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MagicalBeansManypeoplewould
callnattodisgusting.
Researchers
cailit
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The Hidden Sonrc oJ'the
.foulest edibles
Name a food you hate. Brussels sprouts? Mustard
gleens? Pickled herring, kimchi, fish sauce,blue cheese?For me,

Powerof ora thc hest
.for qou. Laern
to lorc them.
it's natto, a Japanesefermented soybeandish with all the charm of
snot-coveredpeas. Words like "sweatyfeet,""vomit," and "unwashed

FunkyFoods BY TREVOR CORSON
genitals" havebeen employed to describe it. But evidence is mounting
that natto, like many foods with intense flavors, bubbles over with
nutritional magic. In 2or;, an intrepid biologist named Toshirou

PHO T O G R AP H S B Y T U U K K A K O SKI MensHealth.com / May 2017 65
> FOOD tit;t 1. MeetchefRichard McCormick, yourVirgil
tr intotheworidof funky-tasting
2. astehismi^d-slifring
foods.
b uecheesef g toast
3. Don'rworryaboura lthat mo d. t'sactualy
prettydarngood for you.

Nagai published a review of natto's health
benefits, including immune system resil-
ience. Other research has shown that it
may strengthen your bones and reduce your
risk of stroke. Meanwhile, brussels sprouts
and mustard greens are packed with dis-
ease-fighting compounds. Pickled herring
harbors heart-healthy omega-3fatty acids.
Kimchi, like many other fermented foods,
promotesbeneficial gut bacteria.
So the obvious: Why are some healthy odor. Strong foods like kimchi and sauer-
foods so repulsive?And is it possibleto learn kraut undergo fermentation- essentially a
to like them? Can we learn to love natto? controlled decay.Our nasal passageshave
evoivedalarmbells for stink asawayto detect
WHYYOUHATE
WHAT
YOUR
BODYLOVES living bacteria, saysBreslin. As with toxins,
Mother Nature has awarped senseof humor. bacteria can be dangerousor evenlethal. But
Manybitter-tasting compoundsthat in large some should be accepted."Since we don't
quantities couid sicken or kil1 you are very Iive in a sterile universe," Breslin says,"it's
good for you in tiny amounts, saysPaui Bres- goodto have friendlybacteriato fight offthe
lin, eh.n.,a professorofnutritional sciencesat unfriendly ones."
Rutgers University. In the past r 5 years or so,modern science
Take isothiocyanates, the chemical weap- has begun to recognize the benefits ofgood
ons plants use to ward offpests and hungry slrl.bactel'ia.
D*" "* _ "'_ '* ' The r erm "nrobiotics"is com-
animals. Thesecompoundsare found in bit- mon now, and it's become clear that a diverse
ter vegetables.Ifyou swallow trace amounts "microbiome" of bacteria in your intestinal
from, say,a cabbageleaf, they can counteract
DNA-damaging free radicals. It's the dose
that makes the poison. Your tongue's taste
receptors for bitterness are far more numer-
WIIAT YOU'LL NEED OZBLU EC H E E S E , ^ a smallbow, mash cheese, musta.o
ous and sensitivethan those for other tastes. S LIC ED tf,e'aspberries.
lVx greens.
6 RASPBIRRIES andfig
Scientists think this is becausethe human I T SPWHIT E
WINE
2 TE S PFIN ELY ir Ltrevinegarand wedges.Feeds2. :
VINEGAR C H OPP EI\IU
D S TA R D a pincheachof salt 47Ocalories,2lg
tongue has evolvedinto a poison detector. GR EE N S
2 T HINSL ICES
SOU R . a.d pepoer.DrizTle protein.S8gcarbs
Bacteria, like those found in blue cheese 2 FIGS C, U TIN TO thisd'essng overthe (59 fiber).1Bgfat
DOUGH BREAD , l

and natto, offend us for a different reason: WE D GES q
L IGHT LTYOAS TE D toast.Addthe biue

66 Mens H e a l t h . c o m r ' M a y z or T
> FO O D
tr
f;t
1. Kimchireinforcestheflavorful
thispancake-style.
egg-based
foundationof
breakfast.
-l
2. Sowhatrhehecks kimchi?lt'sa fermented
cabbagecondiment. popularin Korean
kitch-
ens,thatstangy,pungent,andoftenspicy.

tract plays an integral role in maintaining
good health. A zot4 review concluded that
@ r.fff
tr{IIAr YOU'LL NEED 2. In a large pan on
Lcr{d
ff*
probiotics in your gut help fight off patho- 5 EGGS mediumheat,addthe
gens, refresh intestinal ce1ls,and generate 1 T SPBUT T ER butterandoil.Heat
the kimchifor30 sec-
healthy fatty acids. A few strains offood- 1 T SPSUNF L OWEROR
CANOLOILA
onds.Addtheeggs n' " .
borne gut bugs have also been shown to help a n dc o o ku n t i l f i r m , 2 ,fo' {
2 T BSPKII\,ICHI
to 4 minutes. usinga

f:*h#
boost immunity, calm inflammation, and
I AV0 CAD0T, HIN LY I spatul a,fl i ptheeni i re
help you maintain a healthy body weight. SL ICED
disk.Cookuntilset,
Ultimately, our flavor choicescome down SESA| \ilE
SEEDS
& WATE R:- about 1 mi nute.pl ate
CRESS,
F ORGARN IS H i: ::
to a risk-reward calculation. Despite the and top w i th avocado
_i
: sesameseeos, ano
risk of death, we actually come out ahead if
1. Ina mediumbowl, i watercress. Feeds2.
we're opento certain quantities ofbitterness whiskthe eggswith a t, 33Ocalorles,l9g
and certain types of stench. Some foods- splashof waterand a protein,79carbs(59
l.ttresaltano oepper. fiber).2/g
fat
including kimchi and my nemesis, natto-
are memorable cuiinary symphonies of both
bitterness and stink, and that's what makes
them especiallypotent.
"Why don't people want to eat food that
smells like old gym socks?" Breslin asks. "I
think that has to do withwhat you'reexposed
to." Perhaps my problem with natto wasn't
natto. Maybe the problem was me.

HOW
TOTOVE
FOODS
YOUHATE
While some of your taste preferences maybe
genetically inherited or formed in utero (if
Mom loves kimchi, babyis more likelyto love
kimchi),youcan still acquireataste for anew
food as an adult. "Baby steps," says Emma
Beckett,Ph.D., apostdoctoralresearcherat the
University of NewcastleSchoolof Medicine
and Public Health in Australia. "Youcan't go
straight from a Big Mac diet to cruciferous
vegetabies.But it's not impossible for anyone
to learn to like a particular taste."
A t the Ge rman Instit ut e of Hum an
Nutrition, researchersinvestigate the ways
repulsed adults can acclimate to strong fla-
vors. A professor at the institute, Wolfgang
Meyerhof, walked me through the cultural,
psychological,and biological variables that
can swayyou. As we move through life, "fla
vors are paired with 'post-ingestive experi-
ences,"'Meyerhof says.

CLEAN EATING'S DIRTY TRUTII GO FOR THE WHOLE KEEP EGGING ON
Confused about what m ak es a Y our stomach may have a H uev o hater s , s tand down:
"clean" food? So ar e a thi - r d pal ate. Peopl e w ho ate Eggs have Lots of nutrients
of Am er icans, None of the w hol e grai ns had heal thi er that m ay s hi el d y ou fr o rn
"cfean" food pr oducts stud- gut bacteri a than those c ogni ti v e dec l i ne, scien-
i cd l- r w the Canl- ar fnr SCi - w ho ate hal f that anount ti s ts i n F i nl - and r epor t .
ence in the Public Inter e s t of refi ned grai ns, a study Peopl e w i th the hi ghes t
lim ited added sugar s, w hi c h i n the Aneri can JournaL of, intake (about an egg a day)
m eans that clean foods C Li ni cal N utri ti on found. w er e fes s 1i k el y to dev e l o p
ar en' t always the best for P i ck products that l i st dem enti a or Af z hei m er 's
you calor ie- wise. w hol e grai ns fi rst. than thos e w i th the l ow e s t .

68 MensHealth.com/ MayzorT
> F OOD
nf| 1. McCormick slicesf reshlysmokedberring..
2 . . . . w h i c hi s t h e nf i n e y d i c e da n dm i x edi n to
a kae Caesarsalad.

Bad experiences(vomiting, punishment
by parents, horrible dates) can ruin a taste
or smell. Good ones (not vomiting, encour-
agement by peers, amazing dates) can help
us develop a fondness for foods we once
found too bitter or stinky. The key to success
is to separate"hedonic assessment"from
the "qualitative description ofwhat is in
your mouth," Meyerhof says.Set aside that
impulse to love or hate. Instead, like a scien-
tist, try to acknowledgewhat the flavor is.
F or help with my o wn pos t - inges liv e tablespoonof finely choppedpickled herring. and mixed in sa1t,pepper,and a few drops of
experiences, I sought out chef Richard It was incredible. Even Swedesand Finns, white wine vinegar. Then he layered slices of
McCormick. Raisedby missionaryparents. McCormick pointed out, mix their big pieces fig and blue cheeseonto piecesoftoast. After
McCormick grew up devouring the food of ofpickled herringwith saucesand other side drtzzling the crostini with the raspberry
Thailand, the Philippines,Japan,and Korea. dishesto balancethe intensity ofthe stink. sauce,he sprinkled them with a tablespoon
Now he runs an empire of Helsinki eateries. I later watched McCormick scatter a ofchopped mustard greens. The sweetness
I threw down the gauntlet by sending handful ofkimchi acrossa hot skillet, saut6 evened out the bite.
McCormick a list of bitter, stinky, healthy it for 3o seconds,and pour in a frothybowl of After a few more dishes, we opened the
ingredients. His mission, through culinary beateneggs.He thentopped itwith thin slices natto. Trying to pull beans from the mass
wizardry, was to make me like everything ofavocado.The creaminessofthe eggscut the resultedin thin, mucus-like strings. McCor-
on the list. First he made me a Caesarsalad pungencyof the kimchi, yet didn't negateit. mick wrangled the strings with a spoon,
o f let luce, kale , an d qu inoa t os s ed wit h I also devouredcrostini that McCormick popped a few beans into his mouth, and
dressing.Instead ofanchovies,he snuck in a concocted.He mashed raspberriesin abowl chewed."This one'sgot to be the healthiest."
He sighedand preparedh is final recipe.
I had to hand it to him. The dish McCor-
mick had devisedwasnatto refriedbeans.He
@ fried onion and garlic inbutterwith chili pow-
trdIIAT YOU'LI, NEED 1 TSP 1, I na s m allbow l ,m i x 2. ln a largebowl,
WORCEST ERSHIRT togetnerthe mayon- der, cumin, and cinnamon, then turned off
'/ CUPMA YO N N A I S E addthe romaine, kale,
SAUCE garlic, the heat and folded in the natto before adding
2 TB S PRI N S E ADN D naise, herring. a n .l d r a ce i ^ d t^ e c
3 T BSPSHAVED lemonjuice,mustard, Topwiththecrou- manchego cheese.I ate it, and I didn't hate it.
CHO P P EPDI C K L E D
PARM ESAN CHEESE
HE RRI N G Worcestershire sauce, tonsand remaining
1 H EAt]ROI\4 AINE I alsodidn't loyeit, yet rhal seemedokay.
2 G A RLI C L O V E S :nd ? tahlocnnnnc nf Parmesan. Feeds2.
LT T T UCE,
CHOPPED Perhapswith food-as in life-if we're going
I \ 4I NCEt ) the Parrnesan. Sea- 360 calories,llg
I % CUPSCHOPPED KAL T c n n t h o d r a c c r n n r a r r th a^^ ^^"4^
to be strong, the sweet and the savory have
I TE S PLE I V OJNU I C E vLcil tt zvg wat
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Pt aa

I TS PDI J O NM U S T A R D 2 T BSPCROUT ONS saltand pepper. &a fihar\ )Rn f ct
\vY l iv! | /, .vY I Ul
to be balancedby the bitter and the pungent.

7o M ens H e a l th . c o m . M a y z o r T