Over the last several thousand years, humans have had a hand in cultivating plant crops to better suit our tastebuds. This is why, for example, the corn plant we know today has large sweet kernels instead of their original form of small grain-like grasses and why avocados have a delicious green flesh when they used to be 80% pit with a bitter flesh. This specific gene selection in food has made thousands of plants more palatable to our calorie-seeking tongues, allowing us to have enough energy to go and seek out more food. However, as food sources tend to be less scarce for the majority of the population in modern America, our sweet-loving tastebuds have left us seeking out a diet that is now doing us more harm than good. When we bred bitter tastes out of most of our foods we began experiencing digestive dysfunction. If you think about it, our bodies are fine-tuned machines that know exactly what to do with the correct inputs. We’re only meant to experience digestive upset when we’ve ingested something that isn’t good for us or when our diets aren’t well-balanced. This is where bitter food items are actually incredibly important!
Bitter foods and beverages support and stimulate digestion and since good digestion is integral to the overall health of the body and its systems, bitter items support overall health on many levels. When the tongue detects a bitter flavor, it sends a signal to the central nervous system, which then sends a signal to the gut to release a digestive hormone called gastrin. Gastrin helps stimulate appetite as well as supports the pancreas to both increase digestive enzyme production as well as regulate insulin and glucagon to better regulate blood sugar levels.
So, what are some tasty palate-pleasing ways to incorporate those important bitter flavors into your diet? Shrubs! Shrubs are vinegar drinks that have been infused with fruits and herbs. With the addition of fruits and herbs, shrubs not only make the bitterness of vinegar more palatable but also increase the levels of antioxidants and nutrients for increased health benefits. Shrubs can help provide extra potassium, vitamins, and even fiber from fruit content into your favorite cocktails and beverages. If this sounds like something you could get into, you should join us on Saturday, January 29th from 10am – 1pm for the Woodside Farms Wellness Fair. There, we’ll be hosting, among many other amazing vendors, Mother Shrub – a local Richmond-based maker of these delicious drinking vinegars. As Mother Shrub puts it: drink a little often.
For more information on this upcoming farm event, check out our website here!