Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
If you’ve been living the Primal lifestyle for a while, you know that there are tons of natural, healthy foods available. But, what if there was more out there? Primal-approved foods that you haven’t tried?
The following is a playful list of 10 off-the-beaten-path Primal foods – some you’ll want to try and some you’ll probably prefer to pass on:
What’s red and red and red all over?
Although we’ve come to believe that blood is food only for the vampire set, it is actually a popular cooking ingredient in Finland, Poland and other Baltic regions. While they’re certainly not drinking the blood straight from the…uhh…source, blood is often combined with other spices and fillings to add flavor to make blood sausages and blood pudding (which, if you’re traveling to the British Isles or other parts of Europe, is often sold as black pudding). In Thailand, blood is used as a dressing in a salad and meat based dish known as laap, and in Columbia, it is sometimes used as a seasoning or base for rice dishes. In the U.S., blood is significantly more difficult to get a hold of and its consumption is banned in many religions. As such, there aren’t a ton of nutritional data or recipes that we can share, but it’s always nice to know you have options!
Buffalo… it’s what could be for dinner.
While Jessica Simpson’s assertion that “buffalo wings are made of buffalo” may have been proven untrue by her then-husband, the ex-Mrs. Lachey may have been on to something: Buffalo is perfectly primal. When compared to beef, for example, buffalo is a great source of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, since it isn’t mass-farmed, you can bet that buffalo on your plate was grass-fed and is generally free of the antibiotics and hormones often used in commercial farming.
Don’t get prickly, this isn’t a single serving size!
Feeling prickly? Then you might be interested in giving cactus, or nopales, a try. Native to Mexico, nopale leaf pads are typically harvested between the spring and the end of summer. But why eat them? Essentially, it’s like adding a new green to your vegetable repertoire – a green that, per cup, clocks in at just under 14 calories. When shopping for nopale, you’ll want to select leaves – or pads, as they are often called – that are thin and no longer than about 8 inches. To prepare, use a small paring knife to remove the spines (you might want to wear gloves for this part!). Then wash thoroughly in cool water and discard any blemished or broken parts. For truly primal preparation, grill the pads over charcoals until slightly brown and then toss with a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lime.
There’s roe need to avoid this delicacy.
Considered a delicacy, caviar is not only fancy, but also an excellent addition to the Primal eating plan. Made of fish roe (eggs) and salt, caviar is an excellent source of omega-3s – containing 1 gram per spoonful! – and a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and several B vitamins and is an excellent source of several important amino acids. Beyond throwing it on a couple of toast points (which is far from primal and sort of boring!) the new way to enjoy caviar is on a ceramic serving spoon, topped with crumbled, hard-boiled egg, chopped onion or a dab of sour cream.
This one is actually reely tasty.
Ok, so you’ve maybe had eel as part of a sashimi platter, but there are so many other ways that you can prepare and eat eel. Provided you’re not squeamish, the best way to cook eel is from fresh, meaning… uhh… alive. Yes, you can buy live eel at many farmers’ markets or good fish mongers. From there you’ll need to behead it and skin it (both of which, we’re told, is a tricky prospect but one that can be accomplished with a cleaver and a good, sharp paring knife). Once this task has been accomplished, leave the bone attached to the belly and either pan fry or braise it with soy sauce and cook it over a medium grill until flakey.
Did you know Emu’s have a whole month in America dedicated to them? Well, they do, and it’s July. So what did they do to deserve a whole month or recognition? For starters, emu is higher in protein, Vitamin C and iron than beef. In addition, emu oil is touted as one of the best moisturizers on the markets, containing anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. But let’s get back to the meat for a minute: Emu is available in ground patties, breakfast sausage or in a variety of filets or steaks. Essentially, whatever you would want to do with beef or chicken, you can do with emu! So roll on July – we’ve got something to celebrate!
Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.
Think you’ve never had escargot before? How about abalone, caracoles, queen conch, tsalingaria, ass’s ear shell, sea-ear, ormer or paua? Essentially, they’re all just fancy names for the same thing: Snail. Now, before you say eww, consider this: Snails are an excellent source of protein and an excellent source of several essential fatty acids, including linoleic acids and linolenic acids. The process of preparing the snails for cooking can be quite arduous (5 days of starving, 5 days of washing, lots of work!) but the good news is that you can usually purchase them “ready to go” at good supermarkets. Snails are delicious in vegetable-based soups, in a tomato sauce, as a stuffing in zucchini, or can even work well as a tapenade with almonds. And, of course, there’s always simple shucking them a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman…just be sure to heed her advice when she warns “they’re slippery little suckers!”
And you thought they were just for floral arrangements.
A staple of floral arrangements, very few people know that fiddlehead ferns, are actually quite tasty. Popular in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – where one town bills itself as the Fiddlehead Capital of the World – fiddleheads are low in carbs and calories, but high in iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins A and C. To cook, first remove all of the yellow and brown parts and then boil the sprouts, changing the water about half way through to reduce toxins. It should be noted that fiddlehead ferns have come under fire in recent years on account of being linked to several cases of food poisoning. To avoid a night praying to the porcelain gods, be sure that the fiddlehead ferns are cooked thoroughly.
Another one with an “eww” factor, frogs legs are exceptionally tender and almost sweet – and is said to taste “just like chicken!” Joking aside, frog legs are an excellent source of protein and are a good source of iron, as well as vitamins B1 and B2. In terms of preparation, it really depends where in the world you want to take your culinary cues from. In France, the legs are usually sautéed in butter, garlic and parsely; in China, they’re often stewed with light herbs and spices; and here in the U.S., we prefer ‘em fried. However you choose to serve them, they’re sure to spice up your recipe repertoire.
Grasshoppers and other Insects
Please don’t let this bug you.
A staple on food carts in Asian countries, grasshoppers are essentially used as a crunchy carrier for spices or dipping sauces. However, grasshoppers can also make a great addition in gumbos, stews and as a filling for enchiladas, or covered in chocolate or honey and served as dessert. Over the course of our research, we ran across the Eat-a-Bug cookbook, which includes recipes such as chocolate cricket torte, three bee salad and others – it’d be a welcome addition to any chef’s library, or a really great way to bug them (pun intended!)
Have any perfectly Primal foods that are uncommon to the average Joe’s palate? Hit us up with a comment!