You know it’s the first week in January when BBC radio calls and asks you to come in to talk about whether or not Black Pudding is a superfood.
No food, including those labelled 'superfoods', can compensate for unhealthy eating, so don’t be fooled into buying a job lot of goji berries, chia seeds or indeed black pudding (more on that in a minute) if you have no intent to change the basics.
Saying that, if the newspaper article or marketing magic makes you eat something thats very good for you that you wouldn’t have otherwise, who am I to rage against the marketing machine?
So, back to the black pudding. I remember it being served up at lunchtime as a alongside spaghetti hoops and I recall liking it, ah yes, the 70’s! However, I also recall finding out it was made of pork blood and deciding never to eat it again.
But why almost 40 years later is it suddenly trendy? After all, in the UK it’s been around as a Stornaway or Lancashire classic for donkeys years, not exactly Notting Hill trend central.
I put it down to Paleo, a healthy eating philosophy based on eating high protein, high nutrient and low carb foods foods with as little processing as possible. I am indeed a fan.
Well, black pudding is certainly low carb, high protein and is a fantastic source of iron. Remember iron is needed to make healthy blood cells and prevent anaemia. Iron deficiency also leads to fatigue and poor concentration.
However, the problem with adding black pudding to the list is two fold. Firstly, to opt for the minimally processed version you’d need the following sample shopping list:
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 cups steel-cut (pinhead) oatmeal
- 2 cups finely diced pork fat (or beef suet), finely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- AND, 4 cups of fresh pigs blood
See what I mean? Not exactly accesible - ironically enough unless you happen to be in a trendy Notting Hill pub where I’m sure they’ll serve up a fantastic version.
The second issue is salt. Sugar has been the much debated enemy, and rightly so, but I often wonder if we’ve just brushed the issue of sodium aside, excuse the pun.
See this sample back pudding nutrition label below - as you can see each 60g slice contains 1 gram of salt, that’s 17% of your reference daily intake before you’ve even left the breakfast table. And most people probably opt for two slices.
And the full ingredients list below doesn’t make for happy reading either - remember that the ingredients listed first are the highest proportion of the product so pork fat is second only to oatmeal in ingredients.
Water, Oatmeal, Pork Fat, Pork Blood, Rusk (Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Salt, Raising Agent (Ammonium Bicarbonate)), Pork Rind, Modified Maize Starch, Salt, Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Soya Protein Concentrate, Black Pepper, Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove
The big issue is fat quality. In the wild pigs eat pretty much anything they can get their snuffly snouts into so a varied wild food diet is as good as it gets. However, feed is typically higher in Omega-6 fats - we need them but much less than we need omega-3 oils (inflammatory vs anti-inflammatory if you will).
So, which superfoods, if any, are worth their, er, salt in 2016?
Below is a collection of the most nutrient-rich foods that are still found on specialist health food shelves but are actually pretty damn good for you.
The grasses listed below contain some of the richest sources of minerals around, but you don’t need to head out to a field and start munching, these grasses are most easily digested when they are juiced or in supplement form. Some of them (OK, all of them) don’t taste so appetising. However, these foods are just so good for you that we urge you not to leave them out. They are densely packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that boost immunity – and they help with fat burning, too.
Wheatgrass, Barley and Alfalfa grass
Add a shot of wheatgrass to your favourite juice at your local juice bar. Powdered or dehydrated wheatgrass, barley grass and alfalfa grass is available in most good health-food shops. A teaspoonful added to juice can make up the nutritional equivalent of two handfuls of broccoli.
Some of the most nutritious foods known to man are provided by the sea – a fact not lost on Asian cultures who have been eating seaweed and sea vegetables for centuries (and who have one of the highest life expectancies in the world). Sea vegetables contain virtually all the minerals found in the ocean − the same minerals that are found in human blood. They are an excellent source of iodine and vitamin K and a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and calcium.
These days, sea vegetables in their dried form can be found in supermarkets, from which you simply soak to rehydrate or add to soups when cooking. The most commonly available varieties are nori, wakame, dulse and kelp.
Spirulina, Chloerella, Blue-green Algae
If you don’t like the thought of eating seaweed you can try supplementing with algae. Don’t worry, there is no need to scrape the bottom of your neighbour’s pond, the health-giving algae come in liquid, powder or tablet form. An excellent source of protein, algae can boost immunity, improve mental performance and are an excellent all-round source of vitamins, minerals and hard-to-get amino acids.
Not Brussels sprouts (although they'd qualify too) but fast-growing young, green plants. The sprouting phase of growing plants contains a power-packed energy high .‘Sprout’, therefore, describes the phase at which you eat the plant, rather than the variety. However, some plants are more commonly sprouted than others: alfalfa and mung beans are frequently found in the chill cabinet in health-food shops and supermarkets. Aim to use a small handful of sprouts each day – adding them to stir-fries and salads.
Dee Atkinson is a consultant Medical Herbalist and recommends aloe vera and echinacea
“Aloe vera can speed up the alkalising process in the body and soothe the gut lining. Excellent if you have ever suffered from digestive complaints. Take in liquid form mixed with a fresh juice. Echinecea is best known for its immune-boosting effect but it is also great for boosting the lymphatic system. Take in liquid or capsule form. Like many herbs, echinacea works best when taken periodically rather than continually. Finish one course of tablets or tincture, have a break for a month, then start again.”
Billions of active and diverse lactobacillus bacteria are known to our bodies from the moment we are born - it’s a natural and positive partnership. But in today’s over-sterilized world we are losing more and more of that inner diversity. Adding naturally probiotic cultures into your diet through kefir is a powerful way to boost intake regularly. Look in my shop for the Rhythm range of juices and digestion boosters which contains raw coconut kefir so the products are also lactose free.