If you had to subsist on ten foods for the rest of your life, which ten would you choose? That was essentially the question posed to me by a reader email. In it, Jamie made an elaborate setup: having been chosen to man a mission to Mars in the near future, I have to program my Food Machine for the trip. The Food Machine is a wondrous piece of technology that can create any Earth-based food from scratch, but the catch is that it can only store ten “recipes” and the programming has to take place before we leave. Once I’m up in the shuttle, I can’t change my mind. I’ll have to live with these foods for ten years (and maybe longer – who knows how things will go down). More than simply survive, I’ll have to thrive on these foods. I’ll have to get all the essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, so I had better get it right.
It was hard to choose. Obviously, it’s just a thought experiment, but I really tried to balance flavor/pleasure and nutritional completeness. Sticking to Primal foods, this usually takes care of itself, but, well, it’s ten years.
1. Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon with Extra Thick Skin
To me, skin-on sockeye salmon gives you two foods in one. The flesh is great stuff, no doubt – flaky, delicate, delicious – but the skin is perfection. Crispy sockeye skin is like bacon of the sea, and yet people avoid it. I don’t understand why. I go crazy for the stuff. In fact, I’m never one to eat off of others’ plates, except when skin-on salmon is served. People eat around it, they scrape the meat off, they push it aside so it hangs off the plate, forgotten. But not by me. I will eat your salmon skin if you don’t appreciate it. So, yeah. Endless amounts of salmon skin bacon? Sure, I’ll brave the red planet for that.
Salmon takes care of selenium and omega-3s, and it gets me part of the way there for vitamin D. The skin is particularly fatty and nutrient-rich.
2. Bone-In Grass-Fed Cowboy Ribeye
Nothing can replace the basic human urge to eat the occasional massive slab of animal except actually eating a big massive slab of animal, and the bone handle that comes attached to the cowboy ribeye is perfect for low-gravity situations.
It’s a great source of quality animal fat (including a modest amount of omega-3s), protein, B-vitamins, and – because the “grass” the cow “fed” on “grew” in nutrient-dense soil – minerals.
I need my cruciferous fix, and broccoli is that fix. The absorbent tops do a decent job of soaking up meat juice, sauce, and butter.
A good blackberry is good. I mean, who doesn’t like biting into a plump one and feeling all those tiny bulbs explode, releasing their juices into your mouth. Because they’re so physically imposing compared to the other berries, I can eat blackberries one at a time and be totally satisfied, whereas with really good blueberries or raspberries I find myself shoveling them in.
Blackberries are good sources of soluble fiber (gut flora food), vitamin C, and deliciousness.
6. Pasture-Raised Eggs
It came down between grass-fed lamb liver (see Honorable Mentions below) and eggs, and eggs won out. Poached, fried, baked, scrambled, hard-boiled, and even raw at times, I love eggs just about any way they’re served. And hey, they pack a healthy dose of selenium, iodine, phosphorus, molybdenum, choline, lutein, vitamins A, B2, B5, B12, E, D and K. Add to this 5.5 grams of protein per egg and essential fatty acids, and you’ve got yourself a delicious and decadent powerhouse food.
Spinach offers calcium and magnesium in spades, pairs well with meat of any kind, can be sauteed, steamed, thrown into soups, or eaten raw, and provides roughage when I’m into that sort of thing.
While there’s some concern over excessive consumption of oxalates in spinach leading to kidney stones, I won’t be eating it exclusively nor in massive quantities. I can’t say the same for the vegetarian dude who gets stuck with me as a crew member.
8. Okinawan Sweet Potatoes
I’ve really grown enamored of these purple beauties. Best of all, using the Food Machine means I won’t have to settle for those light lavender-ish “purple” yams I sometimes get at the Asian markets. Instead, I can make sure I get the deepest, purplest potatoes around.
Okinawan sweet potatoes take care of any blue-related antioxidant compounds I might be missing by skipping on blueberries.
9. Grass-Fed Greek Yogurt
I need something fermented, and I think I’d get sick of kimchi or sauerkraut after awhile, so Greek yogurt it is. But not just any regular old Greek yogurt, though Fage is a great brand. I’d program the Greek yogurt from Papa Cristos in Los Angeles, a Greek restaurant/grocer that makes their own Greek yogurt on the premises. Ironically, it’s a Bulgarian dude that actually makes the stuff, but in the Greek fashion. This is thick, rich yogurt with more tang (and therefore probiotics) than Fage.
Good Greek yogurt (not the 0% fat nonsense) is rich in healthy dairy fat. And, since this is my fantasy, this particular Greek yogurt would be made from A2 casein milk cattle raised by the Masai on fertile grassland, so I bet you’d get some vitamin K2 in there somehow.
10. Macadamia Nuts
I just ran the previous nine items through Cronometer, and I hit the RDAs with ease, so this one is pure pleasure. Macadamia nuts are perfectly nutritious – good source of monounsaturated fats, ultra low in polyunsaturated fats – but, as far as nutritional requirements go, they weren’t required. Besides, I can’t truly enjoy my Greek yogurt without macadamias and blackberries mixed in (seriously, try it; it’s insanely good).
Grass-Fed Lamb Liver – While beef liver is often described as nature’s multivitamin, lamb liver is pretty similar nutritionally but with a milder flavor. I honestly enjoy beef liver. I just think I could eat lamb liver on a regular basis, and never feel like it was a chore. Lamb liver takes care of tons of micronutrients: folate, selenium, choline, vitamin A, copper, all B-vitamins. Really it was a toss up between liver and eggs for me, and eggs won out.
Cheese – I thought about swapping out the broccoli for really great cheese but couldn’t pull the trigger. But dang, would I miss it…
Bacon – The presence of sockeye salmon skin made this an easier choice that it would have been otherwise. Sorry, bacon.
Bone Broth – While many have tried looking into the specific nutrient composition of bone broth, there has never really been a definitive answer given. Regardless, the stuff is tasty, makes a nice warm drink for those cold Mars winters, and definitely contains something worthwhile. I’m not talking your standard variety six-hour bone broth, mind you. I’m talking three-day epic bone-disintegrating broth with Sally Fallon herself manning the stock pot while being presided over by the spirit of Weston A. Price. Broth that solidifies at room temperature. Broth that doubles as shoe-gel inserts. Broth that, though nutritious and satisfying, still didn’t break into the top ten.
Other Berries – I love all berries, usually equally, but blackberries got my vote today because I’ve been wolfing them down and they’ve been particularly good this season. Ask me in a couple weeks and I might say raspberries.
Cabernet Sauvignon – I wasn’t sure if I had to include this in the foods or if I could sneak it in with the water. If not, I might end up swapping out the nuts for the wine. Eh, since this is a thought experiment, I’ll just go ahead and think that the latter is true.
So, that’s me, but what about you? Which ten foods would you program into the Food Machine to be eaten exclusively for the rest of your life? How would you ensure that you both survive and thrive on a diet of only ten foods? Let us know in the comment section!
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.