When most people think of the word "superfood," they envision leafy greens, handfuls of dark berries, or even rhizomes (turmeric, ginger) with medicinal properties. But a website known for selling protein to bodybuilders just declared the least-likely superfood of all for 2016: sausage. Yes, the meat whose provenance you allegedly do not want to know.
Now, of all the places to get your expert nutrition information, MuscleFood.com likely ranks somewhere in the same zip code as DoYouEvenLiftBro.com and MeatheadFuel.com. While I invented the last two websites (though by the time you read this, someone may have bought them), MuscleFood specializes in selling lean meats to bodybuilders. More importantly, the protein peddler recently declared black pudding, a type of sausage made of pig's blood, pork fat, and oatmeal, a “superfood for 2016," saying its customers have made the sausage "a new buzzword in clean eating," according to The Guardian.
Blood sausage, full of pork fat and blood, couldn't be further away from the typical superfood. But could it actually be good for you? Experts say it depends.
"Like any red meat, blood sausage is a good source of heme iron," registered dietitian Jacqueline Aizen told Thrillist via email. "Animal sources of protein also contain all your essential amino acids, meaning it's a complete protein."
The main point here is that non-heme iron comes from plants, but requires ascorbic acid or vitamin C for absorption. Likewise, plant-based proteins require "two complimentary sources of protein to make a complete one," as Aizen explained. For example: almond butter and whole wheat bread, or lentils and rice, make complete proteins. But one without the other won't fully absorb. Blood sausage, on the other hand, requires nothing additional to gift you its nutrient elements.
There's a catch, of course: the sausage's fat and salt content.
"From a nutrition standpoint it's difficult to classify blood pudding or blood sausage as a super food," Toby Smithson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told Thrillist. "While it may be a good source of protein and iron, it is very high in fat, sodium and saturated fat. This goes against the recommendations for healthy eating from the newly released 2015 Dietary Guidelines."
Womp, womp. Don't start making the blood sausage smoothies in your blender just yet. Even so, a glimmer of hope for black pudding's superfood status remains, according to Aizen.
"The fat and nutrient content of the animal meat will depend on what is fed. If it is fed corn and pumped with sodium or injected with antibiotics and hormones and consumes animal byproducts, the meat it won't be as healthy, " Aizen said. "If however, it is allowed to graze freely, it might contain more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) a healthy fat, the animal will be leaner, as well as contain more vitamin E."
Vegans and vegetarians will disagree, but the TL;DR: if you're eating blood sausage that's made from quality sources, it can be good for you. You know, so long as you're Homer-Simpson-ing an assembly line of links. In the end, it's all about how the sausage is made.
Which is a really cliché kicker, but it's true.
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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He ate a whole lot of morcilla when he lived in Spain. Mostly because he assumed it was a superfood. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.