Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
2 Jan

Are You Eating These Important Supplemental Foods?

Egg YolkToday I’d like to talk about supplementation. No, not vitamins. While I obviously believe supplements of the pill, tablet and powder form variety can play a role in a healthy, modern Primal lifestyle, that’s not what I have in mind today. Instead, I’d like to take a look at supplemental foods – multivitamins provided in whole food form by mother nature (often aided and abetted by cooks, cheesemakers, farmers, ranchers, shepherds, and the like). In my estimation, there are a few absolutely essential supplemental foods that we should be eating.

Most of you are probably eating a few of these foods regularly, and some may be eating most of them, but I’d wager that none of you are eating all of them on a regular basis. Check the list, see what you’re missing, and adjust accordingly.

Egg yolks

Egg yolks are number one in my book. The way they blend effortlessly with other foods and even enrich them, and (if you get a really pastured one) provide unparalleled taste and mouthfeel when eaten straight out of the shell can’t be praised enough. The vitamin A, choline, folate, selenium, iodine, and omega-3 (again, if you get pastured) are rather nice, too. Eat egg yolks every day, just don’t smoke ’em. Yes, that was a double reference to both the egg yolk/cigarette study and Dr. Dre.


Since every animal comes with but a single liver, it’s tough to get more than a few ounces if you’re sharing with everyone else in the group. Good thing liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, so nutrient-dense that eating more than a half pound to a pound a week is probably overkill and will net you an excessive amount of certain nutrients.


Seaweed is green vegetation that’s been marinating in mineral-dense seawater for its entire life, and when you eat seaweed, you get the best source of iodine, plus magnesium, manganese, iron, and tons of other trace minerals that you might be (probably are) missing out on. Some of the healthiest traditional cultures consider seaweed a staple food, and essentially every group of coastal people utilized sea vegetables in their diets. Sprinkle kelp or dulse flakes on food, make broth using dried kombu, eat seaweed salad when you go out to eat sushi, roll up avocado and meat in nori wraps – the possibilites are many and delicious.


You might have read my old post on turmeric, thought, “Huh, interesting,” gone out for Indian that night, and never thought about it again. That’s a mistake, in my opinion, because turmeric is delicious and a true health food. It and its primary bioactive component – curcumin – have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-lipid peroxidative, blood lipid-improving, and anti-carcinogenic in human studies. Contrary to popular belief, turmeric doesn’t just go with Indian food. I often sprinkle it liberally on my eggs, meat, and vegetables, and I even make a tea out of it. So no, you have no excuse not to use more turmeric more often. Add black pepper to increase the benefits.

Bone broth

It can feel like a chore to make, but it’s really not. Get bones, cover with water, heat, strain. It only seems like a big job. Once you get going, though, it’s easy enough. Make it a routine, to make it even easier and ensure that you have bone broth on hand at all times. Just be sure to clean those pots right away; dried, obliterated skeletal matrices are tough to scrub off of stainless steel pots. As for the benefits, bone broth is a good source of minerals and gelatin. If you’ve been pounding the muscle meat, balancing the amino acid methionine out with some glycine from gelatin is advised, since methionine metabolism depletes glycine. Gelatin also improves joint pain and sleep quality. I hate the former and love the latter, so I make and drink bone broth.

Bone marrow

Bone marrow is an interesting one. It’s plainly obvious why humans and their ancestors have been seeking it out for millions of years – it’s fatty, calorie-dense, and delicious – but its nutritional value beyond macronutrients is a bit more murky. In a previous post on bone marrow, I tried to divine the specifics and came to the shaky conclusion that since marrow is actively involved in bone and connective formation and resorption, we can effectively think of it as an organ and thus assume it to be nutrient-dense. I think that still holds. No, there are no studies or nutritional databases to confirm this, but I’m going to go out on a limb and propose we consider bone marrow to be an important supplemental food.


Over a year ago, I told you guys to start eating shellfish. Did you? Well, consider this another notification that shellfish, particularly oysters and mussels, should be a regular part of your diet. Why oysters? Just four medium sized Pacific oysters supply a smattering of B-vitamins (including over 1000% of daily B12), 1200 IU of vitamin A, a third of daily folate, almost 7 mg of vitamin E, 3 mg copper, 280% of daily selenium, and 33 mg zinc. That comes with 18 g protein, 4 g fat, 1.5 g omega-3, 0.1 g omega-6, and 9 grams of carbohydrates. Why mussels? They’re also rich in B-vitamins, selenium, zinc, and protein, but also come with good amounts of magnesium and manganese. Other shellfish are also good, but probably not as important as oysters and mussels.

Aged cheese

Gouda and pecorino romano are ideal choices. Gouda is the cheese with the highest vitamin K2 content, and the longer the cheese is aged (fermented), the more K2 it picks up. Pecorino romano, by definition, must come from raw sheep’s milk grazed on lush grasses, and it must be made the traditional way – from animal rennet. The result is a salty, sharp cheese with bite, CLA, and the ability to “cause favourable biochemical changes of atherosclerotic markers.”


I know, I know. It’s soy, a legume with significant levels of phytoestrogens, phytic acid, and trypsin inhibitors. It’s got a gross, slimy texture that may be outdone only by its interesting taste. It’s soy. By most accounts, people following a Primal lifestyle shouldn’t have anything to do with it. If you asked me a couple years ago, I may have said that. But natto is a special kind of soy. It’s fermented using a particular strain of bacterium called Bacillus subtilis natto. When steamed soybeans are inoculated with b. subtilis, they are transformed from a basic legume with few redeeming qualities into a powerful supplemental food imbued with high levels of vitamin K2, a nutrient important in bone mineralization, cancer prevention, and protection from heart disease. If you’re into those sorts of things, natto is the single best source of vitamin K2.

Tiny whole fish with heads and guts

Anytime you can eat the entire animal, you should. Heck, if they were able to genetically engineer bite-sized cows, I’d be all over that (assuming they were grass-fed, of course). Until then, tiny fish with heads and guts will do the trick. I’m talking sardines. I’m talking anchovies. I’m talking smelt. I’m talking any of the fish running between a half inch and six inches long. Any longer and the guts will begin to stand out in your mouth. But if you keep to that sweet spot, you’ll get the brains, the glands (all of them), the organs, the bones, the fermenting algae, krill, and assorted sundry microscopic marine goodies tiny fish like to eat, in addition to the omega-3s and protein, without adverse flavors. Oh, and because they’re tiny and low on the food chain, tiny fish will be largely free of the heavy metals other, larger fish tend to accumulate.

Red palm oil

For the PBer who fears almonds and other nuts and seeds for the omega-6 content, vitamin E is scarce in the diet. Some would argue that vitamin E is only there to prevent oxidation of omega-6 present in foods, and there’s something to that. But still: dietary, full-spectrum vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and red palm oil is the richest source of the full-spectrum variety. It’s also a good source of CoQ10, another powerful nutrient. Oh, and it tastes good (once you get used to the unique flavor). Go for African palm oil instead of Southeast Asian, because the former isn’t produced on the backs of dead orangutans.

Brazil nuts

Selenium, selenium, selenium. This essential little mineral is woefully absent from most people’s diets, and it’s a shame: selenium is vital for thyroid hormone production, the manufacture of endogenous antioxidants, and sex hormone production. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium. Many of the previously listed foods are going to get you plenty of selenium, but brazil nuts are nice to keep around for those days when you haven’t been eating your lamb kidneys, mussels, and anchovies. Just pop two or three brazil nuts and you’ll have more than a day’s worth heading straight to your gastrointestinal tract. Easy peasy. Go for the ones in their shells if you can, since those are going to be fresher than the shelled nuts.

Speaking of brazil nuts, I’ve always wondered whether to capitalize the “b” or not. Any thoughts?

Purple/blue foods (sweet potatoes, berries, vegetables)

As I’ve said before, bright colors in plants often indicate the presence of potent polyphenols – bioactive compounds found in plants. No bioactive color has been more studied and lauded than the blue/purple anthocyanins, which are linked to anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, and anti-carcinogenic effects and can pretty much be found in any blue or purple fruit, vegetable, or tuber. So, Okinawan sweet potatoes are great sources. Blueberries, raspberries, currants, purple grapes, and blackberries are great. Red lettuce, radicchio, and purple cabbage, cauliflower, kale, tomatoes, and carrots are also rich with anthocyanins. If it’s purple or blue and edible, it’s probably worth eating.

Fermented food

Since modern medicine is steadily unearthing new connections between the gut microbiome and a host of health and disease states, we know we should pay attention to our gut flora. I can’t tell you to go eat dirt and stamp around barefooted in parasite-ridden water (even though both may theoretically have their benefits), but I can tell you to eat a mix of fermented foods. You’ve got your yogurts, your kefirs, your sauerkrauts, your kimchis, your (aforementioned) nattos, your beet kvasses, your kombuchas. Benefits include more numerous and more bioavailable nutrients, new nutrients, new genetic material for your gut flora to acquire, and membership into a tens of thousands of years-old fermented food appreciation Meetup group with billions of members from every culture that came before us. In other words, gut flora is important, everyone who’s anyone regularly ate fermented food, and you should too.

So, how’d you do? Does this look familiar to you? Are you eating these foods, or are you missing out? Let me know in the comment section, and be sure to mention any foods I might have missed. Thanks and have a great day!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great post! Yup, capitalize Brazil in Brazil nuts. 😉 But be sure to let everyone know to get rid of those anti nutrients by soaking then drying them plus they taste even better done the WAPF way. They are a lot easier to digest done that way also.

    Mikki wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  2. I’d just add a note of caution about seaweed and shellfish for 4 reasons–mercury (recognized for some time now), Corexit and oil pollution from the Macondo spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the antibiotics given farm-raised fish, and ongoing radiation from Fukishima. I think it’s now vital to know where your fish and shellfish is coming from.

    Andrew wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  3. Anchovies and sardines are safe to eat as entire fish, but it is not safe to consume the internal organs or intestines of many fish. People clean fish after catching them for good reason! Unrefrigerated fish can become toxic. Do your homework before eating whole fish and before harvesting fish or seafood from the wild. Seafood that’s safely harvested and processed is good for you. Other fish or seafood may not be, so buy from reputable producers. I love shellfish myself, as well as some finned fish like cod, salmon, halibut and so on. And anchovies and herring, not so big on sardines. I’ve eaten freshwater fish and saltwater fish, and live in an area that has red tides, where shellfish periodically become toxic due to overgrowth of a certain algae. It’s good to expose yourself to new foods and tastes, but don’t make yourself sick by doing it unwisely.

    JoAnn wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  4. I have heard that 70% of Brazil nuts have molds. I try to get my selenium from mushrooms and other foods.

    Miss Understood wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • What’s the difference between mould and fungus?

      Madama Butterfry wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  5. What is primal about cows? I’m not trying to be a smart-ass or anything, I’m genuinely curious. Seems to me they should not be considered as a food source, even grass-fed ones.

    Cody Martin wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • What’s your take on why they should not be considered primal? Are farmed chickens, etc, food sources? Domestic cattle are just friendly, dumb bison. :)

      Amy wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  6. When it comes to liver, many love chicken liver..
    As a liver hater since childhood, with Mark’s recommendation, I’m going to get some at WFs.
    Any suggestions on best cooking method?
    and how much is considered a “serving” for a man..?

    Warren Carnell wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  7. OK, who are you and what have you done with Mark? Advocating grass-fed GMO mini-cows? Really?

    What’s next…pastured GMO Big Ass eggs? Fermented GMO franken-bacon?

    Jeff wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  8. Wow, nice list! I’m getting a lot of these already: eggs for breakfast, bone broth from leftover turkey and duck, canned oysters and sardines as a snack, homemade giblet gravy (and I’m just a liver lover in general), purple potatoes on occasion, and a restaurant served bone marrow as a special appetizer and it was so amazing that I can get on board with eating more!

    I can’t do the cheese thing; two years of trial-and-error tell me that it’s probably the hormones in the fat that gives me painful cystic acne. Seriously, after two weeks of eating Kerrygold butter that I clarified and strained through cheesecloth, I still broke out. Blech. My husband, who is quick to point out when I overreact, will quickly point out that I’m not overreacting when I say I can’t eat full-fat dairy anything!

    I’ll work on adding seaweed to my diet, since I love it anyway, and I have some home-fermented beets that need some love; probably time to make some sauerkraut, too. I guess maybe it’s time to hop on the Brazil nut train, too.

    I’m not ready to jump on the natto train. I don’t even know where to buy it, but I’ve seen pictures of it and think it looks so unbelievably disgusting. And I’ll try almost anything once.

    Deanna wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • “I’m not ready to jump on the natto train. I don’t even know where to buy it, but I’ve seen pictures of it and think it looks so unbelievably disgusting. And I’ll try almost anything once.”

      Me neither. 😉 Anytime I see soy, I think “no real food available”. Natto sounds like an awesome way to supplement a meat/vegetable poor diet. But I have both available. And how much K2 do I need exactly anyway? And it sounds like the real benefits are from eating the bacteria, not the soy slurry it grows in. Is there anyway to just eat the bacteria and be done with it?

      Amy wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  9. I am still new to this PB way of thinking but I’m loving it so far! Thanks Mark for this list as it confirms that I am on the right track! I eat about 50% off the list but I have no idea what natto is (nor where to get it – I live in South Australia); we can get fresh sardines here plus numerous other small whole fish too; I keep and breed my own chickens, turkeys etc so always have a supply of good free-range eggs and when I cull them, I use most of the giblets for myself (my family gag at the mere thought!). Love offal – esp liver and shellfish so will up the intake on that a little more! One question though – the bone broth – what the heck do you do with it? Are you drinking it or using it as a base stock for stews/soups? Like I said, I am a newbie, so there is much to learn!

    Sharon Butler wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • OK – just found the related article about bone broth! Strike question from above! DOH!

      Sharon Butler wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  10. I found the following article complements yours perfectly, but is a little more technical.
    He doesn’t mention bone marrow specifically but does mention the importance of bone soup. Just thought you might be interested.

    Terry wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  11. I realize that many other food items could be on your list. What about coconut oil?

    Marybeth wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  12. Anyone try a hydrolized collegen supplement in a pinch when you dont have any bone broth whipped up?

    Adam wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  13. What about curcumin suppliments? I started taking 500mg about 3 years ago. My brother recommended it. We both suffered from RSI, hands & arms, from too much computer. 2-3 days later the pain started to subside. A few weeks & I was pain free.

    Any time I’ve stopped, the pain returned, usually in a week or two. What an amazing anti-inflammatory!

    Bruinwar wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  14. Questions about bone broth- In the early stages, should you skim the foam off? That’s what I’ve done in the past following conventional beef stock recipes, but wasn’t sure if it’s different for making “bone broth” (I think the foam is mostly protein). At the end stage, how thoroughly do you strain it? I removed all the bones and big pieces of meat, but left in the little bits, and the gritty stuff at the bottom. Did I do it right, or wrong?

    sinic wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • Skim the junk off as it heats. Strain it through a sieve in to a jar or glass jug and fridge it up.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  15. What about sprouts?? Broccoli sprouts are supposed to be very nutritious aren’t they?

    Emily wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  16. This Japanese girl is so happy to see NATTO on this list. As a kid our mom always mixed NATTO, raw eggs, soy sauce and served over a bowl of rice. If you don’t do rice, eat it over spaghetti squash or grilled eggplant.
    But beware, the stuff stinks. Don’t eat it in the lunch room at work!!

    trinity wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  17. That depressed and possibly sent me over the edge…I am not going to be healthy if I have to eat all that stuff. Sorry to be negative but I’m just realistic.

    Kim Belling wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • Have you read his books or have a basic understanding of the paleo lifestyle? If not, then I suggest reading a few books and scouring his blog, tons of useful information to be had for free. If you are already paleo then I don’t understand your thoughts behind your comment.

      sharon wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Sound like a bread-eater to me.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  18. I can’t handle soy at all. However, I have been able to add in the Vitamin K2 from grass-fed butter.

    Bone marrow is wonderful, hot out of the oven with salt, pepper and garlic.

    James wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  19. I do not like liver, seaweed, fish, shellfish, or bone marrow. I think I would enjoy making my own bone broth. Natto is too funky, so I take it in high-quality capsule form. I’ve read that it gobbles up the plaque in the blood vessels and veins in about 24 hours. I use only one bottle a year. I use it daily until it is all gone.

    Edith Masters wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  20. Cheese is great. Brazil nuts = great. Liver is … to a degree .. great. Have chickens so I eat the whole thing – fried, scrambled, boiled, etc.

    I’m really good with it until – shell fish. fish in general are ok. shell fish like crawdad, shrimp, mussels . . . Nope. cannot go there.

    But coool on the most of it.

    SassyTxn wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  21. The Stokes purple sweet potato is even more purple than the Okinawan sweet potato. Hard to find though.

    Diane wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  22. Do fermented foods include wine??

    Julie Chadwick wrote on January 2nd, 2013
    • I think he means fermented foods of the probiotic variety.

      Nathan wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  23. Great post. Not eating ALL, but close, plus some others I think you should add. I’d debate one of yours, too.

    For the two years that I’ve been doing Primal/Paleo (after 10 years of Atkins), I’ve had my own “daily” list, not dissimilar to yours. “An egg yolk a day keeps the doctor away” has been my mantra. Scouring stores and websites for tasty grass fed, raw milk, aged cheese is almost a hobby. My only dairy foods are, in fact, cheese, cultured ghee, and/or home made raw milk kefir every day — only GF of course. I have a sip of red palm oil and one of coconut oil each morning upon rising. In the afternoon, I always have a handful of raw soaked/sprouted nuts and seeds (I’d add these to any daily list), always including at least one or two Brazils as well as a mouthful of ruby red sauerkraut (which is both pro-biotic and anthocyanin rich). I have a half an avocado (also a list must) most days, with sardines twice a week. At least once a week I have shellfish, liver and seaweed, typically at yakiniku, but I take freeze dried whole (which I consider real food) green lipped mussels, buffalo liver, anchovies & sardines, fermented tumeric, and seaweed in capsule form every day since I can’t easily get or choke these down day after day. I take FD blueberry, kale, and pomegranate caps, too.

    I don’t have broth or marrow regularly, but I’ll see how I might segue them into my diet. As for natto, I’ve just said no to soy, but I will reconsider this K2 source since it would take 20 times as much gouda and egg yolk to get the same amount. My initial research indicates that the MK-7 in natto isn’t as useful as the others MK-4, so I might stay soy free. Heck, even my eggs are soy free!

    Kala Nui wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  24. Everything on here is delicious. I made the mistake of reading this before working out and now I’m hungry.

    RittenRemedy wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  25. Well done on the Dre reference, well done.

    Chuck wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  26. Wow. Add mushrooms to that, and you have a list of all the foods that me retch (literally). Sad. :/

    em wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  27. Pastured chicken ? Really ?
    I thought chicken ate grains. If one put some chicken on a grass field, in a few weeks, there will not be no any grass left, just dirt.
    Am I misunderstanding ?

    jean-yves barralis wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Chickens are omnivores, and will eat pretty much anything they can peck, including plants, seeds and grains, insects, their own eggs and egg shells, and even other chickens, given the chance.

      em wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  28. Sardines are really tasty when simply put in the oven with olive oil,oregano,salt/black pepper.I like to crisp em up a bit to make them more easy to eat whole.Let me tell you,the taste is AMAZING. hope you try 😛

    vlasis wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  29. 11 out of 13, I’m proud of myself :)

    Andreas wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  30. Mark, if natto is allowed, what about miso? Isn’t that fermented soja as well?

    Wilhelmina wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  31. I like peppers as a non-fructose source of vitamin C. 60% US RDA in one ounce.

    tom wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  32. Liver is the one I have a difficult time stomaching–the first time I tried it I thought it was decent, but I tried eating it about once every 1-2 weeks and got sick of it quick–as in, I cannot eat it anymore because I hate the taste! Anyone else run into this problem? Any good recipes to combat this?

    Rachael wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  33. My mother used to make us eat liver and I hated it. Haven’t had it as an adult. I just finished reading Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” and she advocates lots of liver. She says to soak it for several hours in lemon joice or yogurt before cooking to remove the bitter taste. I’m going to try that tonight and cook it in lots of ghee. Am cautiously obtimistic.

    Island Girl wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  34. This morning I made an omelette with smoked sardines in olive oil, shredded cabbage, tumeric and black pepper. Fabulous!

    mars wrote on January 3rd, 2013

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