By Dr. Mercola
U.S. readers may not be familiar with "black pudding," but U.K. readers certainly will be; it's a staple part of a full English breakfast.
Black pudding, also known as blood sausage, is made of pork fat, oatmeal and pig's blood — and it has been hailed as a superfood and one of the "trendiest ingredients" of 2016 by The Daily Mail.1
"Blood sausage is going to become a superstar in 2016," the article states, "as it's packed with protein and practically carb free. It's also a great source of protein, potassium, calcium and magnesium. It's also rich in iron and zinc — two minerals frequently missing from modern diets." 2
If you're following a low-carb, high-fat diet, blood sausage would certainly fit the bill. From an agricultural perspective, it also makes sense to use every part of the animal during production, including the fat and blood, not only for economic reasons but also for environmental and ethical ones.
Historically, most traditional cultures placed a high value on consuming animals in their entirety, making use of the organs, blood, bones, and everything else — a far cry from today's society, which pretty much values only the muscle tissue. But are pig's fat and blood really good for you?
Pork Fat Can Be Healthy
Many may bristle at the thought of eating pork fat because it's high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association began encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, in order to reduce their risk of heart disease as far back as 1961.
Yet, research has been pouring in refuting the saturated fat/heart disease link while linking processed carbs to higher rates of disease. Evidence of this was highlighted in an editorial in the journal Open Heart.3
In it, research scientist and doctor of pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviewed the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates, which includes the following:
|Shift to overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio) ||Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall mortality (all causes)||Increased thrombogenic markers
|Increased oxidized LDL
|Impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity and diabetes
||Increased small, high-density LDL particles
||Increased risk for cancer
On the other hand, the latest science suggests healthy fats (saturated and unsaturated fats from whole food, animal, and plant sources) should comprise anywhere from 50 percent to 85 percent of your overall energy intake.
In fact, saturated fats provide a number of important health benefits, including the following:
|Providing building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, and hormone-like substances||Mineral absorption, such as calcium||Carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
|Conversion of carotene into vitamin A
||Helping to lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids)
||Acts as antiviral agent (caprylic acid)
|Optimal fuel for your brain
||Modulates genetic regulation and helps prevent cancer (butyric acid)
Considerations When Eating Pork Fat
Pork meat and other pork products are healthy from a biochemical perspective, but the majority of pork products in the U.S. come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). When purchasing CAFO pork, the risk of contamination can be quite high.
One investigation by Consumer Reports found 69 percent of all raw pork samples tested — nearly 200 samples in total — were contaminated with the dangerous bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica, which causes fever and gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.4
The vast majority of the nearly 66 million pigs raised for food in U.S. are born and raised in CAFOs.
There they are subject to mental and physical anguish, not to mention subject to incredibly unhealthy practices, like the administration of unnecessary low-dose antibiotics and living in their own waste, which impacts whoever ends up eating the meat as well as the environment.
Further, most pigs raised in the U.S. are fed grains and possibly seed oils, which dramatically increases their omega-6 content, as well as the highly inflammatory byproduct of omega-6 fatty acid metabolism: arachadonic acid.
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, fat from pigs fed this type of diet may be 32 percent PUFAs.5 On the other hand, fat from pigs raised on pasture and acorns had a much lower PUFA content, at 8.7 percent, while those fed a Pacific Island diet rich in coconut had even less, only 3.1 percent.
As reported by Paul Jaminet, a trained astrophysicist with a Ph.D. in physics, and his wife Shou-Ching, a Harvard biomedical scientist, who together authored the book "Perfect Health Diet:"
"So the omega-6 content can cover a 10-fold range, 3% to 32%, with the highest omega-6 content in corn- and wheat-fed pigs who have been caged for fattening.
Corn oil and wheat germ oil are 90% PUFA, and caging prevents exercise and thus inhibits the disposal of excess PUFA. Caging is a common practice in industrial food production."
Consumption of this PUFA-rich meat may very well be a factor in liver disease, as studies show feeding mice corn oil (rich in omega-6) and alcohol (which is metabolically similar to fructose) induces liver disease6 and omega-6 fats have also been linked to cirrhosis of the liver.
Not to mention, many pesticides are fat-soluble and may accumulate in animal fat. For this reason, if you enjoy blood sausage (or other forms of pork products) look for those made from the fat of a humanely raised pastured hog, which will minimize the risk that it's contaminated with pathogens or toxins.
Blood Sausage Made From Your Own Blood?
Blood does have nutritional value, so much so that Dr. Michael Mosley, a physician and journalist for BBC in the UK, has consumed his own blood, in the form of blood pudding and blood sausage. He noted that it's rich in iron, protein and vitamin C, with nearly twice as many calories per millimeter as beer.
Dr. Mosley believes the use of human blood holds real promise to curing disease and restoring your health, although most uses involve transfusions or the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy — not consuming it.
In fact, it could theoretically be dangerous to consume blood due to its high iron levels, especially if you have hemochromatosis (iron overload).
Blood Shares Similarities With Eggs
If you can't get past the "yuck factor" when considering blood sausage, consider this: it has many similarities to eggs. In fact, Food Lab intern Elisabeth Paul even released a report on how to substitute blood for eggs in recipes:7
"They [blood and egg] both have really similar protein compositions and content. It's about 55 grams within the serum in a serving of blood and about 60 in egg. But the really astonishing thing is that they both have the albumin protein — the serum albumin in blood and the ova albumin in egg, which have the same content and the same properties because they're basically the same protein. So they will have the same foaming, coagulation, and emulsifying properties."
Paul has used blood as a substitute for eggs in recipes such as muffins, pancakes and ice cream. Products that had less metallic aftertaste were the clear favorites among her taste-testers. "The more blood taste you have, the more hesitation," she told GOOD magazine.8
As for why you might want to use blood in place of eggs, Paul pointed out that egg intolerance is a common food intolerance in European children. Preparing recipes with blood instead of egg would provide an option for those with egg allergies. In addition, anemia is also common in Europe, so the high iron content in blood could be beneficial. If you consider the use of blood in cooking from a historical perspective, it's not nearly as strange as it may sound. GOOD magazine continued:9
"Blood-based cooking has certainly been a part of Western cuisine since the time of ancient Greece, when blood sausages were mentioned in Homer's "Odyssey." And in all likelihood, people have used animal blood for sausages, soups, pastes, or drinks since the first animal slaughter.
But sometime in recent history, we forgot how to use blood … Yet from Scotland to Italy, Spain to Russia, and Tanzania to China, many traditional dishes still use blood. A few modern chefs have dared, in recent years, to whip up dishes like blood tarts with fig soaked in grappa and espresso, blood custard with rosemary topped with pickled pears, and blood-chocolate pudding with bing cherries."
If you're wondering what type of blood is best, Paul says its taste is similar across different species. But she, too, noted the importance of seeking blood from free-range sources. She told GOOD magazine:10
"We tried to get blood from animals that had been raised free range. We advised people who used the recipes to look for a local source for the blood and have good product traceability."
Are You Looking for a Non-Blood Superfood?
If you enjoy blood sausage, feel free to continue eating it, but do try to find versions that are made with fat and blood from pastured animals. If you don't enjoy it, or have no intention of trying it, there are many other superfoods that can take its place in your diet. Superfoods are foods that stand out from the rest because of their unusually dense nutrient content.
Superfoods generally have high amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, for instance, and many also contain healthy fats, high-quality protein, and fiber. What superfoods don't contain are added sugars, synthetic fats, and food additives, such as artificial colors and flavors.
Most any food that is heavily processed will not stand up to superfood criteria — but once you're eating primarily whole foods — foods that are as close to their natural state as possible — then basically everything you eat is a "superfood."
You need nutrients — all of them — and nutrients are found in abundance in fresh whole foods. For an animal-based option that's easier to stomach than blood sausage for most, try making bone broth. For additional superfood ideas, check out the infographic that follows.