Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Apr

4 Foods That Have Surprising Medicinal Benefits

Bitter Melon“Let food be thy medicine,” said some old Roman guy, I think. Whoever he was, he was right. Food is the foundation for preventive medicine. It’s the first thing we examine when figuring out a health issue, and successful changes to what we eat usually have the most profound effect on our health. If we don’t eat well, we won’t be healthy – simple as that.

But what if food literally was medicine? What if certain foods had specific, established pharmacological effects that rivaled certain pharmaceuticals?

Some foods do all that, and I’m going to talk about a few of them today. This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course. That would require an entire book. Nor is this medical advice. Rather, it’s me relaying interesting information about some foods with novel properties and benefits. If you have a serious medical condition, don’t drop your medicine in favor of pharmacological foods. Just be aware of these next time you hit the market.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

In Asian cuisine, the dense meaty flesh and subtle lobster-esque taste of the Lion’s Mane makes it a popular replacement for animal protein. That’s well and good, but what about those of us for whom the best animal protein substitute is more animal protein? Any reason to seek the Lion’s Mane?

Yes. This insane-looking fungus contains unique compounds that stimulate the biosynthesis of nerve growth factors (NGFs), whose degeneration during the aging process is thought to contribute toward neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment. According to several studies, these NGFs and other compounds in the mushroom may be able to promote neurogenesis (growth of neurons), hasten recovery from nerve damage, and improve cognition in people suffering from cognitive decline (and maybe even in healthy people):

Lion’s Mane is also a popular nootropic – a supplement designed to improve brain health and function – among people apparently free of cognitive decline. There’s no published research in support of this function, but it’s plausible.

Lion’s Mane supplements exist, but they’re best absorbed with food. Probably because they are food. Fresh Lion’s Mane is apparently delicious sautéed in butter and deglazed with white wine. Dried Lion’s Mane – which you can find in most Asian markets in the jawdroppingly expansive dried mushroom section – can be soaked in water until saturated or tossed dry into soups and stews. You could even treat the dried mushrooms like a supplement and mix them into smoothies.

Bitter Melon

If you ever go to a legit Asian supermarket, you’re bound to see a bin full of long, green, ribbed cylindrical vegetables that look like rejected cucumbers. Old ladies will pore over the pile for the best specimens and every spry looking senior in the joint will have one or two in their cart. What are these mysterious objects? These are the bitter melons, a staple anti-diabetic food in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Even African hunter-gatherers frequently use wild bitter melon (not that they have a diabetes issue, but perhaps their bitter melon habits help explain it).

Does it actually work as an anti-diabetic agent? Yes, according to several lines of evidence.

  • Four compounds with AMPK-stimulating activity have been isolated from bitter melon. AMPK regulates fuel metabolism, and diabetics need ample AMPK activity because it helps move glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles. Exercise is another potent stimulator of AMPK (and effective counter to diabetes).
  • A recent study compared bitter melon to metformin, the popular and effective diabetes drug. While it wasn’t as effective at reducing fructosamine and blood glucose as metformin, its effects were significant in type 2 diabetics.
  • Diabetic rodents saw the stirrings of beta-cell regeneration following long-term consumption of bitter melon powder. Liver function was also improved.

Bitter melon is extremely promising. If you don’t have diabetes, you can still benefit from the improved insulin sensitivity and AMPK release. Plus, bitter melon is excellent in a stir-fry. It’s a vegetable, not a drug.

Dark Chocolate

I’ve gushed over high-cacao dark chocolate many times before, but I’m going to do it some more. Why? You already love it. Heck, you’ve probably got cocoa flavanols in the crannies of your fingerprints and a cocoa butter sheen on your lips as we speak. Don’t lie. Don’t be ashamed. I have the same problem.

So, why more chocolate talk? It’s a substance with effective medicinal qualities that also happens to be a tasty form of candy:

Dark chocolate improves blood pressure. In fact, dark chocolate actually acts as an ACE-inhibitor in its own right, similarly to pharmaceutical ACE inhibitors but more modestly (a 2-3 point reduction, both systolic and diastolic) and without side effects. Unlike other ACE inhibitors, cocoa also improves vascular function via another mechanism: increased nitric oxide availability. Targeting nitric oxide, which dark chocolate does, may be effective against drug-resistant hypertension.

Dark chocolate improves blood flow (reduced arterial stiffness, increased vasodilation, that sort of thing) in many different populations: diabetics, smokers, the healthy young, the healthy old, overweight people, postmenopausal women, and people with elevated risk factors for heart disease. The increase in nitric oxide availability likely mediates much of this effect.

The improved vascular function may have effects on the brain, too. Cocoa flavanols increase blood flow to the brains of healthy young people during a cognitive task, without improving performance. In elderly patients with mild cognitive decline, high doses of cocoa flavanols improved brain function, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity. A similar group using lower doses saw no benefits to cognitive function, although they did get improvements in overall mood. Cocoa is most effective in people who need it – people with cognitive decline – and higher dosages are more effective than lower dosages.

Furthermore, the cocoa butter part of dark chocolate is an extremely stable fat with hepatoprotective effects, particularly when alcohol is consumed. Rats on a cocoa-butter diet could consume 27.5% of calories as alcohol without incurring liver damage. The cocoa phenols are also protective against alcohol-induced liver injury, so it’s (as always) the total package that works best.

Better blood flow equals better arterial function equals less hypertension equals better thinking and fewer senior moments. Red wine goes well with dark chocolate which protects the liver against the alcohol in the wine. It’s all quite elegant. And delicious.

Red Meat

Really, red meat? Not Shetland sheep liver, moose thyroid, or cow brain? Just plain old red meat?

Those are all great, powerful foods, but standard red meat (of any ruminant) is quite medicinal and, more importantly, highly available and widely palatable. There’s just something invigorating about eating red meat, especially after a workout or a period of abstinence.

Beyond the protein, iron, zinc, B-vitamins, and other well-known nutrients, red meat is the best source of carnosine, a nutrient with a host of brain benefits. It improves cognition among schizophrenic patients, reduces glycation, protects against cataracts, and scavenges reactive oxygen species and mitigates the toxicity of malondialdehyde, methylglyoxal, hydroxynonenal, and acetaldehyde. Vegetarians have the least amount of carnosine in their muscles. Beta alanine supplements, which increase the amount of carnosine in the muscles, increase the total amount of work an athlete can do.

Or maybe it’s the creatine, which doesn’t only come in tubs of white powder. Red meat is perhaps the most potent natural source of the brain – and muscle-boosting nutrient.

This all adds up to red meat being an extremely important medicinal food, especially for the people at the greatest risk of cognitive and physical decline. Sure enough, elderly women who ate a diet high in red meat experienced the largest gains in cognitive functioning and muscle strength, and vegetarians – but not omnivores – who supplemented with creatine improved their scores of brain function.

Many other foods offer many other benefits that complement red meat, but I argue that red meat is almost irreplaceable. It’s hard to say that about any other single food. Hate kale? You can get by okay eating spinach, chard, and broccoli. Ruminants are special. We’ve enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of years. Even if you’re only eating it sparingly, we could all benefit from at least a modicum of ruminant flesh in our lives.

These are just four examples – two commonplace, two a bit more exotic – that showcase the power of food to heal as well as sustain us. As I said earlier, there are many more. There are likely many foods with as-yet undiscovered medicinal effects. You’ve probably eaten several today. The best part about this “food as medicine” thing? You don’t have to know the ins and outs of everything to get the benefits. You don’t have to read the studies or get a prescription or worry about drug interactions. You just have to eat it.

What about you guys? What are your favorite medicinal foods?

Thanks for reading, folks.

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. I like adding garlic and/or ginger to most of my meals.

    Karen wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • It was hypocratis three hundred b.c. He was greek and he said. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

      matt wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Greek, Roman, it’s all the same :)

        PH wrote on April 17th, 2014
    • I have MS and have been in search of any brain food benefit. This is Great Info. I was heading to a strong veggie diet and not enjoying the task. Thanks Mark! From anotherMark

      Mark Naffziger wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Mark,

        Check out Dr. Wahl’s protocol for MS…

        MR PALEO wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Then you should watch this…

        Phil wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Thanks, been trying to follow her standards for past 2 yrs, No improvements to me. But I like eating healthy and will take what ever benifits come. Between Mark and her I think it helps me figure out what works best. Thanks again

          mark naffziger wrote on April 17th, 2014
      • I was diagnosed with MS and myasthenia gravis 22 years ago and was forced to take a 6 month leave of absence from work due to disability. The bleak diagnosis was confirmed by multiple docs. Coincidentally, I started going vegetarian about that time and have been vegan (veggies, fruit, beans, whole grains, etc. – not junk food vegan) for the last ten. Today, at age 72, I enjoy vigorous good health – doctors told me I was in remission 19 years ago and at my recent physical said MS and MG are “non-issues” for me. Since neither disease is considered curable, I guess they can’t say “cured” but I’ll take “non-issue”! Docs concur that my whole foods vegan diet is the reason for my good health and absence of any sign of MS or MG. Dr. Roy Swank, a neurologist, wrote a book advocating a near vegetarian diet for MS way back in the 50’s. For me, it has worked.

        Barb wrote on April 22nd, 2014
        • Sounds great, as long as your happy without red meat. Keep well

          mark naffziger wrote on April 24th, 2014
        • Barb, I tended to gain weight on a 6 month vegan diet. Were you able to control weight? How did you deal with wheat issues?

          Neal wrote on May 4th, 2014
      • Mark — research Low Dose Naltrexone.

        laverne wrote on April 22nd, 2014
        • Laverne, Thank you for your help. Im very interested and doing the research.

          mark naffziger wrote on April 24th, 2014
    • Mmmm, ginger, yes!! Getting hungry now lol!

      Stef wrote on April 17th, 2014
    • Same as me, garlic almost on anything:)

      Sebastijan Veselic wrote on April 18th, 2014
  2. Fermented cod liver oil is my go to whole food. Having two preschool age children and a 2 month old I used to fall ill several times a year. Now that I consume FCLO I rarely come down with more than a sniffle.

    True, I also switched to a mainly primal diet a couple of years ago, so maybe the red meat consumption is helping as well. I didn’t see FCLO on your list and thought it should be included.

    C L Deards wrote on April 16th, 2014
  3. Informative post and a good compilation of studies (intriguing anti-aging studies on the carnosine especially). I also love to eat red meat for the choline, which is arguably a medicine itself. Choline intake helps prevent some cancers, lowers inflammation, and protects against fatty liver. And…as a precursor to acetylcholine, choline acts as a dream enhancer!

    Brian Stanton wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • John Kiefer talks about how heavy whipping cream actually has phosphoryl choline which is a precusor to acetylcholine – raw cream is obviously better but you can mix in your coffee for improved brain function in the morning

      BFBVince wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Sorry actually meant phosphatidylcholine

        BFBVince wrote on April 18th, 2014
  4. Sadly, bitter melon supplements do not sustain their sugar-killing abilities with continued use, and you HAVE to make sure to get the ones that say bitter melon EXTRACT, or all you end up with is powdered bitter melon without the sugar-killing ingredient in it. Amazon is a minefield of faux supplements.

    The more I used them on Hubby, the weaker the sugar-killing effect got. If I thought I could get him to eat the actual food, I’d have bought that instead. As it is, he has trouble with dill pickles (for sour taste). Yogurt is right out!

    Bitter melon must either be eaten raw, or juiced to achieve the sugar-killing effects. Cooking it will kill off the effect.

    Wenchypoo wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Wendy – any good recipes that you like for preparing bitter melon?

      ReNae wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • I dunno if you like ethnic dishes, this is an indian side dish (my family recipe from west india),
        Cut bitter melon length wise and scoop out the seeds/flesh & discard. Now cut the hollowed out bitter melon in thin slices and soak in salted water (this helps to cut down the bitterness). In a pan heat some coconut oil, season with cumin seeds, once they pop add thinly sliced onion and cook till it caramelizes. Add the drained bitter melon and soft till it softens a bit. Then add 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chilli powder (or less as per taste), 1/4th cup grated coconut, 1 tbsp jaggery (or any unrefined sugar), 1 tsp tamarind extract (or any souring agent) and salt to taste. Final taste should be bit of hot/sweet/sour!! Cook for 2-3 mins, sprinkle some chopped cilantro and enjoy!!
        Alternatively you can make a stuffing out of above mentioned ingredients and stuff it in hollowed and slit bitter melon, tie it with a string or skewer and steam them or bake them!!

        Anuja wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • One common Pakistani dish using bitter melons also uses the salting method and then it is stir fried with ground beef. Absolutely delicious.

          sabeen wrote on April 21st, 2014
      • Beef with Bitter Melon in Black Bean Sauce is one of my favorites… google it… you will have to adapt it somewhat (usually contains cornstarch). Soaking the cut up bitter melon will usually reduce the bitterness somewhat… experiment ! You can use pork, chicken, etc.

        MR PALEO wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • a phillipino nurse told me they use the leaves of the bitter melon for diabetes. I grew the melon several yrs ago and sh wanted to harvest more leaves than fruit. she says they par boil the fruit before putting in stir fry to take a good deal of the bitterness away. It definitely is bitter, but a prolific grower.

      terry j wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Bitter melon is only recommended 3 months on 3 months off unless under a doctors supervision. There isn’t a lot of information on its ling term use. Can you recommend the brand you are using or perhaps the ones you are NOT using. Im looking at Solaray because I like the company. Their Glucoreg has 75 mg bitter melon and a few other ingredients Im familiar with that support glucose regulation. And they suggest 1 tab 2x day with food. Any input on any of this? Thank you.

      Marina wrote on April 28th, 2014
  5. oy, please, Hippocrates said it!

    theresa stepke wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Yes, I thought the same thing. The full quote is “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And I’m sure there’s more Hippocrates wrote on the topic. Maybe someone knows a link?

      Laurie wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • He was a Greek and not a Roman!

        Kelda wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • I think it was an attempt to be funny. aka, Bill & Ted’s Excellent adventure.

          Mari Ann Lisenbe wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • good LORD people, it was a joke!

          tryingtomakeit wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Lost his international readership!

          Kelda wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Oy vey Ismeir!! All of these comments about Mark’s very obvious joke ” some Roman guy” , when he knew he was quoting from Hippocrates, just shows that eating a primal diet is no guarantee of a good sense of humor. Too bad that doesn’t come along with your increased cognitive functioning. Happy Pesach to you.

      Naomi Marks wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • lol I can’t believe the amount of people who thought Mark was being serious XD

        Erin wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Um, it was a joke. Tongue in cheek. Being silly, considering that quotation is used often around these parts…

      Michelle wrote on April 24th, 2014
  6. Chicken noodle (gasp!) soup and Sprite (gasp!) to settle your stomach flu! Somehow, I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about…

    Kurt wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • One time I had a GI bug that was pretty nasty. We happened to have some goat bone broth in the slow cooker. I drank it liberally. I got better REALLY fast.

      There’s no reason to insult your digestive system and intestines with wheat and corn syrup when there are so much better (and tastier) foods out there.

      We can get goat here easily because there’s a large African immigrant population and several African and Middle Eastern groceries around town, but you could certainly get by with a rich beef bone broth.

      Dana wrote on April 16th, 2014
  7. Nettles nettles nettles…great stuff.

    Nocona wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Do nettles help you with allergies? I need to find a natural remedy. Non-drowsy Claritan makes me drowsy!

      Stephanie wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • I’ve started using nettles for my allergies. You have to take a high dose because the small dosage on the bottle is no where near enough – 3,000 mg – it’s great for relieving my itching (nasal, eyes, throat) and helps me stop sneezing. The affect only last 2-3 hours and I’m glad for ANY relief when I’m in full fledged allergy attack mode! But in the mornings when I wake up itchy, it gets me through until I get to work and out of the pollen. I also started using Xlear (xylitol nasal spray) – amazing how open my sinuses feel when I use it. Because there’s no “drugs” in it, you can use it as needed and does a great job cleansing when it’s not convenient to use my neti pot. I’ve also upped my Vitamin D – since allergic reactions are an inflammatory/immune response, anti-inflammatory supplements can help lessen the body’s response to the perceive invasion.

        Carol wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Thank you so much! I just ordered one of each!

          Stephanie wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • We make large amounts of nettle tea, and add some horsetail for extra minerals. We call it ‘green milk’. Delicious!

          I like Xlear, too. Very good addition to my neti pot arsenal.

          Erok wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • I get the fresh, whole leaf, at the farmers market and saute’ or make a nice tea. Works well for allergies and it helps about 20 other things as well. It’s a superfood in my book.

          Nocona wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Local honey is a great allergy remedy raw if possible… think local pollen causing it, local honey from that same pollen… Some where we got turned on to local Buckwheat honey as it is supposedly better that regular, so that is what we use, personally I think as long as it is local it will help. We have seen great results in NJ.

        Ryan wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • I’ve heard that about raw, local honey, and that is the only kind of honey I use, but I’m guessing I need to use it like a supplement–taking it every day, not just when I’m baking goodies.

          Stephanie wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Stephanie, if you cook/heat it, it is not raw anymore and lost some of its properties.
          My son takes a tablespoon every morning and it works great! Like Ryan, I buy it at the farmer’s market, 6-8 months in advance (when the honey has been produced by bees feeding on my son’s allergens – California wildflowers), and start giving him a month or two before allergy season. So far so good.

          Natalie wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Honey and lemon mixed together work wonders for a tight cough. As long as the honey is raw, it also helps to get rid of flu. I was working in a hospital a few years ago and got the worst dose of flu I’ve ever had. I bought raw honey, lemons and rooibos tea and drank a “hot toddy” with the three together several times a day. Both my husband and I were over our flu in 4 days, while everyone at work was sick for at least 2 weeks and had numerous doses of antibiotics. We were very sick for the 4 days, but completely over it afterwards, with no ill effects.

          Keen wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • My dr., a DO, recommended quercetin for allergies. She said its best to start it before or as soon as you feel symptoms. I haven’t since had any allergies so I haven’t really tried it. Could work; can’t hurt (at least I dont think so. :) here’s a link:

        ReNae wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Nettles contain quercetin (a bioflavanoid with anti-histamine properties) & both are good for histamine allergies. It is the quercetin in the nettles that make them good, so you may be better taking quercetin & supplementing that with cups of nettle tea for a stronger effect.

          Christine wrote on April 18th, 2014
    • Yes to nettles! I use dried nettles to make tea (Frontier is a good brand and often available in bulk section at natural foods stores). Sometimes add dandelion leaf or root. Let it steep for a few hours and leftovers can be refrigerated for a day or two. Liquid extract is good too.

      My other favorite is dried chickweed combined with skullcap, great anti-inflammatory brew.

      I was surprised a while back to learn that nettles are so rich in minerals and vitamins. I always feel stronger and more energized when I drink my nettle tea, it’s a great boost this spring after a long winter.

      And dandelion leaf is high in Vitamin C, drinking dandelion tea always kicks a cold for me.

      Local farmers markets sometimes have fresh nettles this time of year as well as fresh dandelion greens.

      gladdie wrote on April 16th, 2014
  8. During a brief failed experiment as a vegetarian years ago, during which I increasingly felt like crap, I began to crave red meat. I actually dreamed about it. My body wasn’t just talking to me, it was screaming for me to dump the vegetarian nonsense. I came to my senses and ran out and bought a lovely rib-eye steak that I prepared with a salad and some veggies. I think that was probably the most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten. Granted, some people subsist quite well without animal protein, but I’m definitely not one of them. For me, red meat is a dietary mainstay, regardless of what the “Food Police” might think.

    Regarding kale… It’s delicious and very healthful. That said, It’s also the latest “in” thing and therefore shouldn’t necessarily be regarded as superior to spinach (a superstar in its own right), broccoli, chard, etc. All veggies have something good to offer, and the best diet is one that’s filled with a wide variety.

    Shary wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • I had a similar experience. After a year or so as a vegetarian, I became pregnant, and my body demanded meat, in no uncertain terms! That was the end of it.

      Maxine wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Your body is not asking for meat just for the protein. That’s a myth. There are several other nutrients present in meat that are low to nonexistent in vegetables except as plant precursors. And not everyone can convert those. I have a considerable amount of trouble with beta carotene, and there was this study in Rotterdam a few years back showing that the K1 in vegetables had pretty much no effect on heart attack rates but that the K2 in dairy foods helped reduce risk. I think that was an epidemiological study and therefore needs followup, but all the same.

      (You can also find K2 in eggs and organs. There’s a version you can get from natto, or fermented soybeans, but I have questions about how much it’s really worth, since I heard it doesn’t cross a human placenta, and the vitamin’s very important in prenatal development as well.)

      Dana wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • I had incredibly disturbing dreams after a month of vegetarianism – something involving biting into human flesh. Got off the vegetarian diet really fast (and no, I didn’t actually become a humanitarian as a result).

      meepster wrote on April 17th, 2014
  9. Green tea – I love it and drink a ton of it.

    Tammy wrote on April 16th, 2014
  10. I recently read that another benefit of dark chocolate. It’s highly beneficial to the gut microbiome. Did we really need another reason to indulge??

    Jim B. wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • 50 squillion microbes can’t be wrong!

      BonzoGal wrote on April 16th, 2014
  11. I really love my 90% dark chocolate! I have the 99% too, but it is at the bottom of the pile and it is a “just eat it, it is good for you” choice. The package says I will acquire a tasted for it, that has not happened yet! But I go through phases of craving grapes..?? Usually red ones, and then it goes away and comes back. Not sure why, but I listen to my body because they are delish! I also tried the meatless thing, for 3 weeks, more of a discipline thing to see if I could actually do it. I was strong but on the 22nd day at 10:00am I was eating a BBQ’d cheeseburger(no bun) the size of my face…that felt like medicine to me! lol

    CM wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • I do 90 percent dark. I can’t imagine 99 that’s just 1 percent away from full lnow baking chocolate right? I think there’s a youtube video/challenge to eat an entire bar of the stuff and most people can’t do it. 90 for me!

      Luke wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Haha…yeah, I like challenges but I will skip that one. I gave a small square of it to someone over visiting. I said “here, eat this, it is healthy for you”, he stuck it in his mouth and carried on his convo with someone else and 10 seconds later jumped up saying “why am I eating dirt?” and spit it in the sink. Ahhhh….good times, good times.

        CM wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • *like*

          tryingtomakeit wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Easy challenge. I can eat at least two full 100% (3.5 oz each) baker’s chocolate bars. No problem. I love my theobromines 😀

        Bryan wrote on April 16th, 2014
        • Cocoa powder, on the other hand…

          Bill C wrote on April 17th, 2014
    • I do 100% dark, but it’s in the form of MariGold Bars. Protein bars made with whey from hormone free, grass-fed cows.

      Mari Ann Lisenbe wrote on April 16th, 2014
  12. All the benefits without the PHD or school loans :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on April 16th, 2014
  13. Should dark chocolate be consumed daily, weekly,… what? for it to be beneficial?

    erin wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Since dark cacao (organic/fair trade) contains high levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants, you could perhaps eat a few bars a week. I’ll throw in blackberries and blueberries into my big ass salad one day and then the next day, I’ll indulge in a >85% full bar. Mix that tish up!

      Bryan wrote on April 16th, 2014
  14. I can say that I don’t eat lion’s mane mushroom or bitter melon, and rarely dark chocolate, but I do eat a lot of red meat! A steak can solve anything…

    Gym Queen wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • I LIKE YOU !

      jim wall wrote on April 16th, 2014
  15. Now that is some medicine I am glad to swallow, no teaspoon of sugar required (or tolerated).

    Eric Evans wrote on April 16th, 2014
  16. I didn’t know Mark was Roman haha

    ria wrote on April 16th, 2014
  17. Red meat is TOTALLY medicinal. I always feel best when my main protein is red meat, and if I go “off” if for a few weeks and eat mainly poultry or fish instead, I just don’t feel as good. I’ll never understand why some women develop this aversion to red meat and prefer “lighter” meats. It seems like a kind of false consciousness to me. I am a woman and I feel red meat helps me thrive.

    tkm wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Same here. If nothing else, when we’re in our reproductive years we shed iron monthly and need to keep up our intake. And heme iron’s a lot more bioavailable than the stuff in spinach.

      Dana wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • “[Women have] a brain a third the size of us [men]. It’s science.” lol. I couldn’t resist.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Exactly, we don’t need all that extra mass, we are much more efficient so really don’t need all that extra gray matter. However, to keep our brains running in tip top shape we take chocolate and red wine, for medicinal purposes of course……. yeah, that’s why, I remember now, yeah.

        2Rae wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • But all the men I know tell me size doesn’t matter…

        tkm wrote on April 21st, 2014
    • Yep. Plenty of red meat keeps the red blood cells healthy and the RBC count where it should be. Much to their own detriment, some of the women I know have bought into the recently circulated myth that red meat is bad for you.

      Shary wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • RED MEAT !!!!! :)

      Al wrote on April 17th, 2014
    • ditto.

      the “lighter” meat tastes not as flavorful to me, esp. chicken breast, has to be the blandest of all.

      (couple years ago, i was diagnosed with anemia, that explain of my preference of red meat all my life)

      when we eat out, occasionally, hubby orders chicken (breast), & i order red meat, the waitron would typically put chicken in front of me. XD

      pam wrote on April 20th, 2014
  18. Ah, dark chocolate, coffee, red wine, garlic, avocado, grass-fed meat… I can’t get enough of studies saying stuff I love is actually good for me.

    Though I’ve never had a clearly “medicinal” experience where I was able to cure a particular physical complaint with some sort of specific food. But I’m happy to keep quaffing my favorite beverages and scarfing up the foods I love for completely theoretical benefit. Mmm, chocolate, is that you I hear you calling?

    crabby mcslacker wrote on April 16th, 2014
  19. Wow, Lion’s Mane Mushroom! I discovered that in the woods close by me, this fall. (Quebec, Canada) Amazing looking and no dangerous lookalikes that I researched. Will check again. Very pretty looking. Here is a link to my photo of Lion’s Mane I took last fall, if it is allowed.

    JacqsFlyingPrimal wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Thanks for sharing the Lion’s Mane pics. I live in the Adirondacks, I think we have them here too. Going to be on the lookout for them!!

      dbsknees wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Have fun searching for this mushroom. It is truly amazing to find. I had never seen one before and took an over abundance of photos. I see two pictures showed up on my link. The second one only is mine with the two mushrooms, one on either side of the fallen log, looking like a fountain of “manes”. The first one, a single mane, I saw on the web. Don’t know how it attached itself to my link lol. Both pictures are Lion’s Mane…or bearded tooth.

        JacqsFlyingPrimal wrote on April 17th, 2014
  20. What type/brand/source of Dark Chocolate are you folks referring to?

    Wes wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • You can do a search on this site and find several posts on dark chocolate, including listing specific brands. I like Theo 85%, and a Whole Foods Market brand called Tanzania School House Project that is I think 72%. The Tanzania one comes either plain, or with almonds. I’m not a big fan of dark chocolate so I go for the milder ones that are at least 70%. I just have a square, or two before my boxing sessions.

      Ellen wrote on April 16th, 2014
  21. Interesting article. I didnt know that red meat was considered to be “medicinal” by some, but I did know that Grass Fed Beef is healthy & that it’s certainly very tastey! YUM!!! Probably should start eating a bit more dark chocolate & the other 2 items might be worth a try. Thanks for the interesting read!

    TJ wrote on April 16th, 2014
  22. Healthy food!

    I liked the: “For those who need it…”

    ……and even then, there may be those of us, who have some adverse reactions to some natural substances. Even though most people are fine with eating bitter melon and bitter melon products, I developed severe adverse reactions to this fruit (?)/substance. I also react very badly to stevia, unless it is very low dose and combined with other sugars or sugar alcohols.

    Nevertheless, thank you for sharing these great additions to the diet, and for explaining their benefits.

    Sabine wrote on April 16th, 2014
  23. Ginger, garlic, lemons, greens, mushrooms, all of it amazing and to remember “food can either be the best medicine or the slowest poison”

    jamie wrote on April 16th, 2014
  24. “Old ladies will pour over the pile for the best specimens and every spry looking senior in the joint will have one or two in their cart.” (bitter melons)

    What do they pour over the pile, Mark? A transitive verb must have a direct object.

    Trevor wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Does that apply if used as an idiom or colloquial phrase?

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • …a critical visual and reasoning search for the best speciman… I would say…

      JacqsFlyingPrimal wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • The saying is actually “pore over”–the verb “to pore” means to study or read closely. (In this case, the old ladies are studying the pile.)
      So it’s misspelled, but Mark’s usage is correct.

      phage wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Oh please save the grammar lessons for a writing blog! Pour…pore…I understood his point. Contact Mark directly about the typo so he can edit the spelling. He may appreciate the heads up. Leave the finger wagging behind (-:

      Grace wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Trevor , take two transitive verbs and use as you would a suppository ! Oh, oh , first pull your head out !!

      jim wall wrote on April 16th, 2014
  25. I found a lovely 98% cocoa sweetened with Stevia called Dante’s confection…best stuff ever!

    Karen Hybner wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • I love Dante’s 98% too! It is like nothing else – intense!

      Question: Are bison beef burgers considered “red meat?”

      Debbie wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Are bison ruminants? (These questions have the same answer, by definition, apparently.)

        Bill C wrote on April 17th, 2014
  26. That’s just what I was looking for, an excuse to eat more chocolate :)

    Karim wrote on April 16th, 2014
  27. How much dark chocolate should one consume to get the health benefits? Is good quality cocoa powder acceptable?

    Beth wrote on April 16th, 2014
  28. I read that dark chocolate made with alkali is not good for you. So if you are buying the Lindt 90% it has Alkali and the 85% Lindt dark chocolate bar does not. So that is why I am eating 85%.

    Joe wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Joe, that was my pick too until I tried Green & Black’s 85%….. mmmmm creamy.

      2Rae wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • +1 to Green and Blacks 85%. Lindt 90% is good in a very different way.

        Allison wrote on April 16th, 2014
  29. Ah, yes…Bitter Melon. Had quite a bit of it when I traveled to China for 18 days. I didn’t care for it at first, but it grew on me. I found out about a year later what it was, but it’s hard to find where I live. Not many Asian markets.

    Lynna wrote on April 16th, 2014
  30. but i thought red meat is high in fat and gives you heart disease? won’t it clog my arteries?

    some of this “primal” stuff sounds interesting, but i have to caution against any diet that doesn’t involve a significant amount of heart healthy whole grains. how will you get enough fiber without them? and don’t forget to limit your meat intake to the lean cuts. and only go for red meat 1-2x per week; chicken breasts are probably a better source of lean protein on a daily basis.

    and don’t forget the statins. definitely get your statins in.

    really smart guy wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • k thx bye

      Erin wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • Ignore, it’s just someone trying to get a rise out of you.

        Keen wrote on April 16th, 2014
  31. Lion’s Mane is just one of 3 edible mushrooms of the tooth fungus group in North America’s eastern forests. All are white (at the correct time for harvest; then they turn yellow – becoming bitter) and look like coral. The other 2 are Bear’s Head Tooth and Bearded Tooth. All are common in my backyard – national forest. All are free. Finding them is not difficult in the fall, but there are not many. They do recur on the same log or dead tree year after year. The more time you spend in the forest the more recurring locations you will find – remember them (GPS them). All 3 varieties of mushrooms freeze well after sauteed in coconut oil, sea salt, and onions. I usually get about 30-40 pounds of them each fall for our family. But on a year with a very rainy, humid, and hot fall the total increases dramatically.

    David Marino wrote on April 16th, 2014
  32. Coconut oil. I wash my face, moisturize my skin, cook with it, and put it in my coffee every day. I LOVE it!!!

    Melissa wrote on April 16th, 2014
  33. Hi Mark. I would like you or one of your staff to comment on achieving eternal life. Thank-you Jim.

    jim wall wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • I’m not on the staff but if you are wanting to live forever all you need to make sure you do is NOT die. That’s my plan.

      2Rae wrote on April 16th, 2014
  34. Thanks for another great read! Many great Asian markets here in South SF Bay Area so I will look into the Bitter Melon & Lions Mane mushroom. I’ve been buying the Lindt brand 90% Dark Chocolate, but will now look for the reduced alkali 85% (thanks Joe). Grass fed red meat, for myself, is a staple. I read that some people travel to S. America to live there for a short time because feedlots are not used there, (all beef is grass fed). The beef I buy from the Sprouts chain is imported from Uruguay (& they have Kangaroo meat imported from Australia.) The Whole Foods I frequented in NY carried locally- raised grass-fed meat from nearby New Jersey.

    Bill Berry wrote on April 16th, 2014
  35. I find it so depressing to read about how good dark chocolate is for you. I love it and often crave it, but it is a sure-fire migraine trigger for me. Nobody ever said life is fair!

    Elcee wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • have you tried making your own with cocoa powder (not dutch processed) and coconut oil? I sweeten it with either maple syrup or honey and add nuts/seeds toasted with bacon and a dash of red pepper. To keep it from seizing mix everything into the oil before adding the cocoa powder.

      Pam wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • I’ve tried Equal Exchange organic baking cocoa (processed with alkali) and had the same migraine response. I don’t know much about cocoa powder so if you have some recommendations I’d love to hear about them as I’d love to have a go-to dark choc option. Is that what Dutch processed means, that it’s processed with alkali?

        Elcee wrote on April 17th, 2014
        • Find the best non-Dutch processed cocoa you can find (read the ingredients for alkalai just in case) and then it’s 1:1 coconut oil to powder. You should add 1tsp vanilla extract for each 1/4c oil and sweeten to taste starting with 2T of honey or syrup. I add nuts, seeds bacon etc. I’ve also made orange chocolate using orange extract. there’s a really good recipe for jr mints on and civilizedcaveman has a recipe for Haupia that’s pretty tasty. I also add espresso powder and red pepper at times (-:

          To keep the whole thing from seizing put everything in the oil – I melt mine on the stove in a pan – then whisk in the cocoa in one go and then dump it into something to harden. I use parchement paper in a jelly roll pan and into the freezer. We break chunks off when we want to much.

          Pam wrote on April 17th, 2014
        • sorry – left off the bit about dutch-process – I have no idea what it does, but it uses alkalai. But I’ve also seen cocoa that doesn’t say Dutch-processed with alkalai in the ingredients so look at the ingredients.

          Pam wrote on April 17th, 2014
        • sells RAW cocoa powder.

          Susan wrote on April 17th, 2014
        • Will check these out! And thanks for the recipe!

          Elcee wrote on April 17th, 2014
  36. “Let Food be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine be Thy Food”

    The above quote is attributed to Hippocrates, the father of Western Medicine, 460 -377 BC. Hippocrates was not a Roman guy but he sure was very perceptive. According to Wikipedia “Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos, was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles, and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. Unfortunately he knew nothing about “lectins” grass fed, grass finished beef, plant foods low in lectins but Mark Sisson does. This fact by itself makes Mark the smartest man in the USA, and he (Mark) did save me from various illnesses propagated by our current food delivery system.

    Peter Petersen wrote on April 16th, 2014
  37. I love the Endangered Species Dark Chocolate (88%). It has a wonderful taste and isn’t bitter. I also enjoy the grass-fed meats at Tendergrass Farms.

    James wrote on April 16th, 2014
  38. Mark is spot on in recommending the whole food rather than supplements. Oh, there are so many medicinal foods! I will add apple cider vinegar, lemons, and cayenne pepper to the list. The above mixed in warm water and a smidgen of honey will knock out an inkling of cold or flu in a hurry.

    Jan wrote on April 16th, 2014
  39. “but i thought red meat is high in fat and gives you heart disease? won’t it clog my arteries?…..
    and don’t forget the statins. definitely get your statins in.”

    What? – a Troll, an innocent or just joking? Extreme enough to make me believe it’s a troll or joke.

    In any case, there’s always one of these that shows up and somebody else will surely need to respond in earnest to this.

    Steve wrote on April 16th, 2014
    • Sarcasm – last line is the giveaway.

      Leaf Eating Carnivore wrote on April 20th, 2014
  40. I like for their mushroom formulations. The company originated as an attempt to treat high-value performance horses – Olympic level hunters/jumpers – who had ailments vets could not cure. Their success treating these crippled equines with mushrooms was truly amazing! The company – backed by the expertise of an impressive science team – offers a variety of formulas for humans, horses and dogs. You can add their mushroom powders to shakes. Among their organic mushrooms is Lion’s Mane. This is an example of animal science outpacing modern medicine.

    maidel wrote on April 16th, 2014

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