9 Trends of Primal Interest

Magnifying glass over trends to watch textI get a lot of industry news. I eat out a fair bit. I talk to people whose job it is to spot and track health trends. I’m privy to some of the greatest, most innovative minds in the alternative health community—my readers. And you guys are always sending me interesting links. Today, I’m going to discuss some trends of Primal interest. I might poke fun at some of them, and others might be relatively small-scale, but even the silly or minor ones point to interesting movements in the health and fitness zeitgeist.

So, what are the 9 I’m highlighting today?

Experiences over Things

In 2015, I wrote about the dichotomy of value between experiences and things, pointing to research suggesting that buying experiences brings more joy and meaning to a person’s life than buying material objects. I explained how our hunter-gatherer evolution probably wired us to get more out of experiences, and I dug a bit into my own opinion on the matter.

People appear to be agreeing with me. Millennials in particular are choosing things like travel and dining out over gear and gadgets. And the material objects people are consuming enable experiential living—smartphones, fitness trackers, and such. Even media consumption is shifting away from ownership of music and movies to on-demand services like Spotify and Netflix.

Eating Root-to-Leaf

Nose-to-tail eating has taken off. Previously arcane bits like sweetbreads, liver, tripe, marrow, and kidney are on menus everywhere, and few people bat an eye anymore. It’s normal.

Eating root-to-leaf means considering the edibility of the entire plant. More often than not, we’re throwing away a large amount of digestible, nutrient-dense flora.

Broccoli crowns are amazing, but did you know you can eat the leaves? Broccoli leaves are some of my favorite. This also works for Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and celery.

It means eating roots and their greens, whether it’s a carrot, a beet, a rutabaga, or a turnip. When the guy at the farmer’s market asks if you want him to “twist off the leaves,” say “absolutely not.”

Even things like lemon, orange, or grapefruit rinds can be grated, pickled, or processed to extract the flavonoids.

Artisanal Wilderness Retreats

Outfits are taking young professionals on carefully curated excursions into the wild. Check out this video from Wilderness Collective documenting their maiden trip. Yes, it’s overwrought. Yes, it’s a bit silly and a little too perfect. But it’s satisfying a real need people have: spending unbroken days immersed in natural settings.

Walking the dog in the park before work is better than nothing. Putting up a Yosemite wallpaper on your laptop is nice (and may even have an effect). Actually spending 5 nights camping out and trekking through Yosemite is nicer and far more real, even if you’ve got a Michelin-starred chef flambéing flat iron steaks for you at dinnertime.

Movement, Not Just Exercise

There’s growing awareness of the importance and primacy of frequent—constant, if you can—low-level movement. Developments like fitness trackers, walking clubs at the workplace, the rise of standing workstations (pun intended), the bi-monthly article railing against the dangers of sitting too much, the concept of “exercise snacks,” (mini workouts done throughout the day) and the constant recommendations that people walk at least 10,000 steps a day suggest that the word has gotten out. Folks like Katy Bowman (of Don’t Just Sit There fame) have played a huge role in furthering, explicating, and refining the message.

Formal, dedicated training isn’t going anywhere. Nor should it. The stuff plain works. But it works better atop a foundation of constant low-level movement.

Health and Wellness Tourism

I’m not talking about jetting off to Costa Rica for dental work, or Thailand for a sex change operation. I’m talking about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, or maybe the Appalachian Trail, or even flying to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago, or to Turkey to do the Lycian Way. Kickboxing camps in Chiang Mai, Inca Trail maintenance at Machu Picchu, WWOOFing.


Right now, we know a few things about the interactions between specific genetic variants and certain foods, activities, and environmental inputs. But biology is probably the most complex system in the universe. We’re missing a ton.

It’s also getting better. Scientists continue to unmask, identify, and catalogue new variants and their effects—and how what you eat and how you train affects them. A product I used and enjoyed, DNA Fit, and similar ones will only get better, more accurate, and more comprehensive.

Monetization of Recovery Days

With all the CrossFitting, Tough Muddering, Olympic lifting, and other training people are doing, they’re finally beginning to wise up to the role recovery days play in fitness. But rather than only rely on time off and sleep, they’re spending big bucks on the best recovery money can buy. Float tanks (rich in magnesium sulfate epsom salts; the sensory deprivation activates but ultimately helps you tame the monkey mind), cryotherapy chambers (ultra-cold therapy), mobility tools that help you stretch and perform self-myofascial release.

Yes, this can get expensive. This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always argued for more rest and relaxation and recovery, and the consensual exchange of money for services indicates that consumers of cryotherapy, float tanks, mobility/self-myofascial-release products are clearly getting something out of the exchange.

The Rise of Purple Food

Used to be you could only get a big whack of the all-important purple anthocyanins from a cup of blueberries. That’s changing. There’s purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple sweet potatoes, purple regular potato, purple asparagus, purple corn, black rice. These aren’t recent creations. Purple/black varieties of produce have been around for decades. They’re becoming more prominent though. All that purple doesn’t make up for the loss of Prince, but it’s probably good for our insulin sensitivity and cognitive function.

Cellular Agriculture

Tech companies’ recent forays into food haven’t gone very well, but cellular agriculture could be a game changer. To grow a piece of beef in the lab, they culture stem cells taken from a piece of beef off an actual living cow. Tender cuts (filets) are harvested earlier, tougher cuts (chuck) are harvested later.

The most prominent cellular agriculture company, Memphis Meats, hopes to have its stem cell-grown “clean” chicken and pork on store shelves by 2021. They’ve already got a working meatball for people to taste.

Will it save us?

That remains to be seen. The “cultured meat” evangelists who decry the climactic impact of ruminants always overlook the vital role holistically-grazed livestock play in maintaining soil health, re-greening land, and building carbon sinks. What other “alternative” benefits of eating and raising traditional will they miss? If they try to “optimize” the fatty acid content of a stem-cell ribeye by excising the saturated fat and bumping up the linoleic acid, I will be very upset (but not very surprised).

If the technology gets cheap enough, we’ll probably be able to grow our own at home to whichever specifications we like. Bump up the vitamin K2, omega-3, collagen, zinc, and so on. That could be cool. Whatever the supposed benefits, if it doesn’t taste and behave just like good meat I’m not interested.

That’s it for me, folks. What about you? What are the trends you’re watching for? Which are the trends you’ve adopted? Let me know down below, and thanks for reading!


TAGS:  Hype, mobility

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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26 thoughts on “9 Trends of Primal Interest”

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  1. My mom used to like sweetbreads and pickled pigs feet, which the rest of us wouldn’t eat. She would also make oxtail stew occasionally, which we all liked. I can’t remember the last time I saw any of those items in the grocery stores. Some of the nose-to-tail foods that used to be readily available years ago aren’t anymore.

    1. I can get oxtails at just about all my local grocers, but they cost about the same per pound as striploin. I thought the cartilaginous bits were supposed to be cheap.

    2. Thanks guys. Good to know. I guess I haven’t looked hard enough.

  2. Well, the cellular agriculture section sounds like the harbinger to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake…not so sure I’m looking forward to that being a reality! But gotta give props to the Lycian Way! I did one week of that trail, and it was one of the most amazing weeks of my life!

  3. Mark, while I totally agree with eating nose to tail and now root to leaf, are there some plant parts we should truly avoid? I ate rhubarb leaves as a young child and after a rather unpleasant trip to the hospital as a result, I now know to avoid all parts of rhubarb except for the stems. That would be a useful upcoming article, I’d think. I never know if things like carrot leaves or kale stalks are edible (or if I’d even want to eat them).
    Purple vegetables? Yay! Cultured meat? Yuck. I’ll stick with the natural biological cycle stuff, even if I have to cut back due to cost and land issues.

    1. Any part of the tomato plant except the fruit is toxic and can kill you. One does have to be *careful*.

    2. I love broccoli leaves but find carrot greens inedible -just chew and chew and chew then give up and spit them out.

  4. Root to leaf works if the root to the leaf are edible. On many species they are not and since roots tend to encounter different environments and pets than leaves they can have different chemicals. Violets are a good example: The blossom, stem and leaves are edible but not the root. Native Americans used the root as insect repellant in their hilled crops. And there is a tree I know in which the berries make a good spice but the roots induce labor. By all means eat root to leaf… if the entire plant is edible.

  5. I just tried purple sweet potatoes for the first time this winter and was totally hooked! I’m trying to get better at eating root to leaf (just had some sauteed radishes along with their greens this morning with breakfast!)

  6. Re nutrigenomics: I don’t know if anyone has tried StrateGene, recommended by (I think) Chris Masterjohn.

    1. I’m looking into StrateGene right now myself.
      Robb Wolf also has a great new book out about how we can all see individually how every carb effects us. Check it out.

  7. Speaking of purple food: Indigo Rose tomatoes! There are other “blue” tomatoes. Supposed to be loaded with purple anthocyanins.

  8. I agree that many of us could use a refresher concerning edible and non-edible plant parts. I’ve forgotten most of my early education!

  9. Cultured meat is a little freaky, but I’m onboard with the rest of this. I’ve been using the tops of root veggies since my raw vegan days…there’s a whole lot of nutrition in the tops of carrots, beets, etc. Some of them taste pretty strong, but even a little bit thrown in a green drink can give you a nice boost. And I am totally down with the whole movement thing. Oh, and brocolli stalks are pretty tasty…peel and slice and steam them. They take longer than the crowns but have a nice artichoke taste. I discovered this trick back in the ’80s in a RIchard Simmons cookbook and I’ve been doing it ever since.

    1. oh yes! We love broccoli stalks, peeled and sliced, in our stirfry, adds some crunch to a salad, or to bulk up a soup or stew. Doesn’t taste like broccoli–it’s very mild– so if folks dislike broccoli, give this a try. Plus it saves a little cash and you waste less food.
      I use the parts of veggies normally tossed aside to add to bone broth..onion skins, carrot and beet tops, celery leaves, tough outer leaves of brussels sprouts, etc. Drop ’em into a Ziploc and freeze it until I’m ready to make soup/broth.

  10. Speaking of Cultured Meat, I had a deep discussion about 17th century art, music and food with a whitetail deer recently.

    1. +1! That’s a kind of cultured meat I’d be willing to partake of!

      1. But are they bred to want to be your dinner? See _Restaurant at the End of the Universe_.

  11. Oh man, the Wilderness Collective looks so lame. “Seldom seen, pristine wilderness” that you are going to access on dirt bikes and with a pick up truck?! Learn to hike people!!

    1. How else are they going to replace the evil saturated fat with healthy soy bean oil?!

  12. Did you seriously use the phrase “sex change operation” here? You are aware you have transgender readers, right?

  13. The movement vs exercise discussion has always interested me. I enjoy yard work, I love getting down and pulling weeds and loading my wheelbarrow. To me, it’s more rewarding that anything I can do in the gym, not to mention the benefits of being in nature. If I burn extra calories so be it but that’s not the point. I particularly think the bodybuilding community could benefit from the concept of just moving more. The focus on “cardio” is often self defeating because you can really burn the candle at both ends.