Spring is here and the farmer's markets are back in full swing! What's in season? Greens! Specifically bitter greens; arugula, dandelion greens, turnip greens, kale, swiss chard, etc.
Now you may be wondering... why is it so important to eat foods that are in season? Every plant grows in it's own time and season, according to mother nature herself. These times provide the plants with their PRIME conditions for growing, leading to more nutrient packed produce to fuel your body. Bitter greens are especially important plants that grow in the spring time and I'm going to tell you why...
Bitters are the foods that literally taste BITTER... which is not always what we tend towards here in the lovely US... (we always go for the sweet and salty). Same thing with sour and pungent foods - they tend to have similar actions to bitters; yet again, not always the fan favorite. But this bitter flavor is not for nothing, we have these bitter taste receptors on our tongues for a reason, and here are some of the healing actions on the body when these receptors are activated:
1. Turn UP digestion.
Bitters get things moving! They stimulate the secretion of saliva, digestive enzyme production and excretion, stomach acid production, bile, and promote peristalsis (that wave motion that moves food through the GI tract) and you guessed it - bowel movements (which you want to have daily to clear toxins, excess estrogen, and wastes). Additionally, bitter greens are full of fiber, which eases this elimination of waste through the digestive system.
2. Send the liver some LOVE.
Our livers work tirelessly each day, processing the toxins we are exposed to, processing excess hormones and metabolizing sugar and fats. Bitter flavors benefit liver function and detoxification from the moment you taste them in your mouth, a message is sent through your vagus nerve to the liver to optimize function and stimulate bile production.
3. Curb cravings.
Bitter herbs and foods have this magical ability to regulate a weak OR an excessive appetite. They also curb sweet cravings and make healthy food more appealing!
4. Nutritional super stars.
These greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin K, B vitamins, and Vitamin C, which is key in the creation of collagen in your body, an important protein for healing your body's cells.
Are you convinced yet...?
Some other benefits that bitters have are they can lower your blood sugar, reduce cholesterol levels, and provide relief to heartburn or acid reflux due to bitters keeping the valve at the bottom of our throats closed, as it should be.
There are SO many benefits to adding these plants into your life - so check out your favorite local farm and try some fresh bitter greens! Perhaps try out some bitter herbal teas or even try this kale pesto on your eggs, toast, pizza - everything.
RECIPE: KALE PESTO
2 cups kale leaves
1 cup basil
1/4 cup EVOO
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup walnuts
Sea salt & pepper to taste
Place kale, basil, EVOO, garlic in a food processor and process until blended. Add the walnuts and process until blended to desired consistency (for nut free exclude walnuts or try sunflower seeds). Add salt and pepper to desired taste. Enjoy!
1. Groves, Maria Noël. Body into Balance: How to Use Herbs and Natural Medicine to Achieve Your Optimal Health. Storey Publishing, 2016.
2. Urban Moonshine. “About Digestive Bitters.” Urban Moonshine, www.urbanmoonshine.com/pages/about-bitters.