By: Kael Balizer, Owner of Life In Balance Ayurvedic Rejuvenation
If you have spent anytime with Dr. Lad you may have heard him say in his singing dialect, “Bitter is Better for Pitta.” And I must add- for Kapha as well.
One of the keys to healthy digestion is getting all 6-tastes in each meal. The 6-tastes include; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste governs an important phase of digestion. Bitter is the least consumed in the Standard American Diet. While most people are aware and addicted to the sweet, sour and salty tastes, it takes some retraining to acquire a taste for bitter.
Bitter is composed of the elements of air and ether and has the dry, light and cold qualities. Thus, it balances the oily, hot qualities of Pitta (fire and water), and the heavy, damp qualities of Kapha (earth and water). In excess it will cause emaciation, depletion and dehydration for the Vata (air and ether) individual, given the increase in similar elements and qualities.
Spring is the perfect time to consumer bitters. It is what the earth is offering us to purify and rejuvenate the sites of Pitta and Kapha which include; blood, skin, liver, digestion, lymph and fat tissue. After a long damp winter, bitters help us to lighten up and loose winter weight, by scrape away fat.
The benefits of the bitters are vast. The bitter taste suppresses craving for sweet and balances blood sugar, so is particularly useful in the case of diabetes. Bitters are anti-inflammatory, cleanse the blood and all tissues in general to help reduce excess and tumors. It creates tightening of the muscles and skin. Bitter taste relieves inflammatory skin conditions and burning sensations. In small amounts it is stimulating to the digestion and kindles digestive fire.
On the emotional level, bitter helps to release suppressed anger and rage. The liver holds the emotion of anger. As you purify the liver with bitter foods, suppressed anger that has been lodged in the liver cells will begin to mobilize and transform.
Foods that include the bitter taste are:
- Bitter melon
- Japanese eggplant
- Fenugreek seeds
- Leafy greens; including kale and arugula
- Aloe vera
- Dark chocolate
3 simple ways to integrate the bitter taste into your diet:
- Herbal teas – Herbs range from strong bitters like gentian to mild bitters like chamomile. You can add other digestives such as licorice, ginger and cardamom, to balance the bitter taste and dry, cold qualities. Enjoy 2 cups per day between meals.
Here are a few Spring Tea Recipes:
- Digestive Mineral Tea (Vata and Pitta Balancing) – 3-4 cups of water. Bring ½ inch of chopped fresh ginger root and add ½ tsp licorice root, bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add 1 Tbls fennel seeds and 1 Tbls nettle leaf. Turn Steep for 10 min. Strain.
- Blood Sugar Balancing Tea (Kapha Balancing)– 3-4 cups of water. Bring 1 tsp Fenugreek and ½ inch chopped or grated fresh ginger root to a boil. Turn off heat and add 1/4 tsp turmeric and ½ tsp cinnamon powder, ¼ tsp ground cardamom and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain. Fenugreek lowers blood sugar and cholesterol and can increase milk flow for lactating women.
- Liver and Blood Detox Tea (Pitta Balancing)– 3-4 cups of water. Bring ½ tps Burdock root, ½ tsp dandelion root, ½ tsp milk thistle seed, ½ tsp licorice root and ½ inch grated ginger root to a boil. Turn off heat and add 1 tsp nettle, 1 tsp red clover, ½ tsp rose and 1 tsp coriander seeds and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain.
- Have a side salad with tender leafy greens or add on the top of a soup or other cooked dish. Bitter Spring Greens include arugula, dandelion, endives etc. The best is to get mixed spring greens from the Farmers Market. The bagged or supermarket greens taste nothing like those coming straight out of the earth. Spring is the time for greens!
- Hardy greens like kale, chard, collard and mustard can be sautéed with ghee or olive oil, turmeric, coriander, salt and a squeeze of lime at the end. Add some baked beets on the side and you have all six tastes!
Enjoy your bitter foods, but balance with the other foods so you stay sweet!