There is a guy who is a regular at the gym I go to. I have noticed that all the exercises he does at the gym are for his chest – bench presses, push-ups, flies – day in and day out. I have never seen him do any deadlifts, or lunges, or pull-ups. He knows chest workouts, and he is really good at it. In hindsight, my diet back when I ate out more than I cooked meals myself, was similar to this guy’s workout routine.
A significant portion of my meals consisted of carbohydrates and meats – pizzas, pasta, burgers. Lack of fruits and vegetables in my diet meant an absence of sour, bitter and astringent tastes. My liking for sweet and mellow flavor profiles along with the lack of other tastes in my regular diet kept me chasing the next level of sweeter tastes to satisfy my cravings. If you drink two beers every day, within a week the same two beers are not going to give you the same level of buzz. Your body builds a certain level of metabolism for it. Now it’s probably going to take you three beers to feel the same level of intoxication!
The “taste” of any food is not just about the perception of taste buds on our tongues, but the overall reaction a type of food creates in our bodies. For example, traditional Ayurvedic medicine categorizes most carbohydrate-based foods like bread and pasta as sweet, even though the taste in the mouth from these foods is not necessarily sweet. Just like it’s important to work out different parts of your body at the gym, it is important to challenge your palette and inner organs by introducing them to different tastes – not just for the pleasures of tasting different things, but for a better digestive system and overall health.
Bitter-tasting foods are some of the most important foods contributing to better health but sadly, these foods are largely absent in a typical western diet. Inside our digestive system, bitter-tasting foods do wonders! They reduce water retention in our bodies while cleansing our inner organs and blood. And don’t worry, you don’t have to start munching on raw bitter melon to include bitter-tasting food in your diet! Many different types of leafy greens, spices like turmeric and fenugreek seeds all provide the “inner” bitterness that your body needs.
The last time I was at the farmer’s market, I saw people buy the beetroots and discard their greens – boy are they missing out! These beet greens have a natural saltiness to them and can be added to all kinds of soups, stews and warm salads. This warm and hearty lentil soup uses three of my favorite bitter foods – beet greens, fenugreek seeds and turmeric. This is my go-to detox recipe for the cold winter! Enjoy some bitterness!
Lentil Soup – Red Lentil Soup with Beet Greens
2 cup red lentils
greens from 1 bunch of beets – chopped
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp finely shredded ginger
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee
juice of 2 lemons
Sort, wash and drain the red lentils. Put the lentils in a big pot with 8 cups of water, add fenugreek seeds, turmeric, 1 tbsp of ghee and salt. Bring to a full boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cover with tight-fitting lid. Simmer until the lentils are soft and fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Purée the lentils in a blender or with a hand blender until the consistency is smooth. If the purée is too thick add more water and check for seasoning. Keep it warm.
Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of ghee in a saucepan over medium heat. When ghee is hot, add cumin seeds and fry for 15 seconds until fragrant. Add ginger and garlic, cook it for another minute. Add chopped beet greens, cover and cook for 5 minutes until tender.
Add the beet green mixture to the soup, mix well. Add the juice of lemons and check for salt. Serve warm!