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

Dear Mark: Do Perfect Foods Exist?

Today’s Dear Mark post touches on a concept that many of us have pondered: the perfect food. That is, does such a thing even exist? What with phytates, lectins, easily-absorbed fat-soluble vitamins, allergenic proteins, and all the rest, it sometimes seems like every good food has a crippling downside. If you read too many health and nutrition blogs that delve into these relatively arcane topics (my own not necessarily excluded!), it often feels like you can’t eat anything at all without risking some horrible illness, deficiency, or excess.

The following is an excerpt from a longer email in which a reader expressed concern over the apparent scarcity of “perfect foods.”:

Dear Mark,

I’m getting very frustrated. I don’t know if it’s a case of over researching things, but I’m beginning to feel that there are very few perfect foods. That there is something bad in everything. Beef, pork, and fish have creatine. Nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes have phytates. What are we supposed to do, just live on veggies, chicken, and eggs? How is it that Grok got enough magnesium, not too much phytates, etc, etc?


No food is perfect. You are correct. But you are incorrect to despair over this unavoidable, inescapable reality. For one, you have to eat something. You can’t live on sunlight and water (although both are vital to health). Two, just because a food contains something “bad” doesn’t mean the food itself is “bad.” To show this, I thought it’d be fun to put together a list of the “downsides” of undoubtedly Primal foods that most of us probably consume on a regular basis. Within many of these Primal darlings lurks a dark side, a “negative” nutritive trait that threatens to topple its favored status… but are you going to stop eating these foods just because they aren’t “perfect”?

Liver – Awesome superfood nature’s-vitamin status aside, it has a “problem.” It’s high in retinol, which is the animal form of vitamin A and the most easily-absorbed. Too little dietary retinol is bad for testosterone production, vision, bone metabolism, and gene transcription, but too much dietary retinol can lead to hypervitaminosis A, especially with insufficient vitamin D. Explorers who ate polar bear liver, which contains upwards of 15,000 IUs retinol per gram (an insanely high concentration), have been sickened and even killed from hypervitaminosis A (PDF).

Red meatProtein, loads of healthy fats, plenty of zinc, what’s not to love? Well, for those with hemachromatosis – excessive iron absorption – the iron content of red meat can be problematic.

Eggs – Eggs are great. They are bite-sized, easily-transportable, delicious repositories of everything you need to build a fully grown chicken, but they also contain potentially gut-irritating proteins (mostly in the egg white) that can exacerbate autoimmune conditions. Lysozyme appears to be the most problematic of these egg proteins, and it’s found in large amounts in the white.

Butter – Good old butter. You’ve yet to fail anyone. Except for that guy with an intense casein intolerance.

Ghee – That means ghee is all clear, right? All of the good fat, none of the offensive proteins. Maybe not. An older study from 1987 found that ghee had a significant amount of oxidized cholesterol, presumably due to the clarification process (which involves heat). That sounds bad. So ghee’s bad, right? Maybe not (again). It turns out that the ghee from the 1987 study was “heated in an electric oven in a stainless steel mug at 120 degrees C for 50 hours.” So, while some ghee has “bad” qualities, some does not, and it all depends on how the ghee was produced.

Shellfish – Delicious, nutritious, briny, mineral-replete though they may be, shellfish can be highly allergenic in certain people. Also, because you’re eating the entire animal, including that animal’s last meal, often raw, there is an elevated risk of getting sick. Norwalk virus (not serious), vibro (pretty serious), and various shellfish toxins are all potential complications. I love raw oysters, mind you. I’m just putting this out there.

Brazil nuts – I recently mentioned these as a great source of selenium. And they are. But they’re also pretty high in phytic acid and radium.

Spinach – I love spinach, always have. It’s a great source of magnesium, calcium, manganese, vitamin K… and oxalates. Yes, oxalates – those tiny organic crystals that compose the most common type of kidney stone – are found in spinach (as well as other leafy greens). 100 grams of spinach contain 750 mg of oxalates. And though dietary oxalate has never been conclusively or strongly linked to the development of kidney stones, the theoretical risk remains.

Dark chocolate – It’s evidently a big favorite among my readers, and it has tons of benefits, but it’s also high in phytic acid, and some sources may be high in cadmium and/or mycotoxins (like aflatoxin).

Bacon – I don’t think listing the benefits is necessary here, so I won’t. How about the negatives? Pork fed on corn and soy (which even organic pigs usually eat) display high levels of omega-6 fats in their tissues, while pork fed on coconuts display almost none. If you’re eating bacon (almost all fat) from pigs fed mostly corn and soy, you’re likely consuming a fair bit of omega-6 (same goes for any high-fat pork product, really, as well as poultry). Oh, and don’t burn that bacon, or subject it to high heat for very long unless you love eating carcinogenic nitrosamines with your eggs!

Cruciferous vegetables – I just posted an article extolling the virtues of sulfur-rich cruciferous veggies, but they can also act as goitrogenic inhibitors of thyroid function. Goitrogens interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid, so excessive intake of cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables might necessitate a bit more iodine in the diet.

My point, after all this, is not to keep you from eating these foods. It’s to show that there are no perfect foods and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Every food, even the “good” ones, has something that someone can legitimately complain about. Does that mean you can’t eat these foods, or even that you should always keep the vitamin A content of grass-fed beef liver or the possibility that your square of dark chocolate could contain cadmium in the back of your mind? No; it would drive you insane and cause unnecessary stress.

I simply wanted to show the inherent silliness of worrying about “perfect foods.” Every food has something “wrong” with it. As I’ve always said, it’s not just about the constituent parts that compose a food. The individual components don’t always tell the whole story. Whole foods do tell that story, though. You simply have to eat them to figure it out.

That’s it for today, but what about you, dear reader? Do you worry about the dearth of “perfect foods”? Do you think any foods actually are perfect, after all? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

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. Thanks for the useful list Mark. We are omnivores. Our ancestors adapted to changing seasons and climate, explored new regions and grabbed whatever food they could find.

    It worries me when someone in the forum says they eat the same six foods day after day.

    Harry Mossman wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Someone actually does this?

      I think I would go crazy if I ate the same 6 foods daily. I would give it a shot for a few days but that’s all.

      Primal Toad wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • Eating the same 6 foods isn’t all that bad. Due to budget restraints, I don’t always have the best selection. It’s all about preparation though. You can use eggs, chicken, sunflower seeds, olive oil, onions, and collard greens so many different ways, you can eat for a week and only repeat one or two meals. Although, doing for any longer than a week or two….now you’re losing me.

        Dugan wrote on March 7th, 2012
    • I have eat the same foods every day all week and haven’t felt better. My numbers have gone up in my crossfit workouts. I even ran a half marathon with a 20lb vest without even training for it to show how nutrition is so important. Same idea that all other animals on earth eat the same things every day. Do they get sick? How about your dog? same idea. My trick? You would have to ask me but in general i’ve found foods that give me a ton of energy, allow me to recover quickly, keep my blood sugar down and allow me stay full, which is important since I’m a school teacher and a tennis instructor working 12 hour days. If you’re an athlete, you would understand that you treat food like a fuel so variety is not important to me, I love my results and the food I eat is great anyways!

      Ben wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • **eaten…my bad! Sorry for the typo

        Ben wrote on March 7th, 2012
  2. Lordy, that was helpful and concerning at the same time! Thanks, great post.

    Samuel wrote on March 5th, 2012
  3. I do sometimes get caught up in worrying too much about the details, when it comes to food. In those moments, it’s always helpful to stop, breathe, and remind myself that by eating a whole foods/real foods diet I’m already way ahead of the game, and that that kind of worry is missing the forest for the trees.

    Ware wrote on March 5th, 2012
  4. One way this is taken care of in nature is through fasting.

    When an organism is fasting, its body gets a chance to clean itself up, get rid of excesses, and basically balance the biochemistry of the body.

    Intermittent fasting can go a long way toward mitigating the imperfections found in food.

    Chris Pine wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve felt the benefits of I.F. It literally feels like you’re cleansing yourself (at least that’s what my body feels like it’s telling me). My stomach doesn’t hurt AT ALL when I.F. – strange though I’d imagine it would have but maybe if I was still eating grains it would. No dizzy spells or low levels of energy and no pain (acid reflux, starving feeling, etc.).

      I’ve argued with my wife and the in-laws about this ever since I started PB. They don’t know what they’re missing. Lol my wife thinks I’m starving myself.

      The whole point for me is the ‘reset’ feeling – it’s pleasurable and makes me feel better overall.

      Judolizard wrote on March 6th, 2012
      • I’am with you, I also feel so much better

        Barbara wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • Agree on the IF. I’ve been doing 16-18 hour daily fasts for the last 3 months, and I feel very lucid and alert during work. The other day I caved and had a sandwich during the day. The combination of the mid-day meal and the bread (i knew better) made me crash super hard. Like that reset button.

        Patrick wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • I have had the same experience with IF, right down to the arguments with my wife! I was pleasantly surprised when I first started trying it. I expected to feel hungry and agitated, but instead I feel peaceful and calm. It is a great ‘reset’, as you say.

        Dave wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • haha, yup. Nobody knows I IF because most people balk at the thought of missing breakfast. There are days when I haven’t gotten hungry until 5 PM and I think most people would think I was developing an eating disorder… Naw, just getting rid of one!

        Martine wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • When I fast for over 17 hours, I get stomach cramps even though I don’t eat grains. Any other ideas why this could be?

        William wrote on March 10th, 2012
    • I agree fasting is nature’s way to balance the body.

      I also think that worry,guilt and fear ingested along with the not-so-perfect food actually magnifies the “toxin”. You know the old saying what you think about you bring about. To paraphrase Henry Ford “If you think it’s toxic or you think it’s perfect, You are absolutely right!”

      As an example I reckon it does me less harm to have a piece of white chocolate because I love it than if I force myself to eat dark chocolate because it is the “better” option even though I don’t like it.

      Knowledge is power but only if it doesn’t paralyse you.

      Jo-Anne wrote on March 7th, 2012
  5. Awesome post. There are always positives and negatives, and if we all got stuck on finding the perfect anything then we would get nowhere.

    Erik Wyckoff wrote on March 5th, 2012
  6. Why is poster concerned with consuming creatine?

    rob wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Creatine isn’t dangerous, I looked into this quite thoroughly when I tried creatine supplements.

      We synthesise creatine in large amounts naturally, so the amount in meat isn’t significant. This is why if you want to boost creatine levels in your muscles you need to take several grams of the pure compound every day.

      Tim wrote on March 5th, 2012
  7. this is great for the orthorexic crowd, overly concerned with ‘nutritionism’ as michael pollan calls it. eat real food, and trust your appetite. everything is toxic at some potin.

    jakey wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Hear, hear. I was just thinking about Michael Pollan while reading this article. Totally agree. Eat real food and listen to your body. Guess what – nobody gets out of here alive.

      Hadass wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • Great point… really! We are all going to die at some point. Stressing out about all the little problems in food is the wrong way to live.

        Educate yourself but don’t stress about the details. There is no such thing as perfection unless you believe everything the way it is is perfect!

        Primal Toad wrote on March 5th, 2012
        • I agree, and if we aim towards perfection [wellness] we are much better off but being evangelical about what you believe in turns others away. There is a shadow side to all things.

          I saw a Fruitarian and a Raw Foodist being interviewed and the raw meat eater looked healthier and seemed much calmer to me. But then again I also saw a Raw Vegetarian in her late 70’s and she looked like she could be her husband’s youngest daughter. It’s all so confusing.

          Be the Good Example not the Horrible Warning.

          If research is to be believed if the pregnant woman doesn’t have enough protein her unborn child will have an increased risk of diabetes. It would be interesting to look at the global increase of diabetes in that light. When did the high carb, low fat, low protein diet come into vogue?

          Jo-Anne wrote on March 7th, 2012
    • totally agree.

      btw, in case anyone’s interested in orthorexia, this article really opened my eyes:

      Reiko wrote on March 6th, 2012
      • love that article. some in the forums could probably benefit. but i DID like the forum message i once saw that talked about a vegan boss who ate buttery cookies at christmas who shrugged off questions with, “it’s not a religion.” and amen! 😉

        Anna wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • I just got around to reading that article. Good stuff. Watching what you eat can have good benefits, but there’s no point to extending a life that you can’t live.

        I was on a roadtrip and decided that I was going to shout “screw it” to my diet. (I’m on a variation of SAD where I try to cook as much as I can from scratch, never add salt except when it’s part of another condiment, and actually focus on grains that are considered harder to digest.)

        By the end of the trip, I’m not sure if I was carsick, over-salted, over-greased, sensitive to whatever makes normal bread fluffy, or just missing vegetables. But I had fun, and now I can get my system back into balance.

        Kelekona wrote on March 11th, 2012
  8. Thanks, Mark- I really enjoyed your article.
    One thing that specifically stood out to me is the concern with a food I could eat all day, Brazil nuts and concerns with selenium (a mere ounce of them have almost 800% daily recommended value).

    That being said, I find it very important to point out something that you and most of your readers already know–that these foods work synergistically to give an overall benefit when consumed together, and that practically any food can have negative physiological effects when consumed in isolation, or with no other foods.

    Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Indeed.

      As Voltaire’s observed: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      There’s no Shangri-La in the real world, we can dream but then again we have to wake up one day.

      Go Grok!

      Bay wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Mike,

      I buy sprouted brazil nuts. Fermenting and sprouting the nuts before eating them helps reduce the phytic acid content. I get mine from either Wildnerness Family Naturals or Blue Mountain Organics.


      pamela wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • Thanks, Pamela—I never have even tossed that idea about. Guess I learned something new today :)

        Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I wonder about RDAs, as the selenium example of 800% you quote, Doctor.
      Are toxicity points determined when RDA levels are set? It would, I imagine, require extended testing, possibly far beyond finding a recommended level.
      Or maybe my vision of the lab procedures is totally whacked.
      The point I am interested in is the risk of exceeding RDAs occasionally. I like to eat nuts, but the mixes I can find have few Brazil nuts; almonds and cashews predominate. My problem is that I tend to graze when a bag is in the house….

      Barrie Templeton` wrote on March 7th, 2012
  9. good stuff. I’m wondering if I should limit, or eliminate egg whites on occasion.

    Lester wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I think the point of the article is that you shouldn’t unless you’re legitimately allergic to eggs.

      Anna wrote on March 6th, 2012
    • I actually avoid egg whites out of preference. I just crack the eggs into a bowl, then scoop out the yolks, and cook them in a skillet with some butter. Deliciousness! I don’t even miss the whites. I do it because I enjoy it, not because I’m afraid of the whites.

      However, I think egg whites are suspect for various reasons. Just think about the biological/evolutionary function. It is a clear, viscous liquid that serves a protective role, providing a cushion from mechanical damage, and surrounding the developing embryo with anti-bacterial substances (like lysozyme). The white has virtually no vitamins. And it’s not surprising that the white is the part that has the most allergenic compounds, since by definition, it is there as a defense mechanism.

      On the other hand, the yolk’s function is to serve as the primary source of all of the vital nutrients, macro and micro, necessary to nourish the developing embryo. This is why it’s packed with such a beautiful ratio of vitamins, proteins, and yummy fats.

      I’ll eat whites when I’m eating out and don’t want to seem weird. But when I’m cooking for myself, I just toss the whites, and feel no shame. To me its kinda like throwing a way the pit of an avocado, kind-of a nuisance. I already get plenty of protein from other sources anyways, like whole meat.

      Milk falls in a similar category to me. Sure, like egg whites, it’s a great source of protein – but from a paleo perspective, its got some baggage that makes me wary of it.

      Garrett F wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • I love the taste of the yolk best too, but as whole food is the name of the game I eat the whites for filling.

        Jo-Anne wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • Is not the white the part of the egg that becomes the bird? The yolk, as you point out, is the nutrient package.
        I seem to recall seeing that explanation recently, and being surprised at it; nevertheless, it is logical.

        Barrie Templeton` wrote on March 7th, 2012
  10. Good post. The answer is to be omnivorous and rotate a variety of foods to the maximum extent possible. That will take care of most of the “problems” in foods.

    Doug wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Exactly what I was about to post. Eat a wide range of foods and those “problems” are spread so thin as to virtually disappear.

      Debra wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Excellent point – it is best to eat a broad diet containing a variety of foods.

      Tim wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • YES!
      The fact that there’s something problematic in almost every food we can imagine is the best argument for eating a VARIED diet and not depending on only a few different veggies and meats.

      Not sure what the policy is here for posting links, but if you go on Robb Wolf’s site and search for “Antinutrients,” a guest post I wrote a few months ago will come up. It addresses some of these issues and we should *not* freak out about them too much. Missing the forest for the trees, really.

      Amy B. wrote on March 6th, 2012
  11. I second the question of why the poster is concerned with creatine??

    Aziz El Harchi wrote on March 5th, 2012
  12. Thank you for addressing this. Over in the forums, people worry over eating chicken because of the n-6 content. It’s good to know each food has its advantages and disadvantages. Maybe “everything in moderation” carries a CW stigma, but how about “anything Primal, but nothing to excess?”

    onewomanband wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I like that. Instead of moderation… “nothing to excess.”

      Liver is great but eating it daily is ridiculous. This is where thinking about how our ancestors lived can really help us. Liver would not be available every single day. We have not adapted to consuming that much vitamin A.

      Same thing with sunlight… it’s essential but if you are burning yourself like crazy then you will run into problems.

      Primal Toad wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • I think it’s also worth noting that Vitamin A toxicity is usually found along with a Vitamin D deficiency (and vice versa as well). I believe Chris Masterjohn noted that when A, D, and K2 are supplemented, toxicity has never been found, but it does sometimes develop when A or D are supplemented in isolation.

        Another point on Polar Bear liver… yes, it is insanely high in Vitamin A, but who would be eating it? Arctic Explorers, for the most part. There’s probably a good chance they would have been low in Vitamin D from Sun Exposure. They might not have had good access to K2, either.

        John wrote on March 5th, 2012
        • Polar bears are our fellow predator animals; predators are not food.

          Jeffrey of Troy wrote on March 6th, 2012
        • The 1942 paper was apparently wrong, as a later Swedish study discovered. It was not vitamin A that caused the exfoliation and other symptoms, but Cadmium, which accumulates in the liver of this top predator. And as you say, experiments with turkeys found that overdosing with either A or D separately had bad effects, but both together had no ill effects.

          Alun wrote on March 8th, 2012
  13. Yet another reason to go with a varied diet. Reason one is either whole missing food groups or lack of micro-nutrients if you’re using the same example from a category.

    The other could be to prevent buildup of any one of these substances, by letting the body shift them into the digestive tract. We eliminate what our body doesn’t want.

    Humans are marvelous creatures. The ability to puke is just one of our blessings.

    Kelekona wrote on March 5th, 2012
  14. Any diet requires a lot of research and variety to make sure you’re getting everything you need! I’m vegetarian mostly for ethical reasons, and I feel completely healthy because I get my vitamins from a wide variety of places. Any person–vegetarian, paleo eater, carnivore, etc–won’t be healthy if he/she’s eating the same things every day.

    Alana wrote on March 5th, 2012
  15. Yin and yang. It’s all about balance…

    Nannsi wrote on March 5th, 2012
  16. Uncured bacon and cooking it in the oven (microwave or conventional) both reduce levels of nitrosamines.

    Dave Sill wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • That settles it for me… Bacon is the perfect food.

      Case closed.

      Andrew wrote on March 5th, 2012
  17. Everything in moderation is the key.

    Britgrok wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Excess in moderation is the key.

      John wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • That’s not a moderate statement 😉

      Reiko wrote on March 6th, 2012
  18. I really need more posts like that! Way too often I start worrying about something like eating pork or too much cabbages. Heh.

    leida wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • You should be concerned with eating too many cabbages, gives you horrible gas.

      rob wrote on March 5th, 2012
  19. Great post! I was thrown a curve ball when nutritional testing found that my body is not able to digest eggs. Good news – a year later my blood work and blood pressure are amazing! Breakfast “out in the world” is challenging. Selecting out foods that contain eggs is a no-brainer now that I’ve gone Grok. Fresh caught trout with bacon anyone?

    JMan wrote on March 5th, 2012
  20. I’m a member of the camp who’s worries about nutrition increases the more I read about it. Been low carb since august last year and have devoured tons of blogs and books on the subject. The more I learn the more paranoid I get. I think I just have to relax and enjoy myself instead, as a previous commenter wrote, we are already far ahead of the pack and probably feel alot better than most!

    Jonas wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I’m a member of that camp too! It’s pretty hard just to ignore information, when the reason you’re here is because you obviously like to research and learn about food and health, and not just accept what is put in front of you by CW. For me it’s about where to draw the line of taking it on board, or just leaving it. Otherwise I would end up in a spiral of confusion and paranoia!

      Debbie wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • Spiral of confusion and paranoia… yep, been there. But part of what brings me back to MDA again and again is the relative sanity and optimism found here, as opposed to some other sites that seem to ratchet up the fear with every post. I find that when I’m getting a little too obsessed with my diet, it’s best to stop reading blogs and start listening more closely to my body. It’s a lot easier, and I suspect more beneficial, to make adjustments to my life that grow from “informed self-awareness” rather than someone else’s experience or research.

        Suzanne wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Thats exactly what I have to do. Relax and enjoy some real food with good quality.

      Bingo wrote on March 5th, 2012
  21. Cocoa “beans” (actually, the seed of a fruit) are fermented then roasted before being made into chocolate. No phytic acid.

    Creatine (good) is not the same thing as creatinine (bad).

    Jeffrey of Troy wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • So you are saying that dark chocolate has absolutely not phytic acid left when we eat it? I’ve never heard this one before so I’m very interested in the truth especially if this is the truth.

      Primal Toad wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • The combo of fermenting and roasting is very effective at significantly reducing phytic acid content; I can’t say it’s absolutely zero, but should be negligible, esp. since you should be having no more than one mouthful per day of choc.

        Jeffrey of Troy wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I’ve been eating raw chocolate. Don’t know whether raw chocolate is fermented (it’s certainly not roasted), so I wonder if it still contains phytic acid. Might you know?

      pamela wrote on March 5th, 2012
  22. When I recently heard that rice has arsenic, my vegetarian husband replied that fish has mercury. A varied diet seems the most important.

    Doris wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I read that the selenium in fish protects us from the mercury.

      Animanarchy wrote on March 5th, 2012
  23. Coconut. Oil. Just can’t get enough.

    Graham wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Right – I love coconut oil. I became addicted when I found out I had candida, and it’s really helping. But it’s still not perfect – it’s got something that makes some people allergic. My boss can’t have it. I don’t think it’s not the way it’s processed, either, since she’s tried different brands & versions.

      Maryanne wrote on March 6th, 2012
  24. LOLing because the first thing I thought when I read the Q was “But chicken has too much omega 6!”.

    The answer is of course to just eat a varied diet of real foods and no worry about it. I just finished reading “In defence of food” and it made a lot of sense to me. I am sick of obsessing about how to eat, and now I know my health problems are down to a congenital problem rather than an autoimmune disease or metabolic issue, it is time to relax and learn to do the above.

    Katherine wrote on March 5th, 2012
  25. Do you know what effect fermentation has on goitrogens in cabbage?

    Laura wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Ooh… good question! Homemade kimchi and sauerkraut are staples at my house, and I think they have helped a lot with my family’s gut health, but I also wonder about goitrogens (family history of thyroid goiter).

      Suzanne wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Fermenting has no effect on goitrogens, only cooking neutralizes them. Having said that, fermented vegetables, even cabbage, are an incredibly powerful food in so many ways. I could care less about the goitrogens in veggies in an overall varied diet. Just eat real whole organic produce, grassfed animal products and dairy (raw) and relax.

      tom wrote on March 6th, 2012
  26. I was happy to read this. I am always fascinated by how the “experts” can never seem to decide if a food is healthy or unhealthy. One year, eggs are great because of the protein content; the next, they’re bad because of the cholesterol content. Dietitian 1 says to only consume egg white, dietitian 2 says to eat the whole egg. It’s no wonder everyone is so confused about healthy eating. I think a variety of natural foods in moderation is the way to go.

    Daniel Wallen wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • The difference between truth and lie is a difference in reality, not of opinion. Just because one person says something, then another person says something else, doesn’t mean the two statements are equally valid; the public is easily confused by competing claims because science education in the USA has been under vicious assault by both Conservatives and Liberals (each for their own reasons) for 50 years.

      Most credentials – esp. in “health” or “nutrition” – don’t require understanding the scientific method, only obedience.

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on March 5th, 2012
  27. Even though it would drive me mad to second-guess every one of my perfect foods, I AM bringing my polar bear liver back to Costco.

    Joy Beer wrote on March 5th, 2012
  28. I smoked for 40 years. I quit a year and a half ago. (Cold turkey with help online.) I’ve been cleaning up my diet for about a year.
    After 40 years smoking up t0 4 packs a day and consuming large quantities of alcohol regularly, the last thing I’m worried about is finding “Perfect food” I’m happy with 80% perfect. I think I usually do a lot better than 80%. I figure that if I eat a variety of healthy things and avoid very unhealthy things, then my diet is good enough. I’m not trying for perfect.

    Jim wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • I’ll drink to that! 😉

      Cal wrote on March 5th, 2012
      • I’m lucky. Never got addicted to alcohol. I can enjoy one or two drinks a week. 80% IS perfect. (Not gonna risk any nicotine. That was definitely an addiction.)

        Jim wrote on March 5th, 2012
        • I’m even luckier. I can enjoy two drinks an hour.

          John wrote on March 6th, 2012
    • Good for you for eliminating cogs a and alcohol. I didn’t find it easy and after 25 years I still feel deeply grateful to have done with it!

      Marilyn wrote on March 7th, 2012
  29. I wonder if human egg cells or zygotes would make the best food for humans. It could also solve the teen pregnancy problem.

    Animanarchy wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Slightly gross, but an interesting concept. Although, isn’t that technically cannibalism? And cannibalism is definitely not healthy for humans.

      Maryanne wrote on March 6th, 2012
    • Brings to mind the Jonathon Swift essay, A Modest Proposal, wherein he suggested that the English essentially set up feed lots for young Irish girls (where Ireland was in dreadful famine conditions). The resultant meat could be sold as a delicacy to English aristocracy, while helping to ease the famine.
      This is the kind of satire writers wish they dared to produce!

      Barrie Templeton` wrote on March 7th, 2012
  30. I recently came across your website, bought your book, and literally “devoured” every single word of it.
    I’ve been contemplating giving up vegetarianism for some time now, and I have never felt better!
    I also agree with the fact that no food is perfect. When I was a little kid, it was easy for me to identify “good” foods versus “bad” foods, but now with researching mixed opinions on the internet, I get really confused.
    Every food does have something bad it in – fruits are high in sugar, eggs have too much cholesterol, etc.
    What I’m learning is to eat intuitively – that is what I feel like my body needs when it is hungry, and so far it is working pretty well for me!

    Natasha wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • One or two cups of (whole, raw) fruit is NOT a diet “high in sugar”. Almost nobody is fat or sick from eating a couple servings of fruit per day.

      Eggs are NOT “high in cholesterol”; your body needs chol so bad it makes more than you get even from a “high” chol diet. Zero reason to avoid chol in food, it was always a combo of idiocy and $.

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • Amen! I could have wrote this same comment minus the vegetarianism.I devoured the book too. Once I understood the science behind all the foods I was amazed. I have been primal for 10 months now and my health has never been better. Oh and I am also down 40lbs.

      Jodi wrote on March 7th, 2012
  31. Hi All,

    I am 49 in April, have had 4 kids and spent most of my life eating meat, chicken, fish, veggies etc. Never stressed about it, never counted calories. My weight lives at 55k and I’ve been the same dress size for almost 30 years. We eat primal probably 80-90% of the time and probably have for years not giving it a name. Honestly – life is WAY too short to get all wound up. Eat what you like thats fresh and clean (in moderation) and enjoy!

    Michelle wrote on March 5th, 2012
  32. Forgive if I repeat what previous posters mentioned, didn’t have a chance to read them all. Potential toxins, over abundance of nutrients is highly over- rated. For almost 6yrs straight I ate 6 raw eggs daily without the slightest adverse reaction. For most of the last few years I’ve gone through 6-12oz of spinach daily (think costco sized container) with no adverse reaction. And yes I do rotate my greens, spinach just happens to be my staple. So while it’s important to understand the risks, never let it deter you from what you intuitively know to be good. If you listen to your body you will have very clear signals of when you might be getting too much of a certain food or nutrient long before it becomes harmful. The only time I have ever almost hurt myself nutritionally is when I was doing very high dose ZMA. But after a few loose bowel movements I evened things out.

    Grant wrote on March 5th, 2012
  33. What is important is to know IF our bodies have evolved dealing with most of these ‘toxins’ or not.
    Obviously, we have not really evolved to live on a lot of veggies high in oxalates, nor have we evolved living entirely on the part of the plant that is needed to reproduce itself (grains, legumes)

    This is what’s important : VARIETY.

    Arty wrote on March 5th, 2012
  34. I’m starting to wonder if I may have some psychic ability. I just commented on an old MDA post yesterday about people stressing out over the minute amounts of toxins in some foods and how I think that may actually be worse for them than the substance itself.

    Trav wrote on March 5th, 2012
  35. All you need is a little perspective. You used to live on Lucky Charms, diet Coke, and Cheetoh’s. Does an egg really seem that scary?

    Moshen wrote on March 5th, 2012
  36. Just been reading Lierre Keith and cross referencing some of the stuff around soil health and our good health. I enjoyed this post because it reinforces the idea that finding local foods , organically grown and outside the mega food chain system still seems to be the way to go…I won’t sweat the small stuff if I can get a varied and seasonal range of fruit vegies and free range meats, visceral or otherwise…My N=1 experiment 100% agrees that eating good foods makes you also ties in with the epigenetic meme that eating a natural diet low in sugar and full of good stuff will result in better genetic expression of health and far so good.

    BT wrote on March 5th, 2012

    This is a really cool short film about the 3 new butchers in Chicago and their approach to local meats. It’s not all grassfed but it’s a great start towards getting people to appreciate where their food comes from and how their animals were raised.

    marshall wrote on March 5th, 2012
  38. But is there a good ‘munchies’ food? Something you can munch on handfuls and handfuls of and not worry about too much fat, calories, carbs etc… like celery, maybe?

    Guy wrote on March 5th, 2012
    • You can probably eat your fill of vegetables without any problems unless a huge amount of fiber doesn’t sit well.

      Animanarchy wrote on March 6th, 2012
  39. This is so simple yet causes so much confusion. Eat a variety and create balance. Consuming too much of just about any one thing is bad. Brazil nuts here, eggs there, fruit over here, veggies on the side…etc. Stay away from processed foods, artificial ingredients and anything that nature does not provide freely. You will be fine!

    Aaron wrote on March 5th, 2012

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