From brussels sprouts to liver, here's how to learn to like and cook with them.
Ryan McKee 1 / 11
Children are expected to say things like, "I don't eat eggs, ever." Or, "Liver? Gross!" However, when adults do it they better have a severe allergy or a convincing health, political, or environmental argument to back it up. On a first date, for instance, it may tell your companion that you're unadventurous because your diet rarely strays far from the beaten path. But more importantly, you may be depriving yourself of some awesome flavor and seriously important nutrients.
Most of us developed these food phobias during childhood, but it's never too late to get over them. Here are the most common "ick" foods that are actually incredibly good for you—and tasty.
It's easy to hate these mini-cabbages without even trying them. They're the knee-jerk low-water mark for kids. The bitter taste, odd texture, and vague aroma of feet are enough to scare anyone off. However, the same qualities are attributed to fine cheeses.
Health benefits: Very high in fiber and protein, it can be a filling but low-calorie side dish. Scientists also believe the vegetable may protect against cancer because it's rich in indole—a phytochemical—and vitamin C.
Learn to like it: Buy fresh Brussels sprouts that are still on the stalk. These will taste much better than the frozen. Slice each one down the middle and cook them in extra-virgin olive oil with freshly chopped garlic on the stove. Salt and pepper to your taste. To "gourmet-it-up," add walnuts, shallots, grated cheese, and bacon in moderation.
These "mini-trees" pack a healthy dose of vitamin K that you typically find in leafy green vegetables. No wonder children view florets with contempt; they represent the antithesis of Snickers bars. However, broccoli can be a man's best friend. Simple to prepare, it's a filling side-dish or quick raw snack.
Health benefits: Vitamins C, K, and A are all represented in spades in broccoli. As well as being high in fiber, it has multiple anti-cancer nutrients such as diindolylmethane and selenium. The diindolylmethane is also known to fight other viruses and bacteria. In studies, men who eat a lot of broccoli generally reduce their risk of aggressive prostate cancer and heart disease.
Learn to like it: There's no need to avoid broccoli on the appetizer tray, just dip it in hummus or add a dab of ranch dressing. You can also crumble some florets on your salad; they will make it more filling. Steam or bake them with olive oil for a quick side dish. If you decide to go more extreme, cover a casserole dish with florets. Pour three tablespoons of melted butter over it and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.
Children find everything wrong with seafood: fishy smell and taste, texture, bone paranoia, etc. However, as an adult, not enjoying the sea's bounty limits you from multiple ethnic cuisines. Not only that, it is the perfect protein source to help you lose weight and cut down on meat with saturated fat.
Health benefits: The American Heart Association recommends men eat fish twice a week to get enough omega-3, the fatty acids that reduce the risk of heart disease and the most common type of stroke. Some research even suggests omega-3s increase brain and visual functions and fight everything from asthma to depression. Eating fish instead of other meats can also reduce your cholesterol.
Learn to like it: Not all fish has that fishy-taste. Try halibut, tilapia, mahi-mahi, or throw a tuna steak on the grill instead of a burger. Stuffed flounder will taste like whatever you stuff it with. You can even start with something as small as a couple anchovies in your Caesar's salad. And there's the whole world of shellfish and mollusks too. Buy some tempura batter mix and it's easy to make lightly breaded fish that go great with potatoes or in tacos.
Whoever figured out that turnips could be eaten must have been really hungry. They don't look the least bit appetizing. A bulbous purple root, most men wouldn't pick one up in the grocery store and think, "Let's have a go at this." You wouldn't even know where to start.
Health benefits: Turnips are a strong source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, manganese, pantothenic acid, and copper; plus they contain thiamine, potassium, niacin, and magnesium. They're starchy like potatoes, but with one-third the calories.
Learn to like it: Substitute turnips where you usually use potatoes. Not only will this diversify your at-home menu, it will cut down on caloric intake. You can bake, mash, and cut them into French fries. They can also be served raw on a veggie tray.
Many men pass over beets on the salad bar without ever trying them. It can be hard to know what to make of them. They look like slices of canned cranberry jelly. However, their sweet taste jazzes up a salad. Canned beets even make a cheap, quick, healthy snack by themselves.
Health benefits: High in carbohydrates, they're a quick energy source without the crash you get from processed carbs. Beets are good source of magnesium, calcium, iron, and niacin, as well as vitamins A and C. Studies also show they reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Learn to like them: Throwing a couple on a salad is an easy way to get used to the odd-looking vegetable. When you're ready to dive in, make a beet salad. There are a variety of recipes that are tasty and will impress a female dinner guest. A great southern favorite is roasted beet salad with bacon.
Just the thought of eating this internal organ will make some people gag. However, eating liver dates back centuries. Certain prehistoric tribes regarded it as the delicacy from the hunt. Medieval Europeans turned liver into everything from pastries to sausages. Get in touch with your primal man—eat liver.
Health benefits: Obviously it is a good source of protein, but it is also nature's most concentrated source of vitamin A. Patients with iron-deficiencies eat it due to its highly usable form of iron and all of the B vitamins. Many also claim it fights fatigue.
Learn to like it: Preparing liver doesn't have to be a big event. The next time you crave a barbecued steak, substitute thinly sliced beef liver. Fry it in a pan with onions and your favorite barbecue sauce or right on the grill.
Popeye made spinach look great when he used it to beat up Bluto. However, when you popped a can and dug in, it tasted like soggy metal. While these green leaves used to primarily appear in cartoons, now they appear on most menus across the country. So ditch the can and prepare a dish that does the leafy vegetable justice.
Health benefits: Like the other vegetables profiled already, spinach's A and C vitamins, fiber, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients help prevent cancer, especially colon, lung, and breast cancers, and heart disease. Also the flavonoids in it reduce against age-related memory loss. But a big one in spinach is lutein, which prevents cataracts and macular degeneration.
Learn to like it: The great thing about spinach is its versatility. Throw it in omelets with cheese, turkey, or ham. Pour warm bacon vinaigrette over a bed of spinach and chopped purple onions (a little bit of bacon seems to help mask all healthy foods). Even toss raw spinach with melted margarine and heat in the microwave for a quick side dish. Want to keep it extra simple? Chop up strawberries and walnuts and sprinkle them over a bed of fresh spinach for a delicious salad.
For those who didn't grow up in the Southwest or California, you may find this creamy green fruit bit odd odd. However, avocados are quite the trend at the moment—one certainly worth getting on board with (plus, they yield the culinary wonder known as guacamole, something no Mexican dish can be without.)
Health benefits: Dubbed the world's healthiest fruit for its source of vitamin K, dietary fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, and oleic acid, a medium avocado can have 27 grams of fat. However, its monounsaturated fat helps lower cholesterol and its folate aids heart health.
Learn to like it: If guacamole hasn't already turned you on to avocados, add a wedge to a turkey sandwich instead of cheese. Or slice a little with black beans and rice for a hot lunch. The protein will satiate your hunger longer.
Curdled milk chunks? Well, when one puts it like that, it's obvious why children aren't clamoring for this filling snack. Men don't usually like this dairy delight as much as women, but we should.
Health benefits: High in protein and low in carbohydrates, cottage cheese is a breakfast that will stay with you. Most of its protein is casein, a slow digesting form that reduces hunger for longer periods of time. It's also high in calcium, which is important not only for bones but maintaining normal blood pressure.
Learn to like it: If eating cottage cheese with sliced fruit doesn't intrigue you, try adding hot sauce and salt. It's great sweet or savory. If you're already a fan of guacamole, add a few spoons of cottage cheese to your mix. It will make it heartier and prevent it from turning brown.
If the eggplant were a superhero, it would be Batman. It's dark, mysterious, and although it doesn't have superpowers — it's bold and rich on different levels. Children can't get past its spongy texture, but adults should champion its ability to adapt differently to each dish.
Health benefits: It has much of the same laundry list of nutrients these other vegetables have offered including fiber, folate, niacin, etc. On top of that, eggplants are a great source of antioxidant called phytonutrients including the potent antioxidant called nasunin, which prevents the damage of cell membranes.
Learn to like it: Eggplant's porous flesh soaks in whatever flavors surround it and adds its own, making complex tastes: Eggplant Parmesan, ratatouille, Arabian moussaka, and many Indian dishes. It's a vegetarian's favorite because it's a great substitute for meat-based dishes. It can even be grilled like a burger. Each dish is completely different so keep trying.