“Bitter in the mouth – is health in the stomach”, is an old saying in German folk medicine [“Was bitter im Mund, ist dem Magen gesund.”]. However, many lettuces, herbs and vegetables, which naturally contained bitter substances, have been altered in their taste and thus, nutrition – since nowadays mild, sweet or sour are the favorite flavors. But our organism demands the exact opposite: bitter substances. These are essential for a healthy metabolism.
Bitter substances belong to the secondary plant substances and serve to protect the plant from predators. However, the bioactive functions are also important for the human organism.
It is known that bitter substances from angelica root, gentian etc. have digestive characteristics and strengthen the liver. They trigger increased secretion of saliva and digestive juices via the taste receptors at the base of the tongue, thus promoting (fat) digestion and a faster onset of the feeling of fullness and satiety. But that’s not all – they activate intestinal peristalsis, act against pathological germs and strengthen the immune system. In addition, they curb cravings for sweets and can even reduce fever.
Especially old varieties of vegetables, many lettuces and medicinal herbs provide the right ingredients. The stomach, liver and gall bladder in particular benefit from their richness in bitter substances. Via the autonomic nervous system, bitter substances also activate and regulate the heart and circulation; the brain, skin and tissues are consequently better supplied with blood. Since over 80 percent of our immune cells are located in the mucous membrane of the large intestine, bitter substances also have a direct effect on the body’s defenses via the digestive tract. Finally, bitter substances help with headaches, menopausal complaints, cramps, chronic fatigue, rheumatism and gout.
Cleansing from within
The Romans already valued bitter substances as an elixir of life, stimulant and remedy and used, for example, preparations of centaury. In Indian Ayurveda, too, bitter foods have had a reputation for harmonizing all other flavors and balancing human health for more than 3,000 years. In the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen recommended local herbs with a bitter taste in her recipes, and Paracelsus also knew that bitter substances “clean the body from within” by activating the mucous membrane of the digestive tract, keeping it flexible, elastic and clean. Stimulated this way, the body excretes toxins much better on the one hand and absorbs nutrients and vitamins more easily on the other hand – which is particularly important in fall to start the winter fit, fresh and lively.
Bitter substances to strengthen the immune system
A weakened immune system opens the door to colds, flu and sore throats. A tea made from sage and thyme, however, whips the immune system into shape. Simply mix one teaspoon each of dried sage and thyme per cup, pour in hot water and steep for eight to ten minutes. As with any medicinal tea, drink unsweetened to really feel the bitter substances.
Vital with bitter herbs and lettuce
So for all we know, we say “let’s go for the bitter foods!” But how, when the majority of them has been bred out of foods? Your personal Metabolic Balance plan usually includes a variety of bitter vegetables and fruits, so if you eat a varied diet, you will be supplied with small doses of bitter substances every day, allowing you to benefit from them in the long run.
Tips to increase the content of bitter substances in nutrition:
- frequently use vegetables and lettuce (radicchio, chicory, arugula, artichokes, endive) in your daily diet
- use more often fruits containing bitter substances such as grapefruit, orange, lemon, pomelo
- use spices such as ginger, galangal, pepper, cumin, mustard, cardamom in food preparation
- enrich salads and vegetables with fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, lovage, rosemary) and wild herbs (sorrel, purslane, dandelion, etc.)
- drink green tea or rooibos tea regularly
Tip in case of acute cravings for sweets
Do you have an extreme craving for sweets after a meal? Then it’s worth counteracting with bitter substances.
A strong espresso often helps, as the bitter substances it contains make the sweet craving disappear after a short time. You should also always have so-called “bitter drops” or bitter elixir within reach for such cases. A few drops are enough.