Imagine if you could eat something that would help your liver, act as a gentle diuretic to purify your blood, cleanse your system, assist in weight reduction; cleanse your skin, eliminate acne, improve your bowel function, prevent or lower high blood pressure, prevent anemia, lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half, eliminate or drastically reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods, and, at the same time, have no negative side effects and selectively act on only what ails you.
If I also told you that this wonder food also tasted good in salads, teas, and soups, what would you do to get your hands on this treasure? Well, thankfully you have nature at on your side, providing these miracle plants in abundance during spring!
I'm talking about bitter greens. Dark and leafy, some great examples include dandelion, arugula, and kale. In addition to being vitamin-rich (like most greens), bitter greens are exceptionally beneficial for digestion. They have a bold flavor that may take some getting used to, but the health benefits are definitely worth the effort!
For this piece, I am drawing upon the theory of Ayurveda that attributes various qualities to six main tastes, as well as research that proves the physiological benefits of bitter herbs to the human body.
Here are the top health benefits of eating your bitter greens:
1. They're a nutritional powerhouse.
Bitter greens are packed with vitamins A, C and K, and minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Filled with folate and fiber, and low in fat and sodium, these greens are a nutritional powerhouse! They promote great skin (beta-carotene), a strong nervous system (folate), healthy blood clotting (vitamin K) and contain phytonutrients shown to support eye health.
2. They're digestive magic.
Eating bitter food activates taste buds that simultaneously stimulate enzyme production and bile flow, which promotes digestion. The better your food is digested, the more nutrients you'll absorb from your food. It doesn't matter what you eat, if you can't absorb it, it won't be of much benefit to you. The high fiber content in bitter greens also helps to eliminate waste through the digestive tract.
What’s more, bitter greens also promote natural detoxification of the liver, which regulates cholesterol, balances hormones, detoxifies the blood, and metabolizes fats. Considering that there is so much hype about higher fat Paleo diets, we need to eat more bitter greens to digest fats in a more efficient manner.
3. They'll balance your taste buds and reduce cravings.
Ayurveda recommends we consume all tastes for better health: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Unfortunately, a western diet primarily consists of sweet and salty tastes, and is lacking in others. It is to our benefit to eat foods that activate all of our taste buds and start with incorporating some seriously healthy bitter greens! It’s also been suggested that consuming bitter greens may also reduce food cravings and aid in weight loss!
So how do you incorporate these leafy greens into your diet and love the taste?
It’s surprisingly not that difficult. When shopping, choose organic greens with crisp leaves and look for greens that are in season. Collards, kale, turnip greens and mustard greens are in season from October through early spring. Swiss chard and beet greens grow from spring through fall. Dandelion greens are best in spring and summer.
Greens will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, but it’s best to use them as soon as possible. To prepare greens for cooking, wash or “bathe” greens in a sink full of water and then remove any hard stems or stalks.
To tame bitterness, try this universal recipe: lightly sauté greens with a small amount of salt and fat. Adding sea salt and high quality oil when cooking reduces bitterness, enhances digestibility, and even releases nutrients for easy absorption.
Here is a list of bitter greens worth trying this spring:
- Amaranth greens
- Broccoli Rabe
- Dandelion Greens
- Kale (including Dinosaur Kale, Lacinto Kale)
- Mustard Greens
- Turnip Greens
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