimy texture makes it one of the most hated foods, especially if you aren’t from the South. | iStock.com

Okra is famous for being slimy. So it’s really no surprise that many people consider it one of their most hated foods. The Kitchn notes that okra “can be oozy.” But the publication also explains it’s overcooking that turns okra’s texture into something nobody likes. Botanists call the clear liquid that comes from okra seeds “mucilage.” Whether you call it mucilage or slime, it’s the major reason why lots of people hate okra.

So okra might be a veggie that we love to hate. But researchers have found some great reasons that you should try to put up with okra. Okra might help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. It might also be helpful in treating hyperglycemia and hypertriglyceridemia. Plus, okra has antioxidant and anti-fatigue properties. Ready to give this vilified vegetable another try? Here’s how you can cook okra that’s not slimy, and these recipes that make great use of this low-calorie vegetable.

15. Olives

olives next to olive oil on a table

The distinctive taste and smell of olives make them one of the most hated foods at the salad bar. | iStock.com

Olives are a staple in the famously healthy Mediterranean diet. But they’re pretty polarizing when it comes to taste. They taste bitter when ripe. So olive producers usually cure them in a saltwater solution. Some people love the taste of olives. But The Huffington Post notes that others “absolutely abhor olives for their saltiness.” And some people dislike olives simply because they hate the smell that emanates from the olive bar in the grocery store. But olives are one of the many foods that can help you live longer.

Researchers have established that olives (and olive oil) offer significant health benefits. Both play a role in cancer prevention. Olives contain oleuropein, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, and anti-cancer activities, plus antimicrobial activity, antiviral activity, hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic effects. They improve bone health. Specific olives might even offer a probiotic effect. Plus, olive oil might promote cardiovascular health. Convinced yet? Epicurious offers some advice on learning to like olives. 

16. Onions

three onions and garlics

Onions are one of the most hated foods. For many people, the pungent taste and smell strongly overshadow the health benefits. | iStock.com

Onions are another kind of produce that people really hate. The Huffington Post notes that people seem to hate raw onions most. But even worse than the taste of a raw onion? The distinct smell it leaves on your breath. We have to admit, not many of even the most hated foods necessitate a vigorous tooth-brushing session to get the taste and smell out of your mouth.

Despite their distinctive taste and smell, olives offer documented health benefits. Onions are allium vegetables, just like garlic. The consumption of both onions and garlic is inversely correlated with the occurrence of several common cancers. In addition to their anti-cancer effects, onions also offer antiplatelet activity, antithrombotic activity, plus antiasthmatic and antibiotic effects. And onions seem to have a positive effect on bone density. If you’re just coming around to onions, The Kitchn explains how to tone down their intensity. And Serious Eats offers a beginner’s guide to onions and the different varieties you can try.

17. Oysters

Oysters

Some people love oysters. Others count them as one of their most hated foods, largely because of their briny taste and chewy texture. | iStock.com

You can count oysters as one of those rare foods that taste indulgent but actually offer some health benefits. But that doesn’t help you if you hate oysters. Many people object to oysters’ notorious chewiness. Or they dislike the briny flavor. The Huffington Post notes that one user compared the taste of oysters to “eating the bottom of the ocean.” (That’s a pretty vibrant image.) And plenty of people take issue with the texture of raw oysters or worry about the bacteria they’re ingesting when they eat these bivalves raw. But if you can get over the icky factor, oysters offer a surprising number of health benefits.

Oysters boost your protein intake significantly without adding tons of fat to your diet. They also pack in important minerals, such as zinc, iron, and selenium. All of these activate proteins that help your cells function healthfully. However, you should eat oysters in small quantities because they do have a moderately high amount of cholesterol. Need some reasons to learn to tolerate them? Surprisingly, they might help you sleep better at night. The Guardian warns that “you’ll never be a grown-up” if you don’t like oysters. But, more helpfully, the Cleveland Clinic advises taking advantage of their health benefits by steaming your oysters and adding an oil or tomato-based salt. 

18. Quinoa

quinoa

Quinoa makes the list of the most hated foods, despite or because of its status as a popular superfood. | iStock.com

Many people hate quinoa — and not only because it’s hard to pronounce this grain’s name without tripping up or sounding like a pretentious hipster. Foodies have been all over quinoa. Many tout it as a delicious superfood. But others find its appearance and nutty taste off-putting. Plus, plenty of people are just predisposed to resent ultra-popular health foods. Is it featured on every blog and cooking show? Does it make appearances even in dishes that aren’t meant to be healthy? And does the internet proclaim it the panacea to every health problem? Check, check, and check. Quinoa definitely qualifies as an overexposed superfood.

Regardless, you might want to think about adding quinoa to your diet. Researchers have found quinoa lowers the risk of various diseases. It might help prevent weight gain and offer antioxidant effects. Fortunately, quinoa has a relatively mild flavor. So you can probably overcome your dislike for this grain with some creative cooking. Prevention recommends a few ways to eat this superfood. And you can start your day off on a healthy note by making one of these quinoa recipes for breakfast.

19. Raisins

Spoon with raisins and green grapes

It turns out that raisins are one of our most hated foods, especially when they show up in desserts unexpectedly. | iStock.com

Raisins don’t seem that bad when they’re on their own. But The Huffington Post notes that people really have issues with them when they show up in desserts. Nobody likes biting into a cookie, expecting chocolate chip and getting oatmeal raisin instead. The same goes for other desserts, including muffins. Raisins are notoriously polarizing. The Kitchn posits that at least some of the controversy might be due to wide discrepancies in raisin quality. But we don’t think that raisins are one America’s most hated foods just because some of us aren’t buying Sun-Maid.

Researchers have determined that raisins can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Plus, they might combat tooth decay. You probably didn’t expect that benefit from such a sweet-tasting snack, did you? Additionally, raisins might decrease LDL cholesterol and can play a role in reducing hunger.

If you need some ideas, Relish offers some creative recipes with raisins. And Berkeley Wellness offers some other ideas for adding them to your diet. Plus, the first on our list of healthy snack foods is a delicious peanut butter raisin spread.

20. Tofu

Blocks of tofu

If you’ve ever had a conversation about tofu, you’re probably not surprised that it numbers among the most hated foods in America. | iStock.com

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tofu also makes The Huffington Post’s list of most hated foods. People dislike tofu’s lack of a distinct flavor. And they hate its texture. The Huffington Post found that non-vegetarians seem to hate tofu the most. But even among vegetarians, you’ll meet people who cite tofu as one of their most hated foods.

Researchers have linked the consumption of tofu and other soy foods with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Tofu also lowers the risk of anemia. It’s a great source of protein. And tofu seems to help prevent liver damage caused by oxidative stress. But none of that solves your problems if you just can’t stand its taste. Fortunately, cooking tofu for people who hate it is far from impossible. In fact, Amazon stocks a cookbook on the subject. And BuzzFeed promises its own collection of recipes will make you love tofu.

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