As our eating patterns become more erratic and our interest in healthy eating diminishes, we are becoming more eager to take vitamin and mineral supplements with the aim to cover these nutritional deficits. Some of us are even of the opinion that the supplements will sustain us better than will the food we eat. However, if our digestive system is not functioning properly we are not going to gain the full benefit of either our diet or the supplements.
Our food needs to be digested before its nutrients are absorbed and the first obstacle in this course is an underactive stomach. Although much is said about hyperacidity and its connection with peptic ulcers, probably more significant health problems are caused by insufficient stomach acidity. These include multiple food allergies, iron deficiency, and chronic candida (fungal) infections. Poor digestion is prevalent in half the population over the age of 60 and this leads to poor absorption of nutrients and osteoporosis. By the simple measure of adding spices to our food we can improve our digestion as well as our well-being.
Common spices we can use are ginger, chilli, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, galangal and turmeric. Papaya and pineapple contain digestive enzymes which are of benefit when there is insufficient digestive secretion.
Bitter foods increase stomach acidity and this overcomes indigestion and combats gut infections. Drinking dandelion tea or adding a few drops of Angostura bitters to your mineral water with a squeeze of fresh lime juice are ways you can include bitters in your diet. In ancient traditions such as Ayurveda, pungent and bitter tastes are very important to a person’s health and help protect against illness. The Ayurvedic philosophy maintains that each of the six tastes should be present in each meal to balance the body’s functions.
Bitters play a vital role in regulating our intake of food and assisting in its digestion. Receptors to bitter tasted are present throughout our digestive tract and they release the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) in response to ingesting something bitter. This CCK triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes and bile salts in preparation for digestion of forthcoming food. It also stimulates secretion of saliva, which contains enzymes for the initial stages of digestion of food in the mouth and also stimulates gastric acid secretion, which contains enzymes to break down protein in the stomach and kill any bacteria present. Intestinal motility is also enhanced, keeping
the bowels regular.
Bitters also inhibit gastric emptying and promote satiation, thus curbing excessive appetite and keeping us feeling fuller for longer. With regular intake of bitters, the desire for sweet food will diminish. The intake of bitters has been shown to improve blood sugar levels in diabetics and reduce sugar cravings.
So what foods should we be eating to provide the bitter element to our diet?
Bitter foods include the vegetables rocket and radicchio lettuce, endive, chicory, cavalo nero, bitter melon, artichokes, asparagus, zucchini, spinach, dandelion, parsley, coriander, and the fruits kiwi fruit, tamarillos, lemon, lime and grapefruit.
We shouldn’t disregard the wonderful halth benefits of the food around us.
Recipe for Spinach Pie – Enjoy this delicious spinach and parsley pie with an artichoke and radicchio salad.
1 bunch of silverbeet or 2 bunches of English spinach.
1 bunch of shallots
1 bunch of parsley
6 free range organic eggs
½ cup of cream
2 cubes of goat’s cheese
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
Take leaves of silverbeet or spinach and washStir fry in 2 teaspoons of olive oil with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
Chop white part of shallots
Take leaves off parsley and wash and dry
Squeeze out water from spinach (keep aside and drink later)
Beat the eggs with the cream and salt
Finely chop parsley
Coarsely chop spinach
Place parsley and spinach in a bowl with shallots
Add egg mixture and broken up pieces of goat’s cheese
Bake in an oiled non-stick flan dish at 175°C for about 40 minutes
Turn out and cut into 6 slices