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4 Pungent Foods that are Actually Super Healthy

When it comes to our taste buds, we often seek out familiar flavours – think sweet, salty and savoury – but there's a whole world of culinary experiences awaiting those willing to embrace the pungent side of the spectrum. We’ll be sharing our top 4 stinky nutritional powerhouses – you might just find they become fast favourites!

Pungent foods, while intense in flavour and aroma, boast unique health benefits that might surprise you. We’ll be uncovering a few foods that may not be everyone's first choice – you may not have even heard of them – but are undoubtedly good for you, and the taste might just grow on you. From powerhouse ferments like natto and stinky tofu to the refreshing and unexpected twist of fish mint, there’s a lot to discover. 


Natto, a staple in Japanese cuisine, is made by fermenting soybeans with Bacillus subtilis, a beneficial probiotic bacteria. Despite its strong smell and sticky texture, natto packs a powerful punch of nutrients. It is an excellent source of plant-based protein, offering all nine essential amino acids required for muscle repair and overall health. Moreover, natto is rich in vitamin K2, which plays a crucial role in bone health and cardiovascular health, promoting healthy blood clotting and arterial elasticity, making you less susceptible to heart disease. Additionally, the probiotics in natto support gut health and aid digestion, making it a fantastic addition to a balanced diet.

Swiss Raclette Cheese

Raclette cheese, known for its floral notes and somewhat strong smell, is a type of cheese that might be perceived as too pungent for some – though it can vary depending on how long it’s been aged – as a result of the rind washing technique. This cheese has quite the reputation, in fact, the Swiss have been known to keep it in a separate fridge! However, this cheese variety boasts several health benefits worth savouring. Raclette is a good source of calcium, essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also contains protein, vitamin A, and vitamin B12, supporting various bodily functions. While it's important to consume cheese in moderation, incorporating a regular serving of this cheese can contribute to a balanced and nutrient-rich diet. 

Fish Mint

Fish mint, also known as "laksa leaf," is a herb commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Its pungent aroma and taste are reminiscent of fish, giving rise to its name – and also its controversy. Along with those who adore the unique flavour and smell of this herb, there are those who haven’t acquired the taste yet! This leafy green is a good source of vitamins A, C and B2, as well as essential minerals like iron and calcium, making it worth giving a go. In traditional medicine, fish mint is believed to aid digestion and alleviate stomach discomfort. Adding fish mint to soups, salads or seafood dishes not only enhances flavour but also infuses your meals with valuable nutrients – so, if you haven’t already, give this herb a go in your next concoction!

Stinky Tofu


Stinky tofu might not be everyone's favourite due to its strong smell – I mean, the name kind of gives it away – but it holds significant potential health benefits, and has been a popular staple in Chinese cuisine for good reason. Since this soy by-product is fermented, its nutritional profile is significantly enhanced, not to mention the probiotics that come with the territory. The result? A gut-boosting food that also happens to be an excellent plant-based source of protein, essential amino acids and minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron. Moreover, the fermentation process may increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients, making them easier for the body to absorb. Take a look at some of the probiotics found in stinky tofu:

  • Lactobacillus: Lactobacillus is a diverse group of lactic acid bacteria commonly found in fermented foods. These bacteria play a crucial role in producing lactic acid during fermentation, which gives stinky tofu its tangy taste.
  • Leuconostoc: Another group of lactic acid bacteria that can be present in stinky tofu. They help convert sugars into lactic acid and contribute to the overall fermentation process. 
  • Pediococcus Pediococcus is another type of lactic acid bacteria often involved in the fermentation of stinky tofu. Like other lactic acid bacteria, it helps break down carbohydrates and sugars, producing lactic acid and other beneficial compounds. 
  • Bacillus spp: In some cases, Bacillus species might be involved in the fermentation of stinky tofu. These bacteria are known for their ability to produce various enzymes, contributing to the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates during the fermentation process. In simple terms? Better digestion and less bloating and constipation. Win, win!

If you can get past the smell stinky tofu can be a flavourful and nutritious addition to any diet – you may even find yourself craving the stuff! 

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