It's not exactly a secret that so-called superfoods like coffee, dark chocolate, and red wine help us live longer, healthier lives by keeping the body's engine's running clean with age-defying antioxidants. But while many folks find the aforementioned indulgences quite tasty, there are plenty of pungent, slimy foodstuffs from around the world that are comparatively jam-packed with life-extending nutrients and bacteria, even if they take the tastebuds a little more getting used to. Here, in no particular order, are seven purported superfoods that might help you live a longer, healthier life:
1. Garlic, onions, and things that smell like rotten eggs
Researchers in China found that the gas that gives rotten eggs their foul smell could be the key to slowing down the effects of Father Time. According to Bloomberg, small amounts of hydrogen sulfide — which was recently discovered to be produced by the body's own cells, but can be released by foods like onions and garlic, too — help "counter cell-damaging free-radicals; encourages production of an enzyme thought to be a regulator of lifespan; and interacts with a gene that appears to have its own market basket of anti-aging activity." While eating rotten eggs is obviously a no-no, adding more garlic and onions to your diet in the interim might help unlock the same health benefits. Just remember to keep gum handy.
It's not quite yogurt. But it's not quite milk, either. Indigenous to the Caucasus Mountains of the former Soviet Union (whose inhabitants are known for their unusually long lifespans), kefir is a fermented milk drink made by combining lactic acid bacteria, milk, yeast, and lactobacillus bacteria to make a tangy, fizzy elixir that can now be found in just about any Whole Foods. Originally swirled together in bags made from goat hide, the superfood is filled with all the probiotic goodness that health experts champion, helping to fight off infection and inflammation while normalizing digestion.
Pickled and buried underground for months at a time, the spicy Korean staple is widely regarded as one of the healthiest foods in the world. (And while it may sound gross, trust us: Kimchi is delicious.) As a result of its fermentation, kimchi is brimming with healthy lactobacilli that have been proven to help regulate the gut, and perhaps even fight certain cancers. (It also comes loaded with vitamins A, B, and C.) Former South Korean Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Sung-Hoon Kim once told the Washington Post that the stuff could be sold at Sephora as a regenerative skin-care product. "I'm 73 years old," he said. "Do you see any wrinkles on me?"
4. Blood sausage
Blood sausage — sometimes called black pudding — is exactly what it sounds like: Pork, beef blood, gelatin, and spices, all heated together and left to congeal in a tube. Yum! The stuff is also unusually nutrient-dense: Not only is blood sausage high in muscle-building protein with nary a carb in sight, but the murky, jellied plasma is chock full of zinc and iron — two nutrients many adults are deficient in.
5. Habanero peppers
Capsaicin, the chemical that gives hot peppers their uncomfortably fiery burn, was designed by Mother Nature to keep hungry animals away. But the spice also introduces a number of helpful phytochemicals into the body, which help burn calories, relieve pain for patients suffering from osteoarthritis and psoriasis, and might even help kill prostate and breast cancer cells. Good news all around. At least if your stomach can handle the heat.
The slimy, sticky consistency of fermented soybeans might take some getting used to for many western palates, but the Japanese breakfast food is actually something of a health marvel. To make it, soybeans are left to soak overnight. Then, powdered natto bacteria is sprinkled on top, and the beans are left to ferment and age for a week. Not only does the pungent soybean mix pack as much protein as lean beef, but natto is rich in an enzyme called nattokinase, which helps prevent blood clots and, as a result, can help lower high blood pressure.
7. Pure-fat butter
As it turns out, organic butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows is actually quite good for you. Researchers have found that the fatty acids in naturally processed butter may contain anti-carcinogenic properties, and, conversely, might even help lower cholesterol. Plus, without the saturated fat found in butter, the body is incapable of absorbing the carotenoids found in bright, colorful veggies. "So go ahead, eat butter," says Men's Health, "and do it without guilt."