How Nutritious is a Brain?

Zombie Fest 2009: brain eating zombie. Image: daveynin, United States, CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

We all know that zombies have an insatiable desire for brains. They just can’t get enough of that juicy grey matter. But why do the undead love a cerebral snack over everything else? It’s because they’re packed full of tasty goodness that’s why!

While many will balk at the idea of eating brains, they are considered a delicacy in many countries throughout the world. The French sauté beef brains in butter and top with garlic and parsley, the Sichuan province in China poach pigs’ brains in a spicy hotpot, and the Cubans fry them off to get crispy brain fritters.

Brains are one of the most nutrient-rich organs found in any animal.

In countries such as the UK, however, one will rarely find them on the menu. And for those who dare hunt them out, the surprisingly creamy texture – which some compare to slightly-set custard or runny scrambled eggs – can be a little off-putting.

But get over this initial queasiness and you’re in for a nourishing treat. That’s because brains are one of the most nutrient-rich organs found in any animal. They’re a great source of B12, a vitamin that helps make red blood cells, releases energy from food and keeps the nervous system in tip-top condition. They’re rich in selenium and copper, which contribute to the health of your immune system. And they’re especially rich in DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and is thought to play a key role in the cognitive development of children.

Consuming human brains on the other hand, is very bad for you, and not only because it’ll send you to jail.

There is a downside, however (besides the weird texture). Brains are so high in cholesterol a single 4-ounce portion will contain more than 10 times your recommended daily limit. And if you’re chowing down on beef brains there’s a more serious health risk to consider. That’s because it’s thought that eating central nervous system tissue – such as brain – contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as ‘mad cow disease’, can lead to humans contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is fatal. Though it is worth noting there have been very few cases throughout the countries that do in fact eat the organ.

Consuming human brains on the other hand, is very bad for you, and not only because it’ll send you to jail. Cannibalising the cranial contents of your fellow species is known to cause a deadly neurodegenerative disorder (an epidemic devastated the Fore – a tribe of cannibals in Papua New Guinea – in the early 20th century).

But, of course, deadly neurodegenerative disorders are of no concern to zombies, who can happily feast on creamy brains for the rest of their undead lives.

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