My Primal Superfoods

There is such a lot of talk about ‘superfoods’: the media like to pick up on the latest crazes such as blueberries, goji berries or kale, which are apparently going to save us from various illnesses. It is interesting how often ‘superfoods’ are fruits and vegetables. Healthy-eating websites and diet articles, in particular, often feature images of huge, colourful smoothies or bowls of fruit. Primal health is about making sure that what we eat is nutrient-dense, so smoothies, fruit and ‘superfoods’ definitely have a place in a Primal eating pattern. But there is a bigger picture:

> Smoothies can make it very easy to eat (drink?) a lot of sugar (yes, it’s natural sugar – mostly fructose – but this can still be problematic for the body to handle in large quantities). At least smoothies contain the fibre from the fruits – unlike juices, which concentrate the sugar without the beneficial fibre – but Primal-aligned smoothies contain a little less fruit and more fat and protein through additions such as full-fat yoghurt, coconut milk/cream/oil, avocado, seeds, etc. Smoothies can in fact be a useful way to hide these filling, nutrient-dense ingredients, as well as nutrient-dense greens, such as baby spinach, for people who don’t like the taste of such things on their own. The key, for me, is to watch that smoothies are not just a glass full of sugar.

> Primal eating means basing at least one meal a day on a plate full of vegetables, often with a variety of types and colours, so that we get a good selection of health-giving antioxidants and other wonderful nutrients from things that grow. But, these essential vegetables, ‘superfoods’ or not, are turned into a more satisfying and nutritious Primal meal with the addition of some quality protein and fat. See Mark Sisson’s Big A## Salad:  Salad adventureMark’s 2017 ‘keto’ salad . I keep a selection of things in the fridge – a bag of rocket, a bag of baby spinach, a cucumber, tomatoes, radish, mushrooms, whatever – ready to throw into a bowl and top with tuna, or leftover chicken, or olives, or chunks of feta cheese and then drizzle with apple cider or balsamic vinegar and olive or avocado oil. This kind of meal is designed to keep blood sugar levels evenly balanced, fill us up, and exploit the power of fat to improve our absorption of nutrients from vegetables (oil- or egg-based dressings for salads, as well as butter melted onto vegetables, are not traditional pairings for nothing!).

> When Mark Sisson was asked last year what he thought about ‘superfoods’, he pointed out that his superfoods would include things like liver, egg yolks and wild salmon, as well as common foods such as onions and garlic. It is interesting to see just how nutrient-dense some basic foods are — foods that are a lot less exotic than the ones touted in the media — and they are certainly not all fruits and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a national nutrient database and I plan to group together some nutrient figures from this for a future post on some common Primal foods. In the meantime, if you are interested, take a look at Zoe Harcombe’s discussion on this topic.

The Primal Blueprint’s focus on meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats allows lots of room for individuals to shape their meals to suit their personal tastes, tolerances and cultural traditions. The key is unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods – which foods people choose within this framework might vary wildly. Someone asked me what my top ten superfoods would be and I came up with the list in the table below. If you were looking to include more unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods in your life, what would your personal top ten superfoods look like?

 

My Primal Superfoods  
 

Eggs

 

Scrambled, boiled, omelette, fried, poached.

 

SMASH Hits: Sardines/Mackerel/ Anchovies/Salmon/Herring

 

Tinned boneless sardines, smoked mackerel, salmon fried/baked/smoked. Anchovies grilled on lettuce(!!) Haddock.

 

Beef/Lamb/Chicken/Pork

 

 

Roast, minced, stew, stir fries. Bacon/salami/chorizo/paté. Drumsticks/thighs/steaks/chops.

 

Green/Leafy Veg

 

 

Lettuce, rocket, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cress, red/white/green cabbage, kale, chard, asparagus, courgettes.

 

Coloured/Other Veg

 

 

Peppers, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, parsnips, cucumber, red/brown/spring onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, butternut squash, swede, garlic, ginger, herbs and spices.

 

Avocado

 

 

In half with salt, pepper and vinegar; mashed with spicy Mexican food; in guacamole; in smoothies.

 

Nuts

 

 

Almonds, pecans, macadamias, walnuts, cashews, brazils. Ground almonds in baking.

 

Olives

 

From a jar in brine usually; sometimes in a pot in oil.

 

Fats (unrefined, heat/air/light-stable): olive oil, coconut oil, goose fat, butter, avocado oil.

 

Used to cook with. Olive oil or avocado oil on salads or in home-made mayonnaise.

 

Full-Fat Dairy

 

Full-fat plain yoghurt, cheese, fresh cream, sour cream.

 

Occasional treats:

 

 

85% cocoa chocolate; 100% cocoa in baking; coconut butter; berries, apples and other fruit; limited dates, honey or maple syrup in baking.