About Bitter Taste in Ayurveda
Bitter is disagreeable and stimulating rejection, and a strong taste often associated with black coffee, dark chocolate, and most salad greens.
The Six Tastes: Bitter
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AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE ON BITTER
Bitters & DigestionAyurveda suggests that a healthy gut will eliminate food six hours after eating it. The holy grail of six hour elimination exists today in indigenous societies with higher consumption of bitters, but not for our society of refined flours and sugars.
The body may perceive some bitters as a poison, stimulating various organs for protection. In the case of edible bitters, this has a beneficial, stimulating effect on your body. Bitters stimulate peristalsis, the release of bile in the liver and gall bladder, clearing the blood of heat and Pitta.
Bitter taste stimulates breath and metabolism (prana). Recently, scientists have discovered the presence of bitter taste buds in the lungs. Calcium has a bitter, slightly sour taste. There is recent speculation that humans may have evolved specific taste buds for calcium.
Bitters, Cravings, & Fat MetabolismBitters are the missing taste in the modern diet, but they are the most common taste in nature. Our ancestors subsisted on diets high in bitters for millennia. Naturally, in a bitter environment, sweet taste was rare and highly desirable. Our taste buds have not yet evolved for modern, convenient availability of sweet taste.
Bitters are drying to the body, cause an increase in metabolism, and scrape fat. Bitter purifies the body and dries up all secretions. Bitter resets the taste buds and destroys food cravings. By reducing fat and forcing the ego to confront displeasure, bitter taste increases ether element.
Qualities of BitterBitters are light, cooling, clearing and drying. They alleviate Pitta and Kapha and cleanse the body of toxicity. Bitters create a descending action that alleviates dizziness and fainting from heat conditions like fevers. Bitters are used to treat fever because they also clear the blood plasma of impurities (ama) and sweet taste (kledaka Kapha). Bitter taste clears wounds and purifies the skin and muscle tissue.
Excess bitter aggravates Vata, causing tissue wasting and hardening, loss of strength and libido, and dryness of mouth.
Examples of BittersMost leafy greens, coffee, orange peel are examples of bitter foods. Chocolate undergoes significant processing to remove bitter taste. Gymnema sylvestre (gurmar) is used for diabetes, food cravings, and weight loss.
In herbalism, simple bitters are differentiated from alkaloidal bitters and unpleasant tasting foods. Dandelion greens and neem are simple bitters whose actions are primarily due to their taste. Coffee and chocolate are alkaloidal bitters. Each alkaloid has a unique effect on the body beyond the action of a simple bitter.
INGREDIENTS WITH BITTER QUALITY
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.