These days, we are so into processed, “clean,” and mainstream-ed foods, it’s terrifying. Many of the most nutrient-dense foods we once consumed regularly are now totally removed from our diets.
Homemade Mommy refers to these as “lost ‘sacred’ foods,” and I have to agree. Not everything you’ll see below comes conveniently packed in Styrofoam packs. Many others require a bit of courage to even want to consume with our skeptical palates, but all of these hold a host of health benefits we’re missing from our modern diets.
Gone are the days of alternative cuts and fermented bits…or are they?
In my world, we at least entertain the idea of these sometimes cringe-worthy, lip-curling foods. This is often due to several different reasons, including health, budget, and sustainability. Especially when it comes to animals, why not make the most of the good they offer by consuming organ meats, “extra” bits, and gelatin?
Others might not necessarily be budget-friendly (here’s looking at you, FCLO), but are consumed for the health benefits.
But yes, getting the gumption to buy organ meats or guzzle coconut oil might take a little effort. Consider this your prod in a new direction.
Open your mind, expand your palate, and improve your health.
13 “Weird” Traditional Foods
1) Organ Meats and Extra Cuts
Mmm, leftover animal parts. My favorite!
Did you know chickens are more than just skinless breasts and wings (*sarcasm*)? Cows are more than steaks. Pigs are more than pork chops and bacon.
In fact, many of the health benefits of meat lie in other parts of the body. Try organ meats like livers, kidneys, and hearts for optimal nutrition.
I see you frowning over there. From my own picky experience, all it takes is one try. Once you get past that initial oh-my-lord-GROSS reaction, you realize these foods taste good and are nothing too outside of the flavor spectrum.
2) Bones, Feet, and Heads
Yes, those are foods.
In fact, these parts are awesome for adding precious gelatin and collagen to your diet, which help to reduce inflammation, strengthen hair and nails, and even help you sleep (source). Some roast marrow bones for the goodies inside. In fact, there’s even a recipe for marrow custard!
The most popular ways you’ll see bones, feets, and heads these days are usually in bone broth, a gelatin-rich stock made by slowly cooking animal parts with herbs and vegetables.
One easy way to consume more broth? Heat up a cup of the stuff with a little sea salt, and sip.
3) Fish Sauce
Cultures have been fermenting fish for eons. In fact, the Romans had this thing called Garum that they’d ferment in large open barrels. It’s similar to Thai fish sauce, and adds a depth of flavor few other ingredients can provide.
Now, this recipe for fermented fish sauce is a *little* much for me, but I trust Emily of Butter Believer when she says that it smells:
“Very salty, very garlicky, and fishy without being…fishy.”
Check out her post following the Nourishing Traditions’ recipe for Fermented Fish Sauce.
4) Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Although I’ve yet to try this one, fermented cod liver oil is one of the few “supplements” traditional foodies tend to take. It comes in a variety of flavors, and is supposed to be crucial to improving dental health through diet.
Plus, according to Emily of Holistic Squid, it also:
“Fermented cod liver oil contains the proper ratio of the essential fat soluble vitamins A and D - two nutrients that cannot be obtained through vegetable sources.” (source)“
This is an analog to the fish sauce above, but is worth noting as an entirely separate item as this one is not using for cooking. Personally, it’s one my must-try shopping list to help heal my notoriously poor teeth.
Fish eggs for dinner? Emily Barlett of Holistic Squid shared that roe is one of the keys to improved fertility. It’s also a fabulous way to boost Vitamin D, according to the Healthy Home Economist. And no, you don’t need fancy caviar like the stuff below.
Personally, I’m not a fishy person. We grew up eating salmon nearly everyday when I was younger, which my mom always attributed to my intelligence. I got sick of the stuff eventually, and have yet to reincorporate any seafood beyond scallops and crab. But if the perks are really as great as I’ve read, it might be time to get over my fish-focused squeamishness.
6) Lard, Tallow, Schmaltz
These are the epitome of traditional foods in some ways. Add in butter, and you’re looking at a rather complete spectrum of traditional fats. Generally from pigs, cows, and chickens (in that order), these three animal-based fats are full of nutritional goodness. Plus, they’re great for cooking and frying and add tons of flavor.
I even tried a buffalo tallow-based lotion in South Dakota once, and it healed even the crackiest of cracked hands (mine).
You can render your own animal fats through a slow heating process. The hardest part is sourcing the fat you’ll need, but the resurgence in small farms makes it even easier to track down that leaf lard and suet.
7) Coconut Oil
Doesn’t it seem weird to smash up coconuts to get this liquid-at-high-temps-solid-at-cold-ones oil full of medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid? Yet, coconut oil is lauded as one of the most nutritious foods you can add to your diet. People attribute it for helping improve metabolism, kill of Candida, and even improve memory function (source).
There are countless uses for coconut oil, both internally and externally, and my kitchen is no longer complete without it.
Plus, it has such a high smoke point that it’s ideal for frying! I use it whenever I break out the sourdough batter, and love it for my homemade onion rings.
8) Gelatin and Collagen
Traditionally, we consumed ample amounts of gelatin because we ate more than just muscle meats. Long stewed meats and dishes provided gelatin in enough quantity. Now, we can find it in our bone broths or supplement from companies and sources we like, including this grass-fed beef collagen and kosher gelatin.
These two different products achieve the same ends while allowing you a few options. The collagen does not thicken or gel while the gelatin does. This makes it incredibly easy to get the benefits of gelatin while drinking a cup of coffee or tea or even your homemade ice creams and puddings.
My favorite use for gelatin? To help me drift off to sleep!
This fermented beverage is a fizzy, often fruity, usually tea-based drink grown from a SCOBY. You can pay $3+ for a bottle of the probiotic-packed stuff at your local health shop, or you can make it at home. The SCOBY can also be dehydrated and used for animal treats once you’re done with it!
Learn more about the many benefits of kombucha from Food Renegade.
Kefir is a cultured dairy product made by using these “grains” that look like cottage cheese. It results in a rather thick, rather tangy product that can be used instead of yogurt. The nice thing is that it does not require any heating, and is jam-packed full of a ton of different types of probiotics.
It can also be strained for labne, and then used instead of cream cheese or Greek yogurt. In our house, I say a lot of “It’s really good! It’s..,” only to be interrupted by, “DON’T tell me what’s in it.” This is one of those that freaks the family out, but really tastes quite delicious.
Oh yeah, and kefir can be made with water too (slightly different creature at this point) and I believe many have had success culturing non-dairy milks this way, too. I store mine in these.
This is probably one of the most common traditional foods you’ve tried, but it’s an odd one if you think about it! Who wants smashed up cabbage that’s fermented in a cool, dark space in nothing but salt water (or whey and water)?
But, real sauerkraut is full of good, gut-healthy probiotics and tastes amazing. Still, some people balk at the thought.
Here’s a recipe for homemade lacto-fermented sauerkraut from Girl Meets Nourishment.
12) Soaked Flour & Grains
In the kind of diet I enjoy, there is plenty of room for grains and flours. Since I have few gluten sensitivity issues and am not paleo by any stretch, wheat-based products grace my plate quite often.
But, I do try to minimize the phytic acid by soaking and sprouting grains and flours. This is a pretty quick process that involves placing the grains in water with a spoonful of whey overnight. The end result is generally easier to digest, and is a great way to incorporate grains without worrying about too many tummy troubles.
Yup. Traditional foodies sometimes clean, bake, and powder eggshells for a quick boost of calcium and minerals. This can be added to water, homemade strengthening toothpastes, and a slew of other things. Only try this with quality, pastured eggs. Most of the people I’ve seen use this have their own backyard chickens, so there’s another great reason to get some.
The Elliott Homestead uses eggshells to create a calcium and mineral-rich water that takes advantage of what would be waste to help heal the body.
Do you eat any of these foods? Which would you be most willing to try? Tell me below!