Recently I've been cultivating the cephalic phase of digestion through mindfulness. When we think of digestion, we may immediately think about the work of the stomach or our intestines, but digestion begins before then. It begins with the smell of fresh ginger and garlic sautéing in a pan, or how beautiful greens look when they're brightened by heat.
The cephalic stage of digestion refers to how our senses and brain signal to the rest of the body that it's time for food. Sight, sound, smell, and thought trigger the brain to transmit signals down the central nervous system through the vagus nerve. Impulses from the vagus nerve then promote peristalsis and secretion of gastric juices.
I'm sure you've experienced this before: you're in a mall and walk by Cinnabon, or one of those pretzel shops, and immediately your mouth waters. Yup, that's the body taking cues from the nose to get those digestive juices going; enzymes in the saliva are released to begin the break down of carbohydrates, and hydrochloric acid, or HCL, released in the stomach to disassemble protein.
So, taking the time to smell your food, look at and appreciate your food, will only help the body to properly break down and absorb nutrients. Bonus points if you can enjoy your food with a loved one, or take a moment to express compassion. Compassion just so happens to stimulate that vagus nerve!
This is officially my new favorite way to enjoy collard greens. The beautiful color of the turmeric paired with the creaminess of the coconut will satisfy at any meal.
- 1 cup diced onions
- 2 rounded tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
- 3 large garlic cloves, grated
- 2 bunches collard greens, de-stemmed and chiffonade or cut into strips
- 2 rounded teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- red chili pepper flakes, optional
- Add 1 tablespoon cooking fat of choice (coconut oil or pastured bacon fat works well) to a medium heat pan. Thrown on the onions and let cook, about 5 minutes.
- Next, add the garlic and ginger and stir frequently for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Smell!
- Now you're ready for the collard greens. Add them a few handfuls at a time, making sure to mix with the onions, garlic, and ginger. Continue to add more as they slowly wilt and allow for more space.
- Once all the greens have been added and they're looking nice and bright, add the turmeric powder and salt. Coat well.
- Pour in the coconut milk and apple cider vinegar. Bring heat down to a low simmer.
- Allow to simmer ~7 minutes. Taste and adjust as needed. Top with red chili flakes.