Welcome back to Did You Know, our bite-sized column where we aim to make wellness more digestible. Today? Literal digestion—bitter foods to help jumpstart your digestive juices. Although bitterness is often considered an unpleasant flavor, it plays an important role in processing the food we eat.
Digestion—the not-so-sexy task of breaking down food into nutrients for energy, growth, and repair. Boosting this process by eating bitter foods ensures that the body can efficiently absorb the nutrients it needs.
We break it down for you—or should we say, make it digestible—below. (Sorry, it’s like we can’t stop.)
The process of digestion begins before we swallow our first bite. Bitter foods expedite this process by triggering a series of reactions, most important of which is saliva production. After tasting something bitter, the brain signals the salivary glands to produce more saliva. The saliva contains enzymes that soften the food, making it easier to digest.
A bitter taste also tells the stomach we are eating. The stomach then releases gastric acid and other digestive enzymes that break down the food and help the body absorb the nutrients.
Incorporating bitter foods into your daily diet might not sound appealing, but it’s easy. Here are a few foods that will help keep your gut feeling great:
Kale: This leafy green superfood contains glucosinolates that help detoxify the liver. You can easily add it to smoothies, salads, and sandwiches.
Dandelion greens: These are rich in nutrients that aid digestion and prevent liver damage. They make a perfect addition to any salad.
Coffee: Your morning boost of caffeine serves a dual role of boosting both your energy and digestive hormone production.
Dark chocolate: More bitter than milk chocolate, this sweet treat contains fiber and antioxidants that appear to form anti-inflammatory compounds during the digestive process.
Radicchio: These uniquely flavored leaves may help keep you regular, thanks to the inulin fiber. Tossing them on the grill can tone down the bitterness.
You may think the reason for good digestion is to avoid stomach aches, but it plays a much bigger role in maintaining overall health and wellness. Aside from increasing nutrient absorption, optimal digestion is associated with maintaining a healthy weight and staving off discomforts like bloating and constipation.
So don’t be afraid to embrace the bitterness (of food). Your digestive system will thank you.
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