Blood: Nutritional and Common Uses Around the World

Written by: SphynxCatVP
Link to original: http://sphynxcatvp.nocturna.org/articles/sc-bloodnutrition.html
(The original of this article is also crossposted at Real Vampire News - you may comment there if you wish.)
(A reworking of this article is in progress.)

Many people claim that there is no nutritional value in blood. Sadly, this is a common belief primarily in America, since most Americans - especially those in the medical profession - tend to forget just WHAT is being measured in the blood with lab tests, and that blood is regularly on the menu - both cooked AND raw - in many non-American cultures.

Medical

Medically, human blood contains a large variety of cells and nutrients including: lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and so on. There are lab tests available that measure most, if not all, of these values, including calcium, folic acid, glucose, iron, potassium, protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Many of them are even routinely checked on a Chem-20 or Metabolic panel!

Nutritional

Blood products have also been used in "blood agar" in laboratory settings to grow bacteria samples, and iron supplements in some countries generally contain whole blood or blood products ("Heme iron") - New Zealand's deer blood capsules and Russia's "Hematogen" bar for example - instead of the mineral form (usually a sulfate) typically seen in the USA. Blood products and byproducts turn up as a source of nutrients for livestock feed or plant fertilizer (usually called "blood meal" in that case.) A powdered supplement called "Prothemol" is made with dried cows blood, dried egg whites and flour, and has been used in Brazil since 1996 to effectively counter starvation and malnutrition in their population.

Blood-Based Foods

Blood is regularly used in many parts of the world in food such as soups, stews, puddings, sausages and other dishes - and in some cultures, even used raw, either directly or added as an ingredient in another cooked dish. Blood sausage (sometimes called "blood pudding") is probably the most commonly known example, with different variants depending on the country of origin, but there are also several variants of blood soup or stew, a few variants of a congealed "tofu" like form such as in China and Vietnam, and even blood bread.

If you have a copy of the Joy of Cooking cookbook by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, you likely have one of the many recipe variants for blood sausage already. My hardcover copy dates from 1964, and in that edition, it can be found on page 438.

Cultures where blood is consumed raw include probably the most famous example, the Maasai of Africa, but some of you might be surprised to learn that raw blood is also consumed in Alaska by the Innuit peoples (typically seal blood) and in Vietnam as "Tiet Canh", a congealed, but still raw, breakfast dish (duck and pork are common versions.) In Thailand, a noodle soup type dish often called Nam Tok is made with raw meat and with blood poured over it. Nam Tok has two basic preparations, one is a soup, the other a meat "salad" - traditionally, this is raw meat, as is the blood poured over it, though many modern versions may omit the blood and generally cook the meat to a greater or lesser degree. Such traditional diets tend to have lower rates of heart disease than western/highly processed diets.

The television show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern highlights MANY cultures where blood is consumed either raw or cooked as part of another dish. The episodes I'm aware of that deal with blood-based foodstuffs are:

  • Season 2, ep  2: Blood pudding in Iceland
  • Season 2, ep  6: Blood sausage and blood pudding in Chili
  • Season 3, ep  5: Blood sausage in France
  • Season 3, ep  7: Halloween party special, including raw cow's blood
  • Season 3, ep  8: Wild boar blood in Hawaii
  • Season 3, ep 13: Blood sake in Japan
  • Season 4, ep  1: Fresh cows blood & clotted blood while visiting the Masai tribe
  • Season 5, ep  2: Blood cake soup in Cambodia
  • Season 5, ep  4: Sheep's blood sausage in Arizona
  • Season 5, ep  5: Clotted cows blood in Tanzania
  • Season 6, ep 10: Romani (Gypsy) Breakfast blood stew and blood sausage in Hungary
  • Season 6, ep 16: Embassy Row, including swedish blood pudding
  • Season 6, ep 17: Finland - blood brownies for schoolchildren, blood soup, and other selections

The point of all this is that blood is much more nutritious - and common in various foods and drinks - than most Americans realize. You can find plenty of videos on YouTube illustrating this, but I only recommend looking for them if you have a VERY strong stomach.

Some references are below; I've labeled some with "[GRAPHIC WARNING]" where there are images of raw blood products so that readers with sensitive stomachs have advanced warning.

~SphynxCatVP, January 1, 2011
Revised

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