Happy Chinese New Year week to all! When I lived in Seattle, I had the benefit of being immersed in a city heavily influenced by Asian culture and food. I loved being able to taste the wide variety of fruits, vegetables and other delights available from the other side of the Pacific, including a range of leafy green things. Greens can have a wide variety of flavors; sweet, sour, spicy, and especially bitter. Although in this culture we do not generally have a taste for bitter food, it can be a lovely facet of a meal and does serve an important digestive purpose.
Bok Choi and Tatsoi are two of my favorite leafy greens of all time because of their combination of crispy, juicy, tenderness, and a light bitterness. The fiber and water contained in these greens is of course going to benefit the digestion because it will help to bulk and move the stool. However, there is additional benefit from the bitter component.
Approximately 35% of our digestive process takes place in what we call the “cephalic” or thinking stage. This means, when we think about food or taste food, it affects how the rest of our digestive tract is working. When bitterness touches our tongue, it tells our gall bladder to make bile, our stomach and pancreas to make digestive enzymes, and our intestines to start the peristaltic motion that moves food through the digestive tract. This helps to coordinate the entire digestive process so we are able to absorb and utilize food more readily and move it through more easily. This is why apertifs have traditionally been bitter and why eating bitter greens will help to digest and absorb our food more efficiently.
Enjoy your greens!