With September and back-to-work and school firmly in tow, many of us are looking to change our now and future diet. But we say, let’s take a look back (way back) for some healthy inspiration.
Here are 7 foods from history we should be eating now.
1. Mead. If you’re going to indulge or maybe celebrate your new healthy ways, why not do it the old-fashioned way with homemade mead? This is the original fermented beverage and history is full of claims to its value as a health elixir. More recent (and scientific) beliefs are that honey boosts health by being anti-bacterial, increasing energy, acting as an antioxidant and aiding in good digestion. To be sure that your mead is made the original way (just honey, water and the help of some wild yeast) you might try your hand at making your own.
2. Nettle Pudding. Less of a pudding in the dessert sense and more of a stew, this dish dates back to Britain’s stone age (circa 6,000 BC). It’s made using dark greens like nettle, dandelion and sorrel and thickened with barley flour. When you get something this green in your bowl, you just know it’s punching above its weight in antioxidants and vitamins but it’s the fibre that really makes this cleansing meal a historical hero.
3. Burdock. It might look like a big ol’ weed but this plant’s health benefits were understood by ancient civilizations around the globe. Traditionally the leaves would be used as a herbal remedy to promote blood purification and the root would be eaten (like a parsnip) or dried and used as a treatment for a myriad of ailments including respiratory issues and pain. A modern assessment of the plant reveals that the root is like a little mineral and vitamin bomb. This low starch veggie also aids constipation and helps level out blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
4. Sauerkraut. This ‘sour cabbage’ originates from ancient China – despite the German name and affiliation. You’ve got two things going for you on this old-timey food. First, it’s fermented which helps the stomach rebalance by keeping stomach acid and bacteria levels where they should be, all while helping digestion. Secondly, cabbage is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C and K, is also an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Time to make some killer ‘kraut!
5. Insects. Crickets were traditionally (and still are) eaten in parts of Mexico, cicadas have long been a favourite children’s treat in Madagascar, and the ancient Greeks relished a good locust lunch. These insects (and many more) are a low calorie, low-fat source of protein and B vitamins. If you can’t stomach eating them whole, you can pick up insect flour and sneak it into your next dish. And, talk about an eco-meal – these little guys are sustainably harvested and eating them is a lot better for the planet than blasting them with pesticides.
6. Cacao. Only for the royal elite in ancient Mesoamerican cultures, the cacao of old barely resembles chocolate today. But, it’s the cacao in chocolate that earns it a spot in the quasi-healthy realm. Go ancient with your choco-habit by brewing it into a tea or using ground cacao as a spice (we love it in a veggie chilli). Skip the fat and sugar of chocolate and reap healthy rewards like mood elevation, lower blood pressure, better teeth, improved immunity and longevity. It’s good to be royal (or at least eat that way).
7. Small Birds. You may think that eating squab (aka pigeons or doves) was only a wartime act of desperation but in fact, squab was widely enjoyed throughout history in Egypt, the Middle East and across Europe, with documented proof as early as 60 AD. So, why would you want to eat these little birds? Well, if you’re vegetarian – it’s no reason to switch but if you’re already eating chicken, it’s easier to get an organic, sustainably-farmed, and local squab than chicken. Generally speaking, they are also more ethically raised with a smaller impact on the environment. And, if the culinary experts are telling the truth, it tastes like chicken anyway.
It’s true, you have to dig a bit to find the few historical food habits worth resurrecting. There are probably a lot more not-so-healthy foods that really should just stay in the past (hello, gelatin mould with canned fruit).