Part of our goal here at Sexy Eyes is to challenge your concept of “normal” food. For most people “normal” consists of opening a package, heating up, and gobbling down whatever happens to be inside. We trust the food manufacturers. After all, they have our best interests at heart, right? They wouldn’t dare do something like slowly poison us with vegetable oils, sugars, and chemicals… right?? Perish the thought!
Here’s where the insights of evolutionary nutrition come to the rescue: what we consider “normal” today has only been so for about four decades. That’s it. For the two hundred thousand decades that preceded the last four, humans ate much, much differently.
Think about that. Two hundred thousand decades vs. four. Which would you call “normal”?
Look at the label on virtually any packaged food. Look up the (known, well-documented, and catastrophic) effects that each ingredient wreaks upon the human body when consumed over time. Even on packages whose labels boast “Heart Healthy!” and “Doctor Recommended!”
There’s no contest. What people eat today is the weird. The abnormal. The downright freakish, in some cases.
On the other hand, the foods on the following list are things that your ancestors ate for centuries before you ever came along.
And heck, we don’t even need to turn the clock back that far: your grandparents likely ate them. You probably regard them as “weird” owing to a single generation (either you or your parents) that decided to buy and eat what food conglomerates were boxing up instead. It’s amazing when you think about it: an entire generation of people can be given collective amnesia, simply through convenience and clever packaging.
The pursuit of health requires you to be in the driver’s seat. Don’t assume doctors, food manufacturers, regulatory agencies and nutrition gurus will guide the way for you. Too often, your health is the second-to-least of their concerns (the least being everything else that happens the moment after they pocket your dollar.) Being in the driver’s seat means being open to a change in course if the one you’re on isn’t leading you where you want to go. Opening your mind to the wealth of health benefits offered by real food (stuff that was crafted by nature, that enjoyed existence as a plant or animal not long before it hit your plate) will open roads to you that the purveyors of modern foods have been trying to steer you away from your entire life.
The following foods are things that you‘ve probably been trained to say “ewww!!” to.
We invite you to say “hmmm…” instead.
Okay, we’ll admit, the taste of cooked liver can be a little off-putting at first. But just as we discussed with Brussels sprouts “can be” doesn’t mean “must be”. Done right, liver can be delicious and addictive.
Organ meats in general are powerhouses of nutrition. Your grandma didn’t just eat them because they were the “cheaper” meats. She knew the incredible health benefits of eating them, too. One doctor described it to us like this: “Muscle meat has ten times the vitamins and minerals as the same size serving of vegetables. And organ meats have ten times the vitamins and minerals as the same size serving of muscle meat.” This is a generalization, of course. The real world is not so neat. A particular vegetable might be loaded with a particular vitamin and outstrip any meat, or a particular organ meat may hundreds or thousands of times the nutrients as the same weight in veggies. It depends what you’re comparing. But it serves as a useful reminder: eating a single serving of liver is like swallowing a fistful of multivitamins, especially fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A. Liver is extremely high in iron. It is an abundant source of choline, which is part of the B-vitamin complex that your body does not make enough of on its own, and therefore must be found and ingested. Not to mention other essential minerals and amino acids too numerous to mention.
Around our place, we tend to eat liver in the form of pâté, where the meat is mixed with various herbs and vegetables to produce a tasty paste that gets gobbled down by the spoonful. We get ours from a stand at the local farmer’s market. We also found a really tasty liverwurst at our butcher shop. In terms of straight liver, chicken seems to be the intro liver. Work your way up to beef, and then pork. (Even our butcher said he hadn’t developed a taste for pork liver, yet!) We’re working on getting some liver recipes posted, so standby. Meanwhile, you might try some these recommended by Weston A Price Foundation. And if anyone has a fantastic way of preparing liver, or a link to a recipe, leave it for us in the comments below. We’ll be happy to test it out. Hey, even if it’s not to our taste, we’ll be well-mineralized in the attempt. 😉
I can remember being a wee lad and watching my grandfather taking whole sardines out of the can, dangling them over his open mouth (pretending to make them squiggle, of course) and then dropping them in. At that point in my young life it was probably the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen. He sure seemed to love them, though. He ate those little fish every day and as I recall was healthy as an ox well into his eighties.
Well, here it is thirty years later and I do the same dang thing. I love those little fish, too. While I don’t terrorize any little kids by making them squiggle (though I’m not above doing so), I do throw them into a salad, or eat them straight out of the can, almost every day.
Like liver, sardines can be an acquired taste, but one well worth acquiring. (If you need to work your way toward sardines, kippers, aka. herring, might be a good starter fish.) Like most oily fish, sardines are a fantastic source of omega-3s, which are great for heart health, immune system and the brain/nervous system. They also win the gold star for being one of the most concentrated food forms of Vitamin B12, in addition to being very rich in Vitamin D. (Hint: if you live somewhere that doesn’t get much sunshine, eat these little guys for your D fix.) Sardines are small fish and fairly low on the food chain, so they have the added benefit of being extremely low in contaminants like mercury. Another bonus: edible bones! (See #4 below for the all the benefits of eating bones.)
You can buy sardines fresh and cook them, too. We had some fantastic pan-fried sardines in Seattle once and immediately rushed home and tried making them ourselves, with excellent results. (Stay tuned for a recipe!)
We’ve written about seaweed before, but we’ll hit the main points again here. If you’re thinking “stinky beach algae” you have a modern food prejudice that is blinding you to one of the most nutritious and abundant edible plants humans have ever eaten. Only modern humans could possibly refer to it as a “weed”. Virtually all sea-proximate cultures ate (and still eat) seaweed and gain extraordinary health benefits from it. Again, it’s all in the preparation. While we don’t necessarily recommend scooping a handful of scum straight from your local beach and gobbling it down on the spot (yuck), responsibly farmed and prepared right, seaweed can be delicious.
Seaweed, by weight, is a higher source of iron than beef. It’s a higher source of calcium than milk. It’s also a rich source of omega-3s. It’s unique, in the plant world, of being able to boast every single mineral required by the human body.
That’s called a nutritional no-brainer, folks.
Seaweed can usually be found in the Asian section of your grocery store, in a variety of forms, dried and packaged. All you do is take it out of the package and soak it for 5-10 minutes in a bowl of water, and voila, you’re ready to scoop heaps of minerality into a tasty salad or just eat as is. You’ll never look twice at your boring old bottle of multivitamin capsules again.
4. Bone Broth & Bone Cartilage
No, it’s not just the latest fad in food trucks. Bone broth has been around since people have figured out how to cook animals. There is evidence of Stone Age people using turtle shells and suspended skins to boil bones over fires. Virtually every hunter-gatherer culture that we know of ate the entire animal, including the cartilage, bones and marrow. You just don’t waste perfectly good nutrients when your next meal is far from a certain deal.
But more importantly, from our modern perspective, there are things in bones, cartilage and marrow that your body requires for optimal functioning that you simply cannot get from any other food or environmental source.
Chondroitin and glucosamine are supplements you’ve probably heard of or taken if you’ve ever been involved in athletics of any sort. They have known benefits of reducing joint pain and inflammation. (Which may be why Kobe Bryant swears by bone broth as his pre-game meal.) They are found in abundance in cartilage and collagen, which are found in abundance in any good broth. There’s all kinds of good minerality in bone broth like calcium, phosphorus, and silicon. Cartilage is known to support the immune system and fight infections. Many amino acids found in bone broth help reduce inflammation, and even help calmness and improve sleep. Collagen helps support bone mineralization and helps healthy hair and nail growth. It makes your skin look healthier and younger, too. There are anti-osteoporosis benefits, anti-leaky gut benefits, and anti-cancer benefits…
…the list goes on and on. The more you find out about bone broth, the more you realize it may be the closest thing we have to a real life magic healing potion. (This is why grandma jumped into the kitchen to start some broth for you the moment you got sick. We reach for the Theraflu and the cough medicine and any number of symptom-blocking pharmaceuticals. Her generation drank broth and healed.)
Oh, and did we mention bone broth is de-damn-licious? We’ll get around to posting a recipe soon, but you can find any number of them around. Here’s one. They’re all one version or another of water + bones + vinegar + low heat for 24 to 48 hours, then drink and enjoy. Make bone broth part of your “normal” and you will enjoy extraordinary health benefits well into old age.
5. Fermented Foods
Perhaps you’ve heard the astounding factoid that 90% of human cells are microbial and only 10% human. Without those microbes (most of them found in our gut or intestines) we would be defenseless against even the weakest of pathogens. It would be like a single orc marching up to Erebor and conquering it without any dwarves to resist. (A Hobbit fan can explain the reference to you, but you get the idea.)
This is why we talk about having “healthy gut flora” and “good gut bacteria”. We want to do as much to feed and help the good guys proliferate down there as we can, so that by the time the occasional bad guys show up, they encounter a sturdy and well-geared dwarven army, bristling with glinting axes and solid shields to drive back the invading marauders.
Of course, these days, our good bacteria are under constant threat. Pollutants, smoking, antibiotics, chemicals (both exposed and ingested), antibacterial soap, processed foods, chlorinated and fluoridated drinking water, sugar, vegetable oils… all of these are a death sentence for your bacterial army. Sometimes irreparably so.
Considering these challenges, taking probiotics in pill form is probably a half-measure. Most of the bacteria have short shelf lives and wind up dead long before they ever find their way to your intestine. A good food-based source of bacteria is essential.
Enter fermented foods. You might think of fermentation as food that has been “spoiled” by bacteria, but again, this is nothing more than a food prejudice. (And likely you have no such misgivings against fermented grain or grape beverages, aka “beer” and “wine” 😉 )
People have been eating fermented foods for centuries. Fermented veggies like pickles, kimchi, or sauerkraut and fermented drinks like kombucha are not only incredibly tasty but also an excellent way to make sure you are getting some good live bacterial reinforcements down there where it counts.
As for buying fermented foods, avoid the mass-produced and go for farmer’s market or learn to make your own. (If you can’t get to the farmers market, buy out of the refrigerated section at the grocery store. Anything on the shelves is probably pasteurized, and therefore lacking in probiotics. Look for “lacto-fermented”, not vinegar pickled.) We make homemade kombucha, sauerkraut and the occasional pickled veggies. Often, it’s as simple as throwing your ingredients into a jar, sealing it up, and watching the little bacteria do their magic for a couple weeks. Easy and so much tastier than their store-bought cousins.
That’s our list of ancient “weird” foods. What do you think? Did you say “ewww” or “hmmm”? The answer has nothing to do with the food itself, of course, but with the way you have been trained to think about food. Thousands of generations have enjoyed these foods and their health benefits. Modern humans have decided to stop eating them and eat laboratory frankenfood instead. It’s a shame, and our modern healthcare crisis is no accident.
Of course, that doesn’t have to be you.
Do you regularly eat and enjoy (or despise) anything on our list? What other foods do you consider “weird”? Tell us in the comments below and perhaps they’ll become the fodder for a “Weird” Foods post, Part Two!
Seaweed salad photo by: Meagan Metcalf