Want to know a well-kept southern secret? Comfort food’s not all naughty; in fact, it can even be nice.
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Biscuits and gravy. Pecan pie. Fried chicken. For most, dining on these dishes is less about nutritional value, and more about taste, tradition, and making you feel all warm and fuzzy. But, in addition to Elvis’s favorite guilty pleasures, there are a few Southern classics with healthy qualities you might not expect.
Here are six Southern comfort foods that are more than just good for the soul!
Much like biscuits and gravy, bacon grease is not typically referred to as a “health food,” but pork fat, a.k.a lard, can be ideal for cooking at high temperatures. Animal fat is made up of about half saturated fat and half monounsaturated fats. We now know that, when eaten in moderation, saturated fat can have a place in a well-rounded diet, and research shows that the more saturated a fat, the less vulnerable it is to heat damage. It’s important to avoid eating heat-damaged, or “oxidized” fats, as they have been linked to numerous health conditions. But animals store toxins in their fat cells, so, if you choose to cook with animal fat, remember to do so in moderation, and make sure that it is always from a high-quality source, such as pasture-raised pork or duck, or grass-finished beef.
Butter is made by churning cream. Traditionally, to get cream, raw milk was left to sit unrefrigerated for a period of time. During this time, the cream would rise to the top, and the naturally-occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria in the milk would ferment. The cream was turned into butter, and the left-over liquid, or “milk,” became buttermilk. Nowadays, most commercially available buttermilk is made by adding live lactic acid bacteria — generally Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus — to milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized. This tart-tasting beverage is known as “cultured buttermilk.” Both traditionally-made and cultured buttermilk are good sources of beneficial probiotic bacteria. Research shows that probiotics, like the kind we use in our SmartyPants Probiotic Complete gummies, can play a significant role supporting many areas of our overall health, including digestion, immunity, and metabolism.
This sticky sweetener may be slow, but perhaps that’s because of all the nutrients weighing it down. Blackstrap molasses is packed with vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium, and it has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product. Additionally, calcium and magnesium – two minerals that are increasingly difficult to get through modern diets – work together to promote bone health and muscle function.
When aiming to “eat healthy,” many nutrition experts advise people to simply choose foods with the fewest number of ingredients. Based on this school of thought, cornbread is a winner, as traditionally-made cornbread includes only six ingredients: cornmeal, water or buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, and salt. This type of cornbread not only packs some protein, it also contains no added sugar, chemical additives, or gluten!
A three-ingredient Southern wonder, grits are made from just stone-ground cornmeal, water, and salt. Since they’re primarily corn, grits are a natural source of carbohydrates, non-heme iron, and B vitamins. You can amp up their nutritional value by adding a little grass-fed butter, cream, or cheese. Yes, we said butter, cream, or cheese. These types of high-quality, full-fat dairy products have been shown to be rich sources of conjugated linoleic acid – a nutrient that may support metabolic rate and even help burn fat! Just remember we said a little, not a truckload.
Chicory is a root that comes from the dandelion plant, and it became a popular substitute for coffee during the Civil War when the Union navy cut off coffee supply at the port of New Orleans. While the war ended, the tradition stuck, possibly because of chicory’s numerous health benefits.
Chicory root provides a similar taste to coffee but without any caffeine. If you’re wondering why ON EARTH this would be a good thing, research shows that consuming less caffeine can help promote healthy stress levels and sleep/wake cycles. Don’t shoot the messenger. The antioxidants in chicory root coffee have been shown to help promote a healthy inflammatory response, while chicory root itself is used to provide added fiber to foods – it’s what we use in our SmartyPants Complete and Fiber gummies. The inulin in chicory root acts as a prebiotic, helping to feed and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria living in the digestive system. Now, all you need to do is add some probiotic buttermilk to your chicory root coffee (make sure it’s not too hot) and you’ve got yourself a bona fide Southern superfood.
For more ways to make staying healthy a little less complicated and a lot more delicious, check out our blog at www.smartypantsvitamins.com/blog
This post was written by SmartyPants Vitamins.