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. Lived in Japan for 16 years with my Japanese wife and did natto all kinds of ways that Japanese found odd: my favorite is natto with avocado, kim chee and a hard cheese. It is also very good mixed with fresh diced tomatoes. The traditional natto gohan (natto and rice) is good but with some grilled onions and the other things I mentioned it is even better.

    Dirk wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  2. Great list Mark! The only thing I can’t “do” is the Seafood stuff. I wish I could. My wife loves it too. But I just can’t stand it.

    I have prepared seafood probably 2000 different ways and have tried in in over 30 countries and every time I have any, I feel sick to my stomach.

    But for most people, this list is great.

    Karma of VeganNIghtmares wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  3. AWESOME post Mark!! Thank you!!

    ella wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  4. Great list.

    I opened my new Consumer Reports today and it covers the PALEO diet!! WTF. I guess it’s MAINSTREAM.

    When I began this, I didn’t know a soul eating this way. How intresting it’s been to see all the others out there doing this.

    Elizabeth Good wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  5. I read somewhere a while back (perhaps in Sam Graci’s book “The Food Connection” – OUTSTANDING book) that one thing the longest living groups of humans had in common was that they ate formented food. I have been primal for quite some time but do like to add miso to soups once in a while. Can’t get too hung up on eating a bit of soy-based food! Happy New Year (with capital N & Y) to everyone!

    Mark Cruden wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  6. Becareful with those brazil nuts. One nut will supply you with 174% of your daily requirement of selenium.

    Google selenium toxicity brazil nuts

    Randy Stimpson wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  7. I have loved Brazil nuts since I was a kid. I’d pick them out and eat them from the mixed nuts before anything else.

    I wonder how much K2 might be in low (and slow) pasteurized grass fed cream top whole milk? I have a local source for this, so this is what I get.

    Jane wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  8. Cultured butter/buttermilk counts as fermented, no?

    It’s SO easy to make, using RAW unpasturized creams.
    Otherwise add 1/3 C of excellent yogurt.

    Let creams sit at approx. 78′ in an openmouthed cloth covered jar for 48 hours.
    Put it in the fridge if necessary, till you get to it; however let the cream come back to room tem before ‘churning.’
    I’ve used the flatdisk attachment on my stick hand blender at high speed.
    Takes awhile over 5 min.; but you can see the seperation ‘bits’ very well on the mixers ‘stem’ to determine the buttermilk seperation from the butter.
    You may have even done this process by accident once or twice making whipped cream.
    Use ‘your’ own method to achieve the seperation of the buttercream from the buttermilk.
    Then strain the mix into four layers of cheesecloth, over a handheld strainer over a large bowl, and this buttermilk collected is excellent as the cream in your scrambled eggs, gravies, and steak sauces, especially with mushrooms and onions ;D
    Important step is to take your soft freshly drained buttercream gently by the cheesecloth corners and squeeze very gently, but not so much so that the butter also comes out, and gently rinse under coolish water till it runs clean.
    I’ve got wooden molds I’m trying, however you need to soak them in cold water for awhile so the butter will come out, especialy if they’re carved.
    Also, the cultured butter you’ve made is an excellent medium for deviled eggs, instead of mayonaise, or creamcheese, or whatever. It’s a perfect match, try it.

    Lucille wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  9. I’m concerned about pollution in mussels and oysters.

    Joann wrote on January 4th, 2013
  10. Have you ever tried canned Portugues or Morrocan sardines? they are a bit more expensive but worth it.
    I also love Liver, I cook it with bacon and lots of onions. for those of you that do not like the texture of it; place this same recipe in a blender and make the most delish pate…enjoy !! :-)

    normag wrote on January 4th, 2013
  11. Amen to all of these foods, kind of…

    Egg yolks being #1 – I’m all over that and have felt this for months.

    One of many simple things that is a detrimental factor to our disease epidemic is millions of folks eating egg whites without egg yolks.

    Thankfully the tide is turning in a favorable matter. It seems so at least…

    Primal Toad wrote on January 4th, 2013
  12. Used to eat sardines as a kid years ago and lost the taste for them somewhere along the way. Think I’ll give them another chance :)

    mike wrote on January 4th, 2013
  13. Good stuff. A few cautions:
    1. Egg yolks. Don’t cook them. Don’t blend them (with air). Let the chickens eat bugs, too.
    2. Seaweed. Powerfully alkalinizing, which can be a problem in hypometabolic people. If you get tired, brain fogged, migraines, or asthma attacks, raise your metabolic rate before eating much seaweed).
    3. Bone marrow. Test your serum ferritin every 5 years.
    4. Aged cheeses. Need to know more about rancid fat and cholesterol oxides.
    5. Red palm oil. Too much beta-carotene. Use with moderation.
    Keep up the good work! —Steve

    Steven Fowkes wrote on January 4th, 2013
  14. Don’t go crazy on Brazil nuts. It can cause selenium poisoning, and yes going over 4 a day can do the trick to really get the hurt on.

    George Mounce wrote on January 5th, 2013
  15. WoW Mark, you’re great.

    We need a Mark Sisson in Italy too.

    Please come to visit us soon!!

    Gabriele wrote on January 6th, 2013
  16. How do you get your marrow? In your diet. You touched on it probably being of benefit, but how exactly do you supplement with it?

    Jenna wrote on January 6th, 2013
  17. I eat all of these things with the exception of cheese (can’t do dairy), bone broth (well, I’ve done fish bone broth) and natto… Hands down my favorite is tiny whole fish with head and guts with a cracked whole egg on top! 😉

    GiGi wrote on January 6th, 2013
  18. If you capitalize Brussels, you should capitalize Brazil :)

    Alexandria wrote on January 7th, 2013
  19. Not everyone can enjoy turmeric. It gives me horrible hives. This is completely outside of curry or spice mixes with nightshades. Turmeric in coconut milk made me practically itch my skin off in one night…

    Robbie wrote on January 7th, 2013
    • I feel you :( I love turmeric, but my body sure doesn’t.

      pat wrote on January 8th, 2013
  20. Great post! I’m slowly trying to add these into my diet, just made my first batch of bone broth! I have a question about the oysters, I am not a fan, how can you cook/incorporate them to mask the taste while still benefiting from the nutrients? If I can eat them with bacon I am sold!

    Jess wrote on January 7th, 2013
    • I know I’m late to the party, but: oysters Kilpatrick! Bake ’em on the shell with chopped up bacon and a smear of Paleo BBQ sauce. Most delicious thing ever.

      Phoenix wrote on February 15th, 2013
  21. Shellfish and bottom feeders in particular contain excessive cadmium, mercury and other toxic metals. Please avoid all shellfish, forever, as the problem is just getting worse in most nations of the world. Once again, they are not bad foods if they are processed correctly, but the toxic metal levels are incredible at times. This is why many people are “allergic” to them. This is a mild term. They are really poisoned by them.

    David Marino wrote on January 7th, 2013
  22. Wish I could egg yolks, cheese or turmeric. Intolerant to all of ’em.

    Got most of that list down, tho. WOO!

    pat wrote on January 8th, 2013
  23. I do not eat fish of any kind because of the high mercury content. I do think garlic should be on the list, it has many healing properties and is easy to grow. Somebody mentioned that they don’t eat natto because people are cutting down the rainforest to make it. It’s made from soybeans, which are grown plenty here in in other places around the world. You can make your own, cheap. Just mix a tablespoon of natto with some other food and cover up the taste with some soy sauce, the health benefits are worth it. I also think cantaloupe should be on there….full of vitamins.

    Judie McMath wrote on January 9th, 2013
  24. What about Beets? Lots of color and it seems to do good things for my blood pressure. Just get 2 or 3 organic ones wash don’t peel. Shred on a box grater, make sure you put on some old cloths when doing this operation as color goes everywhere. After shredding is done mix with raw apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and salt to taste. Keeps well in the fridge.

    Andrew Petrucci wrote on January 13th, 2013
  25. dead orangutans.??? please tell me more
    Go for African palm oil instead of Southeast Asian, because the former isn’t produced on the backs of dead orangutans.

    Read more:

    star wrote on January 27th, 2013

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