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The Stranger the Food, the Healthier?

One man’s raw catfish nugget is another’s cheeseburger: a seemingly strange food is not so strange at all, depending on your culture and location. In fact, out-of-the-ordinary food often delivers some unexpected health benefits, and straying from the path of “normal” eating is a great way to develop new tastes and maybe even find the next big Super Food. The strange foods listed below come from just about anywhere, so steady your stomach and prepare to learn about the health perks of odd ocean inhabitants, surprising sea plants, and mysterious yet marvelous meats.  

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Under the Sea

The ocean offers up lots of the famously healthy foods – salmon, trout, oysters and many types of fish.  Most people are familiar with these foods and their healthy attributes, and try to incorporate them into daily eating routines. However, the sea is a vast, largely unexplored resource and new discoveries are being made every day. For the more adventurous health nut, here are some options from the sea – some more tried and true, and some rather strange.

Cod Liver Oil: This oil is derived from the livers of cod by cooking the fatty tissues of the fish. Cod liver supplements are taken for their vitamins A and D (cod liver oil has more of both than plain fish oil does). Cod liver oil has also been shown to alleviate the pain and joint stiffness of arthritis; body aches; pains due to multiple sclerosis; and may have positive effects on the heart, bones, skin, hair, nails and teeth.

Raw Catfish Nuggets: One of the more unattractively named products of the ocean, these pieces cut from a whole or filet of catfish are actually quite nutritious. Raw catfish nuggets are full of protein, phosphorous and selenium, an important mineral that helps build antioxidant enzymes that are beneficial to the body’s cells.  Depending on the location, these may be found at grocery stores or specialty stores.

Blowfish Sperm: If the presence of an item in just one restaurant in the United States qualifies it to be called a food, then blowfish sperm is a very odd food. It is on the menu at one Japanese restaurant in America, where it is served fried. The dish does not appear to have caught on in many places yet. Blowfish sperm, however, is said to have high amounts of zinc and DHA, which is good for the brain.


Plants of the Ocean

A sea vegetable generally refers to seaweed made up of different types of algae from the ocean: Kelp, kombu, nori, wakame, arame or dulse, all of which are nothing new in the history of human cooking.  

Nori: Sushi fans will already be familiar with eating dried seaweed paper, or nori, the thin, green layer that holds all the parts of a sushi roll together. People may not realize just how many great health benefits are packed into this crispy green paper. Iodine, vitamin K, B-vitamins, magnesium, iron and calcium are all present in seaweed, making it great for bone and cell health. It has also been said to strengthen hair and promote an even skin tone. Such a healthy food can be incorporated into more than just sushi rolls – soups, noodle dishes, pastas, or alone, toasted and flavored.

Wakame: Wakame is a more obscure version of seaweed, and commonly found in miso soup. This sea vegetable is also very healthy, containing most of the same benefits as nori, in addition to vitamins A, C and E; a compound which can help burn fatty tissue; and even compounds that have prevented and shrunk tumors in rats. Researchers are still learning about the health benefits of wakame and other sea vegetables and the results could uncover even more reasons to eat seaweed. Wakame can be added to soups and salads to take advantage of the healthy goodness.


Strange Animal Parts

Sometimes, the parts of an animal considered ‘normal’ to eat just aren’t enough for some people. Many cultures find ways to make sure absolutely no part of an animal is wasted when preparing their meals.

Blood Pudding: Another grimly named food, blood pudding is actually quite popular and healthy, though the details of the preparation may be best left a mystery. It is made from the dried blood of any of a variety of animals, depending on the country in which the blood pudding (also called black pudding or blood sausage) is made. Cow, pig, goat and even duck blood are sometimes used in places where this treat is popular, such as Ireland, Scotland and other European countries. Sometimes raisins, onions or peppers are added for flavor, but most people say it does not taste much different from regular sausage. This dish contains many proteins, vitamins and minerals, like heam, the type of iron absorbed readily by (what else?) blood, defending the diner against anemia.

Beef Brains: This dish needs no explanation, but the fact that it has become a delicacy in some parts of the world might. Considering all of the other parts of the cow that people eat, brains shouldn’t be such a surprise. Brains are prepared in many different ways, from minced for burgers, to sautéed with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, to boiled in soups and stews. Brains are full of vitamins and minerals, and beef brains fit right into a low carbohydrate diet, offering the protein of meat with low amounts of fat.

Calf & Chicken Liver: Another food that is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, and a throwaway organ in others, is liver.  People have actually been eating liver for many years. And maybe they knew something people today don’t. Calf liver has lots of vitamins A and B and protein, and it has been shown to help with migraines. Chicken liver also has lots of iron,Folate (which helps with fertility), and selenium (which keeps the thyroid healthy).

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