10 Nutrient Optimizing Tips for the Primal Enthusiast

You’re reading a blog about nutrition. You’re clicking links to scientific studies and abstracts. You’re in deep. You obviously care about the quality of the food you eat and the effect it has on your health.

But you also know that perfect is a myth. We can’t achieve it, and if we think we can and spend all our time obsessing over perfection, we usually subvert our own goals. Perfection becomes the enemy. But better is always within reach, and today I’m going to give you a few ways to improve your nutrient intake and make your food healthier and safer. Who’s in?

I’ve already discussed optimizing your meat intake and given you tips for cooking eggs. Today will be more far-reaching. Here are 10 tips for quickly and painlessly improving the nutrient quality of your food.

Safer scrambled eggs

Eggs are in many ways the perfect food. Almost every dietary ideology allows their consumption, whether it’s vegetarian, standard American, Primal, or carnivore. Even a low-fatter can slip a few in and stay under the threshold. And I’d argue that vegans should consider raising their own chickens in a loving environment for the eggs.

But what about the oxidized cholesterol? We now know that cholesterol isn’t a bad thing to eat, and it can even provide benefits, but oxidized, fully-damaged cholesterol is an issue. When you scramble an egg, you’re introducing heat and oxygen while increasing the surface area of the yolk exposed to those oxidative forces.

But scrambled eggs are great. And while I’m pretty sure regular scrambled eggs are perfectly fine to eat, there is a better way:

  1. Separate the whites and yolks.
  2. Scramble the whites first.
  3. Once they’re close to finished, add the yolks and briefly scramble.

You get scrambled eggs with runny yolks, intact cholesterol, and fully cooked whites.

More nutritious rice

Years ago, I offered a mea culpa: rice isn’t all that bad actually. In fact, it’s fairly inoffensive, if somewhat lacking in nutrition. Rice can be a useful, safe source of starch for people who need to replenish glycogen stores after a workout. But let’s face it. White rice is basically pure glucose. What if there were a way to dress it up a bit?

Consider this two-parter idea….

First, use mineralized cooking water or bone broth. What I do is dump a half teaspoon to a teaspoon or so of Trace Mineral Drops into the cooking liquid, along with some kelp granules for the iodine (or sometimes a drop of liquid iodine) and a little butter, olive oil, or coconut oil. If you have some leftover mineral water, you can use this too. The end result is high in magnesium, iodine, and various other trace minerals. Most water consumed throughout human history was high in minerals, so this is just emulating that ancestral milieu.

Second, make your rice ahead of time and refrigerate it before use for at least 12 hours. This increases the resistant starch content of the rice. Not to cooked and cooled potato levels, but it’s significant enough to reduce the amount of digestible glucose available.

Low-acrylamide, high-resistant starch fries

French fries are good. Don’t lie, folks. A crispy potato is incredible. But as they’re commonly found, they’re awful for you—the rancid oil used to fry them, the high-heat carcinogens formed, the lack of any fiber at all. Luckily, there’s a way to make healthier, (IMO) better French fries.

  1. Bake, boil, or steam a bunch of potatoes a day in advance.
  2. Peel and refrigerate them overnight in an open container.
  3. Cut into fries.
  4. Sauté in oil of your choice.
  5. Toss in salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you like.

Since they’re already cooked, you just need to sear the sides and develop a crust. You can have crispy, creamy French fries in about 8 minutes (minus the previous day’s cooking time) that haven’t been exposed to enough heat for a long enough time to develop acrylamide and oxidize the cooking fats. Plus, the cooked and cooled potatoes provide resistant starch to feed your gut bacteria and reduce the amount of glucose you absorb.

Instant pan sauce

I love reducing a quart of bone broth down to a syrup, swirling in some cold butter, and making a luscious, velvety sauce as much as anyone, but I don’t always have the time.

Keeping a can of gelatin powder on hand works almost as well. You don’t get the essence of the roasted bones and veggies that go into a good broth, but you do get as much collagen as you want. Just shake a tablespoon or two into the pan in a thin layer across the top as the liquid cooks, and whisk until smooth.

Instant bone broth

Say you’re making clam chowder, and you’ve only got boxed chicken stock. Or you’re doing veggie soup, and all you have is some weird veggie broth. The real thing would be great, but you simply don’t have it. Luckily you do have powdered gelatin.

Mix some powdered gelatin with cold water—enough to bloom it. Let it sit for 5 minutes, and stir it into the hot soup. There: impromptu bone broth.

Save stems and trimmings

Every time you prepare vegetables, you’re throwing stuff away. You’re tossing the ends of asparagus and carrots. You’re eating the leafy part of the kale and discarding the stemmy sections. You’re composting potato peels, onion skins, tomato pith. Stop doing it, and start eating them.

Well, maybe not eat them directly. All those bits contain nutrients, but they’re not exactly appetizing. Freeze all the veggie trimmings as you produce them. If you’re ever making bone broth or soup, bring out the trimmings and add a handful.

Vegetable addiction with fish sauce

Vegetables are some of the only foods everyone can agree on. They’re low-calorie, high-nutrient, high-satiety. Most research has found strong links between their consumption and copious health benefits. “Eat lots of plants and animals,” as I’ve always said. But not everyone likes them (and I’m not just talking about toddlers).

I’ve given tips for learning to eat more vegetables before. Those are good, so you should read them. But there’s another way to make yourself enjoy vegetables (or any food, really): add umami.

Umami is the fifth flavor, providing a kind of meaty unctuousness. That’s the glutamate. To capitalize on it, add a few splashes of high quality fish sauce (I like Red Boat) to anything you want to like more. It adds a depth of flavor to any dish and doesn’t actually taste fishy. Its coolest application, however, may be as a training tool to condition people to like novel flavors. Splashing some fish sauce onto bitter greens can help just about anyone learn to enjoy them, even after the source of glutamate has been removed.

More powerful alliums

Garlic and onion (and, I guess, shallot and leek and the others) are nutrition powerhouses—not so much in terms of vitamins and minerals but because of phytonutrients with remarkable capacities for blocking inflammation and reducing oxidative stress. But there’s a simple recipe to make those phytonutrients even stronger: a little compressive force and a little patience.

Rupturing the cell walls on a clove of garlic or an onion triggers the enzymatic production of new and more potent phytonutrients. The process takes 5-10 minutes, so wait about that long after smashing, chopping, or dicing your alliums to begin eating or cooking with them.

Liver sausage

Liver is the great white whale for many Primal eaters. They know they’re supposed to be eating it, but they can’t figure out how. I understand. Liver goes bad pretty quickly in the fridge. It’s tricky to cook without ruining the texture. It’s messy. That’s why you should let someone else handle it for you.

Next time you’re at your local butcher, ask if they’ll make a custom set of sausages that contain liver for you. In my experience, they will. I recommend a pork breakfast sausage with 20% chicken liver subbed in for some of the pork meat. That’s an easy way to get your liver, and chicken liver is mild enough that you probably won’t notice.

Prefer lamb? Have them slip 15% lamb liver into merguez sausage. Beef? Do 15% beef liver within a spicy Italian sausage. And so on.

Offer to buy in bulk (say, 10 pounds or so), and they’ll likely accommodate the request.

Yolks as thickeners

Ounce for ounce, egg yolks trump all other sources of fat when it comes to nutrient density. There simply isn’t any other argument. But yolks aren’t as easy to use as, say, olive or avocado oil. You can’t sauté in egg yolk. You can’t just pop one out of the fridge and eat it.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate more yolks into my diet is to add them to sauces and curries at the end of cooking. The lecithin contained in the yolk is a great thickener. You’re getting tons of nutrients without subjecting the yolk to an hour of cooking, and it lends a velvety richness.

Two yolks added to your tomato basil spaghetti sauce after it comes off the heat? Incredible.

So, those are my 10 tips for general nutrition improvement today. What about you? How have you learned to enhance or preserve the nutrient content of your Primal meals?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.

TAGS:  cooking tips

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.

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46 thoughts on “10 Nutrient Optimizing Tips for the Primal Enthusiast”

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  1. I found a way to eat liver. I make a salad with lots of romaine, a quarter pound of liver cut in very small chunks, chopped red bell pepper, 1 – 2 tablespoons of curry or chili powder and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix it all together and it is pretty good. I think the key is chopping the liver into very small pieces so that one forkful of salad does not overwhelm you with the taste of liver.

    1. I cut up liver while it’s still frozen and put it in a freezer bag with lemon juice in the fridge to defrost. Then I sauté cut up pieces of bacon, add the liver and lightly cook. With some optional chopped onions. The more bacon you have, the better it tastes.

    2. The way you eat liver sounds similar to a recipe i was introduced to by an Egyptian friend. His Alexandrian Style Liver, cooked and put over caulirice or in a salad, is heavenly!

  2. egg yolks in turmeric tea are pretty good too. Add at the end and blitz it in the blender

    1. Not sure if one is really better, but hydrolyzed collagen mixes easily in cold liquid, and doesn’t turn it into gel. Gelatin works really well in hot liquids, and for making neat snacks and desserts when heated and chilled.

      1. I think they are both great. Have heard that gelatin may be a little more effective with healing gut issues, and collagen is better absorbed for skin, hair and nails. The overall firmness of my skin has increased tremendously by using collagen on a daily basis. I also find the collagen really easy to incorporate into things, since it mixes into any type of liquid. But use whatever you already have…they’re both great.

  3. Liver: If you’re brave enough, eat it raw as a smoothie. I add coconut milk, a handful of blueberries, and cinnamon t a half pound of liver, and blend. It’s surprisingly delicious, and without the bandaid-y flavor of cooked liver.
    If you cook (beef, lamb, or bison) liver, cook it to the doneness of a perfect steak – no more than medium rare. This avoids the textures and flavors most people are turned off by.

    1. “Bandaid-y flavor”: Hah! YES! But I do want to say, be careful with the raw liver, friends. I was a raw-liverer for a while, and I really felt the benefits in energy. That is, until I used raw chicken liver in my smoothie (instead of my accustomed beef) and was felled by a vicious Campylobacter infection. I figured I was safe because the liver had been frozen for three weeks before I consumed it, but those buggers are resilient. It took a month and two rounds of antibiotics to knock out the infection, and I’m still suffering the lingering after-effects more than a year later. Today, I just bear the bandaid-iness.

  4. Love the fries idea, but why peel? There’s nutrition in them peels, right? Or was my dad lying to me all those years?

    1. I agree! Fries with peels are better for you. Vitamins and minerals are right under the peel, and the peels supply fiber, too. I make mine in bacon fat (for the obvious reason!) in a castiron skillet.
      Sweet potato fries are fabulous, too! Though they are harder to handle without breaking.

    2. there is concern about the solanine (neurotoxin) in potato peels, even when they are not green. More cultivated varieties have very little (Russet, etc.), but heirloom types (fingerlings, for example) have quite a bit. Most people seem able to detox moderate amounts, but some folks have joint issues from nightshades for this reason. I read that every indigenous potato-eating culture peels their potatos, which is another indicator. So, I keep my sweet tater peels, carrot skins, etc., but compost the tater peels, especially with little kids in the house.

  5. About those fries (the SAFE ones)–when we fry them after the initial cooking and cooling for 24 hrs.,aren’t we reheating them, and changing the resistant starch to active starch (or whatever you’d call it)? In other words, would frying the fries on Day 2 undo all the pre-cooking and cooling you did the day before?

    1. Wenchy, I remember reading that the starch remains resistant after re-heating.

      1. Thank you–you just broadened my resistant starch horizons! 🙂

  6. Love all these tips! My liver tip (actually organ meats in general) is similar. I buy pastured ground beef that has 20% organ meat from a local farmer. I don’t mind the taste at all, and if you use it in any type of meat sauce or with taco seasoning, you truly can’t taste it at all. I also sneak gelatin or collagen into many things…my skin, hair and nails thank me! The scrambled egg tip is great. I’ve been enjoying poached eggs lately too. And I’m ordering fish sauce. While I have no problem eating all kinds of veggies, I keep hearing about how great this Red Boat fish sauce is. I have to give it a try!

  7. Liver is great in chili! Chopped finely it blends right in with ground beef. You won’t even taste it.

  8. I have two great ideas to add to Mark’s list:
    – Best Cream Sauce: ripe avocado and premium-quality coconut milk (about 1/4 can to one small avocado and process in food processor)
    – Saucy liver w/bacon & onions: Cook bacon and onions first and set aside. Fry strips of liver in bacon fat about 3 min each side on medium heat. Add coconut/avocado cream sauce and bacon & onions to pan until hot.

  9. Liverwurst and Braunschweiger from US Wellness meats are absolutely delicious offal sausages. Have some of their head cheese in my freeze that I haven’t gotten around to trying yet but I’m sure it’s wonderful too.

  10. I make 2 lbs. of liver (and whatever other organs I have on hand) into pate and freeze it in 1/4 lb-1/3 lb. portions and pop one out of the freezer each week to have whenever I need a boost. The fresh herbs, lard, and butter in it also pack some power.

    1. Hello,
      I was wondering if you would post your pate recipe? Thanks. I’m trying to be brave and eat more liver but would appreciate some ideas as to how to make it. Thx!

  11. Definitely going to try the first 2 tips as soon as possible…like tonight. And I’ll start saving all the veggie scraps I’ve been chucking.

  12. Is resistant starch rice possible without the addition of extra oil? The article just discusses their process for obtaining the RS, not the chemical process for RS conversion.

  13. I make resistant starch fries often. I cook and cool golf ball sized potatoes. Smash them flat with a heavy mug. Paint them with an egg wash and coat with potato starch. Then crisp them up in bacon grease or ghee. They don’t last long and are a hit when used as the base eggs Benedict. My signature dish uses smoked salmon with a blood orange hollandaise.

  14. Is there some scientific benefit to your suggestion for scrambled eggs? Or just a different way to prepare them? I’ve never heard of your way – and probably won’t do it anyway because its more work, but curious to know.

    1. Hi Kris – Because of the cholesterol content of the yolk, it’s best to get all the nutrition without exposing the yolk to too much oxidizing heat. Cooking the yolk minimally can help ensure that. Thanks for the comment.

  15. Great tips, quick question:
    If you refrigerate raw potatoes does it have the reverse effect on the resistant starch and sugar content vs. refrigerating them when they are cooked? Just curious if there is any benefit to refrigerating raw potatoes.

  16. Raising Generation Nourished (blog) has a recipe for meatloaf that incorporates liver. It also happens to be the best meatloaf I’ve ever had. I spent most of my life hating the dry, unappetizing variations I’d had, then I made this for my husband. Now we eat it 1-2 times a month when it’s cold outside. It does have rice flour in it, which I’m sure could be substituted as it’s only meant as a binder. I put tomato paste on top instead of ketchup, but I bet homemade fermented ketchup would be divine.

  17. Hi Mark, I am a regular visitor of you website and love your tips. Can you please help me with some natural products which can help in increasing vitamin D2 and B12. My husband is a vegetarian and suffering from severe deficiency of these vitamins.

  18. Mark, thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. your tips about improving nutrient quality of the food is just awesome. you nicely describes each and every aspects of the food. Congrats!

  19. I’ve been using potato starch to thicken sauces. Works better than corn starch every did, and – resistant starch.

  20. Yes, all good but wouldn’t you be negating the the resistant starch content of the cooked and cooled rice when/if you reheat it for your meal? The way I understand this RS deal is that heating abolishes the “resistance” of the starch. For instance, unmodified potato starch is rendered much less resistant to digestion. I hope that I’m incorrect about that because if I am, this would open glorious new culinary possibilities.

    1. There is no “edit” feature so I should say that I meant that the potato starch is rendered much less resistant to digestion once it is exposed to heat.

    1. Learn to poach eggs or buy a poaching pan that can do 4 at a time. Minimises cooking temp and goes nicely with a salad or piece of fish as well as being used for a traditional breakfast. Alternately boil (simmer) a couple for breakfast which leaves you free to get on with something else for a few minutes.