mixed fresh salad leaves

Bitter Foods for Better Digestion

Sometimes our digestion needs a little support, and an easy way to do that is to eat bitter foods that promote digestion. Eating a small amount of these foods at the beginning of a meal helps to prepare the body to digest the rest of the meal.

Bitter foods activate the digestive process and enhance our appetite by stimulating the brain’s perception of bitterness. A message is then sent via the vagus nerve to our salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and liver promoting the production of beneficial digestive juices and digestive enzyme. We need these digestive juices and enzymes to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats so that they can be absorbed in the small intestine.

Eating bitter foods also stimulates the wave like contractions called peristalsis that move food through the digestive tract. Stimulation of bile production by the liver as a result of bitter food ingestion helps the body break down fats so that they can be absorbed along with fat soluble vitamins. Bitter foods also help our body to absorb iron and Vitamin B12.

Foods that support digestive secretions:

  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Rocket
  • Radicchio
  • Bitter Melon
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Watercress
  • Kale
  • Nettles
  • Fenugreek, turmeric, cumin
  • Dill
  • A tbsp of aloe vera just before a meal
  • Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water just before a meal

Try to have one portion of bitter green vegetable with each main meal or try this delicious Bitter Salad as a starter to get your juices going!

Salad Ingredients:

75g/2¾oz rocket leaves

2 heads of chicory, separated into individual leaves

100g/3½oz walnuts, roughly chopped

Shavings of pecorino cheese (optional)

For the dressing:

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp honey

1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

100ml cold pressed walnut oil


1. In a bowl whisk together the mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey and parsley.

2. Gradually add the walnut oil, whisking all the time, until an emulsion is formed.

3. Place the rocket, whole chicory leaves and walnuts in a large bowl, drizzle on the dressing and toss to coat. Season, to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

4. Serve immediately topped with a few pecorino shavings.