Growing up, I was taught to try a lot of different foods. If I didn't like something at first, I was encouraged to try it again, at least once more. Even though it can be hard, putting aside skepticism and trying foods we think are "gross" can be beneficial to our health.

Healthy and great-tasting don't always have to be mutually exclusive, especially if you have an open mind and are willing to experiment a little in the kitchen! In the spirit of nutrition, you may want to rethink your perspective on some of these "gross" but healthy foods...

1.) Sardines

Photo Credit: K Rayker

While salmon, tilapia, tuna and others are familiar favorites, people often turn their noses up to the humble sardine. If you've never tried them due to their stigma, canned sardines are actually very similar to canned tuna. So if you like tuna, odds are, sardines will taste good to you prepared in a similar way... Try them with mustard or mayo, tomato sauce or mixed into casseroles.  Be creative... and try not to be scared. Don't knock it 'til you try it!

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?

Like most fish, sardines provide an excellent source of protein. Among most other fish, sardines provide more omega 3 fatty acid content while also having a lower mercury content. Nutritionally speaking, sardines offer more protein, calcium and vitamin E than tuna, ounce-per-ounce. Now who's the big fish around town? 

2.) Fermented Foods

Photo Credit: Ccarlstead

Aside from pickles, many are strangers to the plethora of other fermented foods available out there. Sauerkraut, chow chow, kimchi and other canned and jarred concoctions are a cultural tradition to some, yet scary to others.

Often strong in taste, fermented foods serve as perfect garnishes and flavor enhancers. Pair them with something savory or salty to balance the flavors on your palette. You might be surprised at how tasty they can be with the right pairing!

Another way to sneak them into your diet is through drinks such as kombucha and kefir. I'm a big fan of Kevita's sparkling probiotic drinks. They come in so many flavors (my favorite is the Mojita Lime Mint Coconut, mmm) and are light, delicious and slightly carbonated. Buy these types of drinks at your local health food store or even make them at home!

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?

In all seriousness, these foods sit for a while, growing bacteria. It doesn't sound too appealing right off the bat, but the health benefits sure do! The thing about this bacteria is, it's good bacteria... the kind you want in your stomach. Sounds weird, but it's true.

Fermented foods are amazing for digestive health, having "probiotic", super gut-healing powers. If you suffer from stomach issues, probiotics may be your saving grace. Not only do they aid digestion, they also help your body absorb nutrients. All-in-all, fermented foods and drinks are a relatively inexpensive way to improve your health and well-being.

3.) Organ Meats

Photo Credit: Girl Interrupted Eating

Offal? That sounds awful!

While the breasts, thighs and even butts of animals are consumed by the masses, many are disgusted by the thought of eating livers, hearts and other organ meats. Seems almost ironic, doesn't it? Well, when you catch sight of these cuts of meat, it's understandably unappetizing. They also tend to have a stronger, more distinctive taste than others.

However, prepared correctly or mixed with other meats, they can be a healthy, delicious and economic addition to your diet! Try mixing organ meats into chilis and stews. Add BACON (which is always a good idea). Liver pate can also be quite a tasty spread. Liverwurst, a common lunch meat is another way to enjoy offal.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?

Organ meats are, of course, a great source of protein. But they're also packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, more-so than any other food out there! They are particularly dense in vitamin A, B, D, and K, but the list goes on! Essentially, offal is like nature's multivitamin.

4.) Leafy Green Vegetables


We all know salads are healthy, but they can get boring after a while. They aren't the only way to get your greens, but if you are a fan of salad, go for it!

Personally, I like to cook my greens and serve them as a side dish with dinner. Adding some healthy fat will give any type of green vegetable flavor, while simultaneously helping our bodies absorb the precious vitamins! Add BACON (again, that's always a good idea), mix them into a stir fry with other vegetables you like, make them into sauces or dips or even mix greens like kale or spinach into smoothies!

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?

Eating leaves doesn't sound too exciting, but so many reasons exist why we should! Vegetables in general are a great source of fiber. Fiber helps keep us full and is naturally low in calories. Leafy green vegetables provide tons of it, while also having a low glycemic index and high levels of vitamins C & E, folate, antioxidants and more!

5.) Bones, Marrow & Gelatin

Photo Credit: Herry Lawford

What some would consider a dog treat, others rightfully see as a delicacy. A thick bone with goo in the center that resembles fat might not seem appetizing but the marrow really is delicious, simply with a little salt and other spices. The marrow from bones can even be incorporated into other adventurous dishes, such as this bone marrow custard!

If you can't stomach the thought of that, homemade broth might calm your nerves. Add bones to water, add salt, veggies and spices, bring to a boil and let simmer for several hours (easily done in a crock pot). It is really that simple to get a fresh and flavorful base for a soup (and there's noting quite like soup from scratch). Save your leftover bones from roasted meats or in a pinch, grocery stores and butchers often sell them labeled as "soup bones" or yes, "dog bones".

Last but not least, gelatin. Commonly referred to as "jello". Bet you didn't think that was healthy, right? While I'm not encouraging you to eat the sugary stuff, you can buy unflavored powdered gelatin and make your own homemade, low calorie "jello" snacks from whatever fruits and juices you'd like! Powdered gelatin can also be used to thicken things while cooking or baking.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?

Often thrown away, these undervalued animal parts have a lot of nutritional benefits! It is no surprise that eating bones promotes good bone heath in our own bodies. Packed with tons of calcium, they also help keep our muscles, joints, hair, skin and nails healthy, too!

Drinking bone broth naturally hydrates and restores electrolytes in the body, while supplying other essential nutrients as well. You know how when you're sick, chicken noodle soup seems to have magical healing powers? Well, it might just be the broth that's doing the trick!

Would you (or do you) incorporate any of these foods into your regular diet?