Black pudding is a traditional food, albeit one with a reputation equal only to the Black Death. With its lethal-looking blobs of white fat, studded on a cushion of solidified blood, it is not for the faint-hearted.
In the past, this delicacy (for that is what it truly is, as we shall see) sometimes went by the name of ‘blood pudding’. They liked to call a spade a spade, back in the day. But the Earth isn’t flat, and matter isn’t really solid – and black pudding’s bad reputation is unfounded. Because in reality, it is both delicious and nutritious, and not just for breakfast.
If you have never contemplated adding black pudding to your must-give-it-a-try list, now’s the time. Once you have overcome any initial (but frankly, irrational) revulsion at the thought of consuming pig’s blood, you too will concede that it’s a cracking good food. Save your revulsion for genuine food frights, such as all those unpalatable body parts that go in to producing cheap, ‘economy’ sausages, as outlined in this recent Ayce article.
Black Pudding Nutrition
Blood, as you’d expect, is highly nutritious. Black pudding is full of pre-digested, bioavailable nutrients, especially iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. This trio is put to work throughout the body, but it is in the brain that their combined force is most fully active, powering cognitive function, keeping neurons firing, and producing neurotransmitters.
These three are also involved in building the protective sheaths of myelin that are wrapped around each neuron. In short, their combined role is to both power and protect the brain.
Heavy Metals in Black Pudding
There is a greater concentration of iron and zinc in the brain than anywhere else in the body. These two metals are also found together in natural foods, and the richest dietary source is red meat, which is where you’ll also find their co-worker, vitamin B12. Not surprisingly, deficiencies of these particular nutrients tend to occur simultaneously.
Deficiency is also alarmingly common.Take iron. It is estimated that 20% of the global population is iron deficient.
There are two form of dietary iron: haem and non-haem. Haem is the form found only in animal-source foods, and non-haem the form found in both animal and plant source foods.
Non-haem iron is much less well absorbed. Reliance on non-haem iron alone is a risky strategy, and deficiency likely. That’s because chemicals such as phytates, found in plant foods, block iron (and zinc) absorption. Phytates are often referred to as ‘anti-nutrients’ because of the way they bind to minerals so that they pass through the digestive system unabsorbed.
Because iron is required for red blood cell formation, iron-deficiency anaemia is one likely outcome. It’s a particular problem for children, because another common outcome for them is learning impairment. Iron is very much involved in the developing young brain.
Zinc is also widely deficient, and this also creates problems with brain function, particularly with adults. Lack of zinc is associated with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, but also with psychiatric disorders such as depression.
“Depression is associated with a lower concentration of zinc in peripheral blood. The pathophysiological relationships between zinc status and depression, and the potential benefits of zinc supplementation in depressed patients, warrant further investigation.”
B12 for Brains
Happily, black pudding is a great source of both these important brain nutrients. And of course vitamin B12, the other partner in this team. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal-source foods, and that includes blood. Read more about the crucial role of this vitamin in promoting brain function and protecting against dementia in this recent AYCE article.
No discussion of black pudding would be complete without a look at its fat content. Fat gives food flavour, and that’s something black pudding has in abundance. It has more or less equal amounts of monounsaturated fat and saturated fat, depending on how it’s made.
The most familiar and celebrated source of monounsaturated fat is olive oil. Olive oil is considered the key component of the famous Mediterranean diet. So make black pudding part of your Mediterranean diet lifestyle!
And you can add saturated fat to the list of fats it is good to eat. As an essential and natural component of the human diet, we have been consuming large quantities of saturated fat ever since we left our tree homes, some 2.6 million years ago, and went a-hunting. It only became ‘harmful’ in the 1960s, with the marketing of industrial, refined vegetable oils such as corn oil which came to replace traditional cooking fats, such as lard. As the famous Dr Mercola points out in his excellent and succinct post on the subject, human breast milk is 54% saturated fat. There is good reason for that.
We Are Not Alone. Or the First.
We may think of black pudding as quintessentially British, but most countries where pork is produced have their own version of this thrifty dish. Here in Britain, black pudding is usually made with onions, pork fat, pork rind, oatmeal, herbs, pepper and of course pig’s blood. Quality black pudding will contain little or nothing else.
Further afield, blood was, until fairly recently, a regular part of the diet of the Maasai people of East Africa, along with meat, milk and yogurt. In fact they ate very little else, other than herbs. As recently as the 1970s their good health was considered something of an enigma. Despite consuming a diet consisting of 66% fat, post mortem examinations by researchers found no sign of cardiovascular disease. In fact, they were remarkably healthy all round.
It wasn’t that long ago that regular consumption of blood was quite common everywhere else. According to one theory, introducing black pudding is just another of the many things the Romans did for us.
A great advantage of this nutritious food is that you do not need advanced culinary skills to cook it. It couldn’t be easier. Just slice and fry for a few minutes on each side.
A word of caution: AYCE advises that you source organic black pudding, as the non-organic variety you get (in the UK) may include dried blood, imported from who knows where. If it isn’t organic, choose free range – and ask the manufacturer about the source of the blood.
Once you’ve added black pudding to your repertoire, don’t stop at breakfast. Black pudding lends its well to a Sunday roast, and makes a great accompaniment to a quick lunch any day of the week.
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