Food with blood can also be used as a solid ingredient, either by allowing it to congeal before use, or by cooking it to accelerate the process. Blood curd is a dish typically found in Asia that consists of cooled and hardened animal blood.
Weird Ways People Eat Blood Around the World
The idea of eating foods made with blood, even in a cooked dish, is repulsive to many people. That being said, blood is actually a major ingredient in many cultures. People who eat blood aren’t necessarily vampires or cannibals, and foods with blood in them can actually be healthy, religious, and downright normal in certain areas. But how does one cook with blood? What kind of food can you make with it? While these questions may be a little dark, they’re also fascinating, and this list has the answers for you.
Before we begin, let’s say right off that this list is not for squeamish people or the weak of stomach. There’s blood in this article, recipes about using it, and some pretty graphic imagery. That being said, if you’re a curious and adventurous foodie, we might have a few items here for your bucket list.
So, let’s take an in-depth look at all the ways that we see blood used in cooking around the world. It’s up to you to decide, by the end of this, if food cooked with blood sounds tasty or just terrifying.
- You Can Drink a Shot of Snake Blood in TaipeiPhoto: Modern Relics / flickr / CC-BY 2.0The Huaxi Night Market in Taipei is a huge tourist attraction, mostly because it serves very unusual, sometimes creepy, dishes and alcohol. There’s deer penis wine, turtle’s blood soup, and a huge range of snake-related dishes that cause many to call the place “Snake Alley.” One thing you can order here is shots that have snake blood in them, served warm, if you can stomach it. Sometimes you can even get shots of just cobra blood, freshly drained from a snake. While some people call the process cruel or inhumane, it’s hard to deny that there’s a number of blood dishes and blood drinks here that can be found nowhere else in the world.
- There’s a Whole Blood Festival in NepalPhoto: Fæ / flickr / CC-BY 2.0Blood may be a staple of many dishes around the world, but in Nepal, there’s one time of year where it’s pretty much the only thing you’ll be eating and drinking. Each November, hundreds of thousands of cattle are slaughtered in a blood festival, to honor the goddess Gadhimai, and they even drink the blood of the slaughtered animals. In a similar festival in the highlands of Nepal, monks drink blood from the veins of live yaks before releasing them, alive. Traditionally, the blood must be drunk raw, while still hot. Whether you’re looking at the larger, more well-known slaughtering festival, or the smaller, hot blood-drinking one, Nepal seems to have a theme of blood festivals around autumn and winter.
- The Maasai Believe in Drinking Blood Straight from the SourcePhoto: wendylin20 / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0The Maasai people of Africa are of particular note on this list because they drink and eat blood without actually killing their animals. You see, the Maasai use livestock, such as cattle, as their main means of survival. Because of this, they don’t exactly want to kill them off too quickly, and instead try to get milk, hair, and even blood from them while keeping them alive and thriving. This diet has been shown to be healthy and far more sustainable than many lifestyles and is still practiced today. Some of them even drink fresh blood, uncooked, straight from the cow’s vein, or mixed with a little of its milk. Even if that sounds extreme, you have to admit, you can’t get much fresher than that!
- Finland’s Blodplattar Would Put IHOP to ShamePhoto: Lapplänning / Wikimedia Commons / Public DomainWhen you think of pancakes, chances are you don’t think of blood. Well, unless you’re from Finland or Sweden. In both of those countries, there’s a dish commonly known as Blodplattar, which is basically a pancake made using pork blood. The blood is whipped to give it a thick consistency, mixed with flour, molasses, onion, and a few other spices, then cooked the same way you’d make any other pancake. The finished product is an iron-rich pancake that’s often served with sweet fruit jam or syrup or rolled like a crepe. It may not sound like a great breakfast to you, but it’s fairly common for people in both those countries.
- Spartan Warriors Ate Blood SoupPhoto: Jastrow / Wikimedia Commons / Public DomainBlood has been an important staple in dishes around the world since ancient times. In particular, the ancient Spartans used it strategically. The black soup, or black broth, is a fabled dish of pork, salt, vinegar, and blood Spartan warriors ate that was supposed to give them strength and power before battle. Considering how well they did in battle, maybe it was working. Though blood-based recipes are still used in Greece today, no detailed recipe of this fabled soup remains. We do know, however, that it involved boiled pork, salt, vinegar. and blood. Needless to say, it was probably a pretty strongly flavored dish.
- Blood Is Used to Season Thai Boat NoodlesPhoto: wEnDaLicious / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0One thing that blood is good for is thickening things. It can be added to broths to make them thicker and saltier, to ground meat to make it plumper, and it can even be added to noodles to make them different colors and keep them in one piece. Many Asian dishes utilize this quality well. Thai boat noodle dishes often use cow pig’s blood to season the broth. Fresh duck and goose blood is used as a thickener in noodle broths in Nanjing. In fact, if you’re traveling abroad and you get a noodle dish that has a dark, thick, or black broth, it’s probably worth asking if there’s blood in it – just in case.
- Haggis Uses Blood as a Thickening AgentPhoto: Simon Collison / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0Most people have heard of haggis as a stomach-turning Scottish dish that’s made… well, in a stomach. Scots have been making haggis for centuries, and while it’s not a common dish there, it’s still a culturally relevant one. It can involve oats, spices, sheep’s lungs, heart, liver, and even kidneys. Traditionally, it can also involve blood as a thickener or as a means of making the haggis darker. As gross as all this may sound, haggis is still a well-loved dish and, while greasy or oily tasting at times, is well-spiced and worth trying once or twice in your life. You might even find you like it. Of course, you’ll have to travel pretty far to get the traditional stuff, because no food using lung can legally be served in the United States.
- Polish Czarnina Follows the Idea of Waste Not, Want NotPhoto: npietran / flickr / CC-BY 2.0Using an entire animal and leaving as little waste as possible is an admirable feat, and the Polish learned to do it in the way of a noodle soup. Czarnina is made by draining blood from a duck and using the gizzard, feet, bones, liver, heart, and neck for stock. Then blood and vinegar are mixed into the broth to give it a rich flavor and color. The meat is used directly in the soup, and various other spices and vegetables are added. Noodles are cooked in it all, and then it’s served on special occasions. It may sound like a bit of an extreme food, but this traditional Polish dish has been around for centuries, and it’s still made even today.
- Taiwan Serves Up Blood PopsiclesPhoto: Carrie Kellenberger I globetrotterI / flickr / CC-BY 2.0No, these are not your average popsicles in this photo. In Taiwan, clever chefs have taken blood-related cooking to a bit of a strange level, and sell the result on the street. From carts all over the country, you can buy squares of sticky rice boiled with blood and sugar that have been slowly steamed over the course of the day. The spongy blood bar is then dipped in a spiced soy powder and given to you on a stick. This blood recipe, known basically as pig’s blood cake, is a long-standing tradition and a sweet treat for many locals.
- Boudin Noir Sounds Like Some 50 Shades of Gray Nonsense but Is Actually French Blood LoafPhoto: L.Richarz / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0Most of the time, boudin noir is seen as a sort of blood sausage, simply made in France rather than in England. On occasion, however, it is served in a loaf or a cake, and it’s nearly always served in a high-class manner. This dish is traditionally made with pig’s blood, but also uses fruit like apples and cream to make it sweeter. It’s still high in iron, but rather than being grilled, boudin noir is usually poached, then served with potatoes and beer. No matter how you make it, however, blood is one of the main ingredients and has been for centuries.
- Americans Make Sundaes Out of Pig’s Blood Ice CreamPhoto: Hans / Pixabay / CC0 1.0Not to be outdone, the United States has recently gotten on the blood-related dessert train. In Washington, D.C., at The Pig, you can order a very special sundae that uses a rather unusual ice cream. That ice cream is made using pig’s blood and chocolate. It’s said to have a creamy consistency with no iron taste – you probably wouldn’t even know blood was in it if you tasted it blind – but it’s still a little too extreme for many diners. The blood is used in place of egg, which is often use to give ice cream a thicker, more custard-like texture.
- Black Pudding Is a UK TraditionPhoto: nogger / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0If you’ve heard of blood in cooking before, this is probably the dish that springs to mind. Rather than actually being a pudding, Black pudding is a kind of sausage often served in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland that’s made using blood. Variants pop up in various parts of the world, but the most traditional kinds are found in the British isles. Pig’s blood is mixed with oats, spices, meat, and fat, before being stuffed into casings and either grilled or sliced thin into little rounds. As you might expect, black pudding is also dark or even black in color due to the blood. It may taste strong and dense, but it’s actually quite nutritious, giving you plenty of iron, protein and zinc.
- Mole Was Made with Blood Instead of Cocoa in Centuries PastPhoto: ismael villafranco / flickr / CC-BY 2.0If you’ve had Mexican food, you’ve probably tried mole before. It’s sweet, it’s rich, and it’s intensely spiced and flavorful, the perfect compliment to any enchilada or pork dish. Part of that is because mole is made with cocoa most of the time. Traditionally, however, cocoa wasn’t always the main ingredient. Sometimes, the Aztecs – who invented it – would use blood as a thickener. Though blood often has a metallic taste, it can also mix well with sweet things. Nowadays, of course, mole is pretty much always a cocoa-based Mexican dish, so timid eaters have nothing to fear.
- Germans Don’t Know When NOT to Use BloodPhoto: Ruth and Dave / flickr / CC-BY 2.0Trying to talk about every blood-related dish served in Germany would take a long, long time. Between the various sausages that use blood, including traditional bratwurst, and the different blood soups, you can get blood in every meal if you try. Blood is an excellent thickener and helps give food a dark, rich color while giving it nutritious iron content. The Germans seem to have realized this thousands of years ago and have been using blood ever since. The weirdest one you’re likely to find, however, is commonly called “blood bread” or “blood tongue” and looks like some sort of artificial lunch meat. If you’re brave, it’s probably worth giving a try, with a mug of beer on the side, of course.
- Blood Tofu Is Common in ChinaPhoto: dslrnovice / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0Tofu is such a staple of vegetarian and vegan cuisine that the two often seem to go hand in hand. That being said, it isn’t always so. In China, cooks take blood and coagulate it into a solid that looks exactly like a dark red or gray tofu. This is a traditional dish, made with chicken, pig, duck, or other animal blood, and is often served as “black” tofu with noodle soups and other dishes. The texture is similar, though the flavor is strong, and it’s supposed to be nutritious and medicinal, so it’s actually pretty common in China. Because of that, if you’re vegetarian and you order a tofu noodle soup, and the tofu looks a little dark, you might want to ask a few questions before chowing down.
- The French Know Coq Au Vin Needs a Little Something ExtraPhoto: mmmyoso / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0Coq au vin is a traditional French dish that’s known for being difficult to cook, expensive to eat, and delicious as heck. It can be made in many different ways, but most traditionally, and most deliciously, the sauce uses a small amount of chicken blood. This thickens the sauce and gives it a rich flavor and color, especially considering the sauce is mostly the gravy the meat was cooked in. Unlike many other dishes on this list, only a small quantity of blood is used – just a vial or so. Either way, a chef who’s worth their salt is likely using blood when he serves you this high-class dish. Yep, even though eating blood might seem a little scary, you can still be ritzy when you do it.
The 5 Best Foods to Increase Blood Flow and Circulation
Poor circulation is a common problem caused by a number of conditions.
Reduced blood flow can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as pain, muscle cramps, numbness, digestive issues and coldness in the hands or feet.
In addition to those with poor circulation, athletes and active individuals may want to increase blood flow in order to improve exercise performance and recovery.
Although circulatory issues are often treated with medications, eating certain foods can also improve blood flow.
Here are the 5 best foods to optimize blood flow.
Cayenne pepper gets its spicy flavor from a phytochemical called capsaicin.
Capsaicin promotes blood flow to tissues by lowering blood pressure and stimulating the release of nitric oxide and other vasodilators — or compounds that help expand your blood vessels.
Vasodilators allow blood to flow more easily through your veins and arteries by relaxing the tiny muscles found in blood vessel walls.
Research indicates that ingesting cayenne pepper increases circulation, improves blood vessel strength and reduces plaque buildup in your arteries .
What’s more, these spicy peppers are frequently included in pain-relieving creams because they can encourage blood flow to the affected area .
Pomegranates are juicy, sweet fruits that are particularly high in polyphenol antioxidants and nitrates, which are potent vasodilators.
Consuming pomegranate — as juice, raw fruit or supplement — may improve blood flow and oxygenation of muscle tissue, which could especially aid active individuals.
A study in 19 active people, found that ingesting 1,000 mg of pomegranate extract 30 minutes before working out increased blood flow, blood vessel diameter and exercise performance .
Another study demonstrated that daily consumption of 17 ounces (500 ml) of pomegranate juice during or before weight training reduced soreness, muscle damage and inflammation in elite weightlifters.
Onions are an excellent source of flavonoid antioxidants, which benefit heart health.
This vegetable improves circulation by helping your arteries and veins widen when blood flow increases.
In a 30-day study in 23 men, taking 4.3 grams of onion extract daily significantly improved blood flow and artery dilation after meals .
Onions also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can boost blood flow and heart health by reducing inflammation in veins and arteries .
Cinnamon is a warming spice that has many health benefits — including increased blood flow.
In animal studies, cinnamon improved blood vessel dilation and blood flow in the coronary artery, which supplies blood to the heart.
Rats fed 91 mg per pound (200 mg per kg) of body weight of cinnamon bark extract daily for eight weeks exhibited better heart performance and coronary artery blood flow after exhaustive exercise compared to rats in the control group .
Plus, research shows that cinnamon can effectively reduce blood pressure in humans by relaxing your blood vessels. This improves circulation and keeps your heart healthy.
In a study in 59 people with type 2 diabetes, 1,200 mg of cinnamon per day reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) by an average of 3.4 mmHg after 12 weeks .
Garlic is well known for its beneficial impact on circulation and heart health.
Studies suggest that garlic — specifically, its sulfur compounds, which include allicin — can increase tissue blood flow and lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.
In fact, diets high in garlic are associated with better flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD), an indicator of blood flow efficiency.
In a study in 42 people with coronary artery disease, those who consumed garlic powder tablets containing 1,200 mg of allicin twice daily for three months experienced a 50% improvement in blood flow through the upper arm artery compared to a placebo group
Looking for Blood
Eating Eating blood just makes sense: Mostly made up of protein, it’s packed with iron, vitamin D, and other nutrients, and comprises as much as 11 percent of an animal’s body weight. That is likely why most human societies that eat meat, save those with religious or cultural injunctions against eating blood, have at least one blood recipe in their culinary repertoires — from the blood “tofu” of China to pepitoria, the goat’s blood–cooked rice of Colombia, to the blood sausages (some savory, some sweet), sauces, soups, and even pastas and pastries of most European cultures.
Granted, as meat historian Roger Horowitz notes, these are rarely everyday items. Most were only made, historically, right after an animal was slaughtered, or during the winter, when cold northern climes could preserve blood. Yet blood is still, thanks to practicality, tradition, and taste — many do appreciate its thick earthiness — an active part of most nations’ foodways. In some regions, like the British Isles or Germany with their blood sausages, or Scandinavia with its tradition of blood pancakes, blood as an ingredient is not only commonplace, but beloved.
It’s odd, then, that blood does not factor at all into what’s now generalized as “American food” — not in any of the items that populate fast-food menus (perhaps the most American of inventions), in common dishes descended most directly from European traditions (like meatloaf, pancakes, and various meatballs), or even in dishes closely associated with meat byproducts (like hot dogs, scrapple, and livermush).
“Blood is toward the end of the spectrum of stigmatized and taboo foods” for Americans, says Amy Bentley, a professor of food studies and expert on culinary taboos at New York University.
“It’s a reminder of the animal nature of ourselves and how close we are to the things that we’re eating.”
Most Americans, of course, do not only, or even mostly, eat the purely “American” food that’s exported abroad via fast-food menus or through our popular culture. Recent immigrant communities, especially those from East and Southeast Asia, have brought dishes like Filipino dinuguan, Vietnamese bun bo hue, and coastal Indian sorpotel, all blood soups or stews, stateside. One can find frozen blood in many Asian markets (although its quality varies radically by store). It’s still prevalent in German butcher shops in parts of Illinois, says food historian Bruce Kraig. The same holds true at some Polish, Mexican, and other butcher shops in historically immigrant neighborhoods, he adds. Potawatomi chef and Native American foodways historian Loretta Barrett Oden notes that various Plains peoples today continue long-standing traditions of drinking blood during buffalo or other large-animal harvests. And many Diné (or Navajo) chefs make, or grew up making, blood sausage as a matter of traditional practice fairly regularly. The National Center for Native American Aging at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Science’s Center for Rural Health lists a Diné blood sausage recipe in its publication Healthy Traditions: Recipes of Our Ancestors.
Still, these important elements of modern and historical American foodways don’t factor into most popular conceptions of “American” cuisine or tastes. And recent attempts by prominent chefs and food scholars to introduce blood to many unfamiliar North Americans — as an interesting new flavor, an element of a national culinary heritage, a vital part of responsible and low-waste meat consumption, or even a healthy alternative to eggs, low in cholesterol and high in protein and iron, in baked goods — have fallen flat. “I haven’t seen much evidence of broad interest” in blood of late, says Margot Finn, a scholar of U.S. food beliefs, “even with the niche popularity of nose-to-tail and ethnic eating that includes offal.” So why, exactly, does American food contain so little blood?
It’s hard to say whether pre-Columbian Native American cultures consumed blood, and if so, how much and in what contexts. Early colonists and the U.S. proper explicitly tried to eradicate indigenous history and foodways to displace or eradicate entire peoples. Many Native American culinary traditions were, and are, fluid — and their modern iterations have often been shaped by the experience of colonization. When I asked Barrett Oden about this, she told me, “Everyone I could find says, ‘We don’t know because all of our ancestors are gone.’” As part of culture, pragmatism, ritual, or for other reasons, though, she believes there was likely “significant blood use” in pre-Colonial North America “from the Mayans to the Plains.”
Some food historians argue that America’s colonizers, however, never ate much blood. Sarah Wassberg Johnson, an expert in American food history, claims that British colonizers did not, by and large, bring their native blood sausage traditions to their new homes because they found so much open and farmable land that they didn’t have to engage in the scrupulous nose-to-tail eating common in contemporary Europe. Blood, Finn argues, is not “inherently delicious or appealing the way some things like sugar or fatty meat seem to be,” so it would have been something many folks might never eat unless necessitated to do so by scarcity.
For the most part, historians like Johnson believe, blood was an occasional subsistence food, mostly consumed in rural areas but not in urban settings. More often than not, even on farms, it would be discarded as waste. It may be true that some colonists did find they no longer needed to eat blood dishes, stopped doing so as a matter of preference, and so their progeny had no chance to develop a taste for it.
Yet colonial cookbooks include many blood pudding recipes, and 17th-century blood consumption was apparently common enough that preachers saw fit to puzzle out a justification for eating it, given Old Testament prohibitions against doing so. (The same injunctions prevent some observant Jewish groups from eating blood.) Blood may not have been a standard home ingredient, says Horowitz, but it would have been in use by many butchers in sausage making. And it would have been fairly available, argues Amy Fitzgerald, an expert on animal slaughter history, off of farmsteads, in urban settings, as local butchers often did the work of slaughtering animals. Historical accounts of Chippewa and Cree communities from the 18th century also describe a blood-based haggis, blood potages, and the consumption of fresh blood from ungulates, and at least some accounts of 19th-century Blackfoot Confederacy communities detail blood pudding and soup.
The tide of blood in America likely started to meaningfully turn with the rise of industrialized slaughter. “This was part of a more general process” starting in the 16th century, Fitzgerald says, “of demonstrating human superiority over animals,” in part by distancing the public from the visceral nature of meat production.
Dive into science and history of offal with Gastropod
Blood, bones, and other offal “remind us that we are animals,” argues Bentley, channeling the theories of many psychobiologists. “Blood from an animal looks like blood from a human. It’s a reminder of the animal nature of ourselves and how close we are to the things that we’re eating.”
The first large-scale commercial slaughterhouse opened in Massachusetts in 1662, explicitly to remove slaughter from public view. But industrial slaughterhouses hit critical mass from about the mid-1860s onward, especially with the rise of Chicago’s meatpacking industry. Around this time, most Americans, undergoing a process of rapid urbanization alongside this slaughter industrialization, started to lose touch with the process of raising and killing animals, and to see meat as just a slab of deracinated tissue in a butcher’s shop.
Industrial slaughter made it harder to access blood, which is best used fresh and unfrozen. Theoretically, big slaughterhouses could still have tried to preserve blood using anticoagulants (like salt or vinegar) and cooling. But “collecting and keeping fresh blood clean for processing was simply too much effort for too little return,” argues Johnson. Slaughterhouse operators soon realized they could make more by selling blood to other industrialists for use in things like animal feed and fertilizer. As historian Maureen Ogle notes, big slaughterhouses 100 years ago usually made more selling blood and other byproducts to pharmaceutical firms and similar buyers than they did by selling meat proper. “So,” says meatpacking historian Joshua Specht, “the Chicago meatpackers had no reason to make it accessible to consumers,” at least on a large scale.
Around the same time, writers in the American media started to openly disparage butchery generally, and blood cuisine specifically. “There are racist articles about German immigrants in particular liking blood sausage,” says Specht. “Similarly, there are some stories about poorer Americans consuming as much of, say, pig as possible.”
In the late 19th century, Americans with economic, cultural, and culinary power were distancing themselves from slaughter and its byproducts in favor of more civilized (and often more expensive) meat cuts, labeling offal as animalistic and crude. They were also defining themselves in contrast to Central and Eastern European immigrants, and poorer rural Americans, who still consumed those products. The idea of blood-eating as a “backwards” and “barbaric” practice was deployed as evidence of the baseness of dirty immigrants and the poors, cementing it as a marginal to un-American behavior.
But industrialized slaughter was not necessarily a death knell for blood dishes, especially if it was decoupled from racist and classist tirades against them. To wit, much of Europe has developed industrial slaughter systems — albeit in different arcs and at different speeds and levels than America — while maintaining connections to edible blood. Even in America, Horowitz acknowledges, in rural areas where people still slaughtered animals and had access to their fresh blood, they kept on using it in their cooking well into the 20th century. “German settlers and their descendants in the Midwest,” Kraig points out, “ate blood sausage as a regular part of their diets” until sometime around, or maybe just after, World War II.
The real end to American blood eating likely came in the mid-20th century, courtesy of modernity — specifically an amorphous, optimistic belief in the power of industrial science to improve the world in every imaginable way, especially by one-upping nature. That often came part-and-parcel with a belief in the value of uniformity and perceived sterility. “This idea of modernity is very important for people coming of age in the 20th century,” argues Bentley, who has written about the birth of the baby food industry in this era. The logic of that industry, she explains, was that industrial societies “don’t breastfeed our babies because we don’t have to. We have technology. We have science. We can make the formula and the bottles. We can make better food for babies than human bodies can, and certainly better than people in developing who are breastfeeding.”
Many notions advanced in the spirit of modernity were, we now know, bullshit. Modernity might scream that blood is a messy natural product that spoils easily. But modern slaughter, food packaging, and distribution, which seek in part to distance us from icky blood and promise to keep us safer and healthier by doing so, are arguably even worse for public health because of their potential to spread zoonotic disease and foodborne illnesses. And obsessions with sterility led to the development of non-nutritious foods, like Wonder Bread (invented in 1921) and overprocessed milk, whose health benefits are now in question.
Wrongheaded notions about the value of sterile uniformity and pre-preparation got flash-frozen into many societies, not just America. They just took especial root in American food and culture because, argues Bentley, “we came of age in the age of industrialization” as a nation. Many of the national myths still referenced in American culture and politics were forged in the hypermodern 1950s, as supermarkets and prepackaged foods and all they represented were spreading and reshaping even many rural lives. Modernity has only been reinforced in recent years by things like food safety and larger public health scares.
Sociologist George Ritzer coined the concept of “the McDonaldization of society,” referring to a unique, mostly American obsession with “cleanliness, standardization, quantity over quality.” According to Bentley, this concept plays into our aversion to foodstuffs that seem messier, or more potentially dangerous, like blood. It also helps to explain the very mid-20th-century (and, in many corners of the country, enduring) American obsession with hockey-puck-overcooked steaks. Many Americans seem to want any trace of blood (by the by, the red in “bloody” red meat isn’t blood, but myoglobin, the protein that delivers oxygen to muscle tissue) broiled out of existence in the name of perceived safety, and in the service of the entrenched 20th-century American cardboard palate.
Ultimately, all these historical forces dovetailed into America’s modern, bloodless state of affairs. And it created a vicious circle, in which low demand for and high skepticism of blood make it almost impossible for most people in America to encounter it, even if they go looking for it, keeping demand low and skepticism high.
At most, the food history and culture experts I’ve spoken to about blood largely agree, there’s potential for blood to seep back into some mainstream American dishes — if its taste is well hidden, if “blood” doesn’t end up in the final name, if it is promoted by well-known chefs or health experts, and if it comes with strong head-to-hoof ethical messaging. Diners could also, perhaps, be convinced to eat a protein bar made of powdered and flavorless blood (like the Soviet Union’s Hematogen quasi-health bar), much as they have been convinced to eat cricket bars and powders as arguably sustainable sources of (largely invisible, tasteless) protein. Still, the population of Americans who could get over the ick factor many associate with blood would likely be slim.
“People can get over an ick factor” in general, says Finn. “That seems to have happened on a pretty wide scale with raw fish in sushi, and before that with garlic and other pungent alliums. But I’m not sure there are sufficient incentives to do so with blood,” she says, especially relative to the long build-up and scale of this ick factor in particular. “I don’t see any reason why the factors that have made blood unpopular for at least the last century in America are likely to change soon.
“Then again,” Finn almost shrugs, “stranger things have happened. So, who knows?”
10 Foods That Will Increase Blood Flow & Circulation
If you’re like me, you find yourself researching which foods, herbs, vitamins, and minerals are healthiest, how they affect your body and you try to be conscious about what you eat and drink. Many of us have genetics to contend with; my family history includes everything from, cancer, thyroid issues, diabetes, cholesterol levels, obesity, blood pressure issues, arrhythmia, heart disease and of course, varicose veins. Since many of these problems came to fruition due to poor personal habits, environmental factors, and food choices, I try to stay aware of my health, eating habits, and physical activity when and where I can.
Today, let’s take a quick look at things that can improve your circulatory system, foods that can improve blood flow and circulation, as well as a few that we should try to stay away from.
What is blood circulation and why is it important?
First thing first! What is proper circulation and why should we worry about it? Normal blood circulation brings oxygen and nutrients to the cells in the body through the arteries, and the waste products are picked up by the veins and transported back to the liver, heart & lungs. If an area of the circulatory system is impaired, you could experience symptoms such as:
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle cramping
- Aching, heaviness, restlessness in the legs
- Leg ulcers
- Varicose veins
Lifestyle changes such as exercise, drinking more water, and eating healthy foods can help promote healthy circulation. In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into 10 foods with properties that may help improve your circulation and blood flow.
Top foods to help increase blood circulation and blood flow
Garlic is not only associated with a better immune system, but it is also associated with decreasing blood pressure! Specifically, the sulfur compounds in garlic cause vasodilation, increasing blood flow in the tissue. It has been shown that people consuming garlic powder tablets containing 1,200 mg of allicin twice daily for three months experienced a 50% improvement in blood flow. Also, who can argue that garlic makes virtually any dish even better! Dig in!
Capsaicin is what makes a cayenne pepper hot and helps lower blood pressure, while expanding your blood vessels due to the nitric oxide it contains. Additionally, it helps prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.
Turmeric has been utilized in Chinese medicine since ancient times. It helps to dilate blood vessels and improve circulation. The curcumin found in turmeric helps increase nitric oxide production, reduce oxidative stress, and decrease inflammation.
Ginger is another staple to have in your pantry as it not only brings great flavor to dishes, but also works to improve your circulation. Used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, to reduce high blood pressure. It is recommended to consume 2-4 grams per day.
Nuts and Walnuts
Packed with nutrients such as vitamin E and L-arginine nuts, such as the walnut work to promote your body’s production of nitric oxide. Containing high levels of amino acids as well as magnesium, potassium and calcium, nuts can help lower your blood pressure as well as reduce inflammation which is particularly helpful with diabetes.
I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough citrus! Thankfully, it has made it onto our list as well! Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit are packed with antioxidants, including flavonoids. Consuming flavonoid-rich citrus fruits may decrease inflammation in your body, which can reduce stiffness while improving blood flow and nitric oxide production. It has also been shown in recent years that flavonoids can even help with varicose veins, reduce the risk of stroke, and improve cognitive functions. Now where is my glass of lemonade!?
Fatty Fish containing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring helps release nitric oxide into your body dilating your blood vessels and increasing the blood flow. Omega-3 fats also help prevent blood clot formation, plaque buildup in the arteries, lower blood pressure, increase the healthy HDL cholesterol, and improve blood flow in skeletal muscle during and after exercise.
Another of my favorites, berries are not only great tasting, but can have health benefits as well. The antioxidants contained in berries such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and currants not only contain anti-inflammatory properties, but also assist in lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Studies have also shown berries can help reduce heart rate and improve arterial dilation.
Beets contain nitrates, which the body converts into nitric oxide. This process helps expand blood vessels. Beet juice may help widen arteries, lower blood pressure, and improve athletic endurance. Beet juice supplements improve oxygen flow in muscle tissue, stimulates blood flow, increases increase nitric oxide levels and decreases blood vessel inflammation — all of which can boost performance not only in athletes but in everyone.
Onions are an excellent source of flavonoid antioxidants, which benefit heart health and improves circulation by dilating your arteries and veins. Anti-inflammatory properties in in onions, combined with the flavonoid antioxidants can also been linked to a reduction in inflammation in both arteries and veins. Much like garlic, onions make just about every savory dish taste better!
Healthy recipes that incorporate these ingredients
Here’s an amazing recipe which combines Citrus, onion (shallots), and salmon from Cooking Light, as well as a beet and walnut salad recipe from the Food Network. This delicious meal encompasses 5 of the 10 foods which help promote circulation and it’s delicious! If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try this berry easy dessert recipe from Rachel Ray which includes berries and Ginger, sprinkle on some Tumeric and Boom! You’ve added three more superfoods from the list above! There are many natural ways to improve circulation such as choosing foods that contain antioxidants, nitrates and vitamins that stimulate blood flow. Try incorporating some of these foods into your daily diet and see the positive impact in can make on your circulation.
While all of these amazing foods have benefits that can help improve your circulation, there are also some foods which can negatively impact your circulation. Below is a short list of foods, or food groups that you should avoid if you have health concerns, including circulatory concerns.
Foods to avoid that may cause poor circulation
Fatty, processed or red meats
Fatty, processed, or red meats: Saturated fats can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Added sugars: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excess amounts of added sugar in the diet can increase the risk of diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage artery walls and high cholesterol can cause hardening of the arteries. High blood sugar can lead to diabetes, which can damage blood vessels and nerves that allow the heart and blood vessels to function properly.
Trans fats: Trans fats occur in certain animal products, including milk, butter, cheese, and meat. Many processed foods contain trans fats if hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make the oil solidify at room temperature. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of plaque forming in the arteries and heart disease.
Salt: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), excess salt in the diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke. The WHO recommends a daily intake of fewer than 5 grams of salt for adults.