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

Is It Primal? – Sprouts, Agave Nectar, Tapioca and Other Foods Scrutinized

peasproutsSince it seems to be popular with this crowd, and we’re never running out of questionable foods, I figured I’d take the time to put together another round of “Is It Primal?” I got most of these choices from the comment sections of previous posts, along with follow-up emails. As always, feel free to fill in the blanks after the post. I have a strong feeling this will become a recurring series of posts, and I’m going to need plenty of material. Today, we’re talking about seven foods: sprouts of all kinds and origins; agave nectar, nectar of the metabolic syndrome gods; soy lecithin; coconut aminos, what hipsters have moved onto from tamari; tapioca, gummy starch; animal skin, food of the gods; and Quorn, “food.”

Let’s go:

Sprouts

Sprouts are a bit like sprites, in that they’re all over the place, agile, and difficult to get a bead on. Whether it’s pro-sprout or anti-sprout, solid data is tough to pin down. For one, “sprouts” is an incredibly non-specific term. Sprouts can come from legumes, grains, vegetables, and nuts. In other words, if it’s got a seed, you can get a sprout from it. And so you can’t look up the nutritional data for “sprouts,” because that would be like looking up the nutritional data for “meat.” It could be almost anything.

What we need to analyze, then, is the sprouting process. Does it do anything bad? Good? Is it neutral?

Sprouting tends to convert some of a seed’s sugar into vitamin C (to act as an antioxidant for the plant). That’s good. We no longer make vitamin C ourselves, so we need an exogenous source. Not a lot, but some.

Sprouting tends to reduce phytic acid (but not saponin content).

What about specific sprouts? I dug up a few citations:

Sunflower sprouts have anti-glycative and antioxidant effects, due to their elevated cynarin content.

Broccoli sprouts sound great, particularly for type 2 diabetics. In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, they reduced oxidized LDL (and improved the oxLDL/LDL level) and decreased triglycerides in diabetic patients. They also reduced insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. And finally, they reduced oxidative stress in type 2 diabetics.

If you’re making your own, note that antioxidant levels wax and wane throughout the sprouting process, at least in broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane, the potent antioxidant responsible for many of broccoli’s benefits, declines upon germination, then increases slowly until hitting its high point at 48 hours post-germination, after which it declines. But don’t worry; glucoraphanin, which converts into sulforaphane, increases during the first 12 hours, sharply drops, then rises again, reaching the highest levels at 72 hours post-germination. Of course, glucoraphanin requires the enzyme myrosinase for conversion, but broccoli sprouts are particularly high in myrosinase, so you’re ending up with plenty of sulforaphane either way.

I see no reason why sprouted celery seeds, broccoli seeds, radish seeds, or lettuce seeds wouldn’t be perfectly Primal. Lentil, oat, or bean sprouts? Probably not technically, although even those would be far less problematic (bean sprouts go great with spicy Thai food on a hot day). Just be aware that they have been linked to international E. coli and salmonella outbreaks, probably due to the warm, moist growing conditions required for sprouts.

Verdict: Primal, depending on the starter seed.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a favorite whipping child of the Primal set, but we should substantiate our claims, don’t you think? We need to justify those welts, especially since a few of you guys were wondering (hoping?) about its place in the Primal Blueprint.

Agave nectar is insanely high in fructose. Of the sugar present, up to 92% of it is pure, unadulterated fructose. That’s considerably more than table sugar, most honey, and even high-fructose corn syrup. If we want to avoid fructose, agave nectar must also be avoided.

However, the recent honey post shows that not all sugar behaves the same. Honey – a “natural product” – contains a wide range of bee-based phenolic compounds that appear to render its sugar content less harmful than, say, a dose of HFCS with the same amount of fructose. Since agave nectar is also “natural” (it’s gotta be, with “nectar” and an exotic word like “agave” in the name), could it too be different than other sugars. No. A recent study found that while stuff like honey, molasses, and maple syrup all contain significant amounts of antioxidants that potentially mitigate the metabolic damage wrought by the sugar therein, agave nectar – along with refined sugar and corn syrup – has almost none. Even raw cane sugar beat agave nectar out in the antioxidant category.

Verdict: Not Primal.

Soy Lecithin

Many of your favorite darkest chocolates contain soy lecithin as an emulsifier, promoting smoothness and a luscious mouthfeel (whatever that means). Dark chocolate? Great. Anything with “soy” in it? Bad, or so we have been conditioned to react. But is it?

In a previous Dear Mark, I made the case that a little soy lecithin in your chocolate is nothing to worry about, even going so far as to mention the choline content as a benefit. Since the influx of questions on soy lecithin, however, I’ve revisited my stance and found some new evidence. It seems that across a whole host of soy products, soy lecithin was the most estrogenic (though estrogenic activity was found in almost all foods tested, even non-soy ones). And in “frozen rat spermatozoa,” soy lecithin – but not egg yolk (another source of choline) – interfered with mitochondrial function. Contrary to my previous assertion that soy lecithin cannot trigger soy allergy in allergic people, another study found that soy lecithin could contain “hidden soy allergens.”

I would caution any soy-sensitive individuals to stay away from soy lecithin, just to be safe. If you’re worried about missing out on a great dark chocolate, plenty of legit brands contain no soy whatsoever. Just check your labels. I would also suggest that any chocolate eaters with unexplained unpleasant symptoms make sure the chocolate they favor contains no soy lecithin, and try switching to a soy-free brand for a month. If you feel better, you might implement soy lecithin avoidance as a general rule.

Everyone else, don’t shy away from good dark chocolate. Just don’t eat it too often, supplement with soy lecithin, nor feed your baby dark chocolate.

Verdict: Not Primal, but small amounts in occasional chocolate shouldn’t be too bad for most people.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are the soy sauce replacement du jour, a gluten-free, soy-free combination of aged coconut sap and sea salt that tastes somewhat like soy sauce. It’s not an exact match, but it’s not really trying to be an exact match. Coconut aminos are their own beasts, and these happen to be tasty beasts.

That said, there’s nothing really remarkable or magical about them. Its purveyors like to talk about the presence of 17 amino acids, but so what? Trace amounts of certain amino acids in a sauce that you’ll consume by the tablespoonful probably aren’t going to amount to much of anything. Consume it for the unique taste and the lack of soy and wheat.

Verdict: Primal.

Tapioca

I’ve covered tapioca flour in a previous Dear Mark post, in which I gave it a relatively clean bill of health. Tapioca is simply purified cassava starch, with basically everything else removed. My original pronouncement hasn’t changed much. It’s fine as far as starches go, if you’re active and using the carbs. I would’t go overboard with it, especially if it comes in pudding or boba tea form, but it’s definitely a “safe starch.”

The major downside is that it’s just starch. It’s extremely low in anti-nutrients, sure, but it contains almost no nutrients, either. The biggest claims to fame of a cup of the stuff are 2% of the RDI for folate and 2.4 mg of iron. It won’t do you much harm, but it won’t do you much good, unless all you’re after is glucose.

Verdict: Primal.

Animal Skin

I almost didn’t include this one, because I figured it was a no-brainer, but then I figured that if several people are asking about the suitability of animal skin on a Primal eating regimen, it’s likely that a lot of people are avoiding it just to be safe. I think that’s a tragedy, and I aim to rectify and prevent it.

Animal skin is fantastic. In the past, I’ve discussed my love for sockeye salmon skin (bacon) and roasted chicken skin, but not everyone shares my enthusiasm. At restaurants, I often see people delicately remove chicken skin with polite disgust on their faces. At my local seafood market, I’ll often ask the guys behind the counter to save me the Pacific salmon skin that people have removed. I think they’re nuts for doing it, but I’m happy to take advantage of their mistakes.

Although I wouldn’t recommend eating charred, crispy animal skin every day of the week (although braised, gently-cooked animal skin is fine all the time), animal skin in and of itself is highly nutritious. Salmon skin is high in omega-3s. Other animal skin is high in animal fat, plus collagen and gelatin, which are excellent for joints, nails, hair, and skin while providing a nice counterbalance to a regular intake of muscle meat. As long as the animal in question was healthy and fed a good diet, I would never shy away from a serving of animal skin.

Verdict: Highly Primal. If you’re not eating it, send it to me.

Quorn

Until today, I’d always assumed that Quorn was a mock meat derived from corn, a grain. That makes perfect sense, right? I mean, it sounds like “corn.” Now that I realize it’s a mock meat derived from a fungus, I feel betrayed. I suppose I understand the decision – Fusarium venenatum doesn’t really have a ring to it – but it’s not really the origin of the stuff that turns me off (although that doesn’t help). It’s the fact that Quorn (do I have to capitalize that?) is fake meat, and people are presumably eating it despite the presence of actual, real, delicious, nutritious meat.

Vegetarians? Any vegetarian who chooses Quorn as a protein source over pastured eggs is nuts. Oh, and speaking of nuts, I’d eat nuts for protein before Quorn, too. Vegans? Sure, go ahead and eat your quorn for protein. I’m frankly not all that interested.

Before you fill your chest freezer with Quorn Tenders, Quorn Cumberland Sausages, and Quorn Tikka Masala (all real products, by the way), however, read about the allergic reactions people have had to Quorn. Some sources claim 4.5% of people who eat Quorn get sick, while other sources say just 1/140,000 report adverse reactions. I don’t think it’s a huge risk unless you’re sensitive to molds, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Verdict: Not Primal, but not because it comes from a fungus. Just eat some meat, dude.

That’s it for today, folks. I hope I didn’t crush any dreams or ruin any dinner plans (agave nectar marinated Quorn steaks, served with a soy lecithin-emulsification). I just wanted to keep you honest.

Do the same for me and leave a comment. Thanks!

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 have a question, and please don’t make fun of me for it. i was vegetarian; i believed the philosophy for 15 years till i got very sick. then i had my first organic beef burger, and by the second burger, i was almost shaking with energy.

    i want to follow a more primal diet. but i can’t get anything more down my gullet, but white chicken (which i can finally prepare w/o getting sick) or turkey meat, grass fed ground beef, and an occasional wild caught salmon. because i have a severe allergy to eggs and dairy, my protein choices are limited to meat. my mind is willing to eat bones, skin, cartilage, organs, but i get nauseous when i try to prepare it. i’ve tried and tried to reframe my attitude about seeing animal flesh, but i just can’t stomach it. does anyone have any recommendations on how to get the nutrition i know i need, but not have to make it myself? i’m not being lazy; i’m truly having a hard time with this.

    asia wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Could you try some crockpot recipes? At our grocery store you can buy free-range, all-natural chicken breasts in a bag. Buying them this way, you could just throw the chicken breasts in a crockpot with veggies and let it cook. You’d barely have to handle it at all. I like to throw a couple chicken breasts in a crockpot with a can or two of Rotel and let it cook for about 6 hours on high. Once you stir it, the chicken will shred and you can serve it over salad with some guacamole. No cutting and minimal handling of the meat. I didn’t eat meat for a long time either and still have moments where handling it sort of turns my stomach. The crockpot allows me to make dishes without messing with the meat much. One of the hosts of the Everyday Paleo Podcast is coming out with a Crockpot Paleo cookbook later this year.

      Emily wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Organs gross me out a little too, so don’t worry, no making fun here! :-)

      You can ask the farmer or the store to prepare the meat for you, so that it contains only flesh but no bones or skin. Stew meat is ready-to-cook chunks of stuff. Can you handle boneless steak?

      Try canned tuna, where it’s already prepared for you. You can also buy boneless canned salmon.

      The preparation will make the meat more expensive, but it will be easier for you.

      oxide wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • First, try googling protein and pregnancy – lots of first-trimester ladies have raw meat aversions, so there should be tips on overcoming them there. Also I know that the woman who runs the GAPS Guide website was in a similar boat but NEEDED to eat the bones/skin/cartiledge for her gut-healing protocol. She has found that as her body adapts to a simple, nutritious diet, it is more willing to accept what her brain wants to give it (as long as her brain lets her body lead, she’s fine).
      Ruminant liver doesn’t look like flesh (because it’s not) and can be frozen for 2 weeks then hacked into little chunks and swallowed like pills. Your butcher can prep heart for you, and it also has no muscle fibre (I chop it finely for chili) instead of beans. Scallops and crabmeat don’t have a meaty texture or appearance. And I hear that bacon is the gateway meat – dump the whole package into a baking tray and put it in the oven. When it comes out it’s food, not meat.
      Would hiding meat work? So pureed in soup, f.ex? Is it the eating or the preparing? Could you make bone broth? Once it’s made and filtered it doesn’t seem animal-related at all. Purchased gelatine can also be snuck in here or there.

      Lauren wrote on May 23rd, 2012
      • Flashback—had that SERIOUS raw meat aversion during first pregnancy. Second one was better but still a problem.

        shrimp4me wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • I’ve always had a REALLY hard time with raw meat as well. . . but, I’ve found the more I read about the health benefits, the more I pay attention to the kind of meat (grassfed, organic), the easier it is for me to stomach the preparation. It’s a reprogramming of your brain! Some foods I can’t (or won’t) reprogram for, like the Medifast diet I once upon a time tried and got very sick from (it’s all soy!). Start with simple things. . . I used to cook chicken breasts only from the frozen state, now I can dress a bird (heck, I can kill it, pluck it, and cook it!). You can help speed up the daily process by pattying up your ground meats (or making meatballs, sausage, etc. . .) all at once when you do your shopping then freeze in ready to use sizes. You can ask your butcher to grind up organ meats and mix it with your ground beef. Make bone broth. . . put the good quality bones into your crock pot, cover with water, add a few veggies and garlic if you like and allow to simmer for at least 24 hours. Once the bones are soft, crush them to get the marrow out, cook a few more hours, strain. Now you have a clear broth that’s pretty easy to stomach. Also, slow cooker meals might be a good way for you to start. . . you can make a roast from the frozen state (frozen was always easier for me than fresh). Good luck!

      Jamie wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Broth, it’s like an extraction.

      Animanarchy wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Bone broth is the best way to get some incredible nutrients into you. Have a friend or family member make you a couple of big batches a month and drink it as it is, or as a base for soups and sauces. It freezes well in small portions.

      I can understand how you feel. Although I’ve never been a vegetarian, I cannot somach organ meats, chew on bones etc. I come from a culture where skin is never consumed, so even that was an aqcuired taste for me, but now I love it as long as it’s crispy!

      Sabrina wrote on May 27th, 2012
    • I’ve read about other vegetarian & vegan people who had the same problem. I’m not a nutritionist nor psychologist, but I’d suspect that after so many years of programming yourself to abhor meat…it’s difficult to deprogram. I would suggest you that really go for the gusto: visit a farm and start from the beginning…learn to kill and dress-out your own food. Do this several times. It’s okay if you puke. But don’t stop until you can eat that meat. I used to have a problem just looking at a dead animal carcass. Then I moved to a farm, and couldn’t eat my own dead chickens. Now I can kill and process (skin, degut) my own animal (chicken, sheep, goat, etc). I’m a 65 yr old woman.

      Kathryn wrote on May 27th, 2012
  2. I’d be interested in your thoughts on maple syrup. You touched on it, but didn’t really dive in. I think that would be really interesting.

    Joel wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  3. I’m not a hipster, err… I don’t know, maybe I am, because I don’t really know exactly what that entails… Anyway, we switched to Coconut Aminos because its gluten-free and soy-free, not because its trendy. We loved tamari sauce and teriyaki but when we simultaneously found out our kids are sensitive to soy AND learned about primal eating, we searched for an alternative. We found coconut aminos on the shelf at a local specialty store but had never heard of it before. It was tasty and worked pretty well as a replacement flavoring in our favorite dishes. A few months later we started seeing paleo/primal articles pop up about it.

    Susan wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  4. I’m a bit confused though. Why is it that tequila is a Primal-approved vice (in moderation, obviously); however, agave nector–which is derived from agave like tequila–is not primal?

    Steve wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • “Primal” diets not pursued as a re-enactment society. Primal diets are pursued for the goal of promoting health.

      The healthfulness of tequila vs. agave comes down to fructose content. Neither is primal, but tequila contains a tiny fraction of the fructose contained in agave. Tequila, therefore, arguably falls in the category of “sensible vice”.

      Daniel wrote on May 23rd, 2012
      • Thanks to this blog I found out just how bad Agave really is. I knew it wasn’t good…but didn’t realize how bad.

        I have a concern when we say Agave isn’t primal. Wouldn’t the Mexican/Indian/S. American primal-people have eaten Agave? Doesn’t mean it was good for them…but I suspect that they ate it. Surely not all primitive foods were good for those who ate? Correct me please if I’m wrong.

        Kathryn wrote on May 27th, 2012
    • My guess it has to do with fermentation. Sugar typical gets consumed by the yeast which poops out alcohol and carbon dioxide.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • potential for quantity of consumption

      Lauren wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  5. broccoli sprouts are on my “do NOT eat” list, as the goitrogens are said to be higher in them than in their big brothers.

    tess wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  6. I’d been wondering about soy lecithin – I already avoid soy generally (in part because of the estrogenicity), but I’d noticed that soy lecithin was in a lot of things like dark chocolate. Nice to know that my concerns were well-founded, although it also means I’m going to need to read labels even more carefully.

    gcb wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Most conventional tea bags have soy licithin too. I now buy tea at the natural food store.

      oxide wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  7. Xylitol?

    Ted wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  8. Sad about agave nectar, but happy to be informed! Which is the best sugar substance to lightly add to my morning macchiato?

    Katy wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Stevia or xylitol.

      Daniel wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • I agree with Daniel. Stevia was a bit of an acquired taste for me. I hated it at first, but it has definitely grown on me and my primary tea sweetener. Be careful not to go overboard with the xylitol as some people are sensitive to it. I chew only xylitol gum and use xylitol toothpaste for my kids, but when I added some to my morning shake, it gave me a stomach ache.
      Another alternative is straight Glucose. It isn’t as sweet as table sugar or fructose, but MUCH better for you.

      JulieD wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • is heavy cream not sweet enough?

      Lauren wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • I’d try coconut sugar! It’s unrefined, low on the glycemic index, and doesn’t have too many carbs (4g per tsp.) I find that less than a teaspoon of this light, maple-like sugar really tops off my coffee well.

      locogirlp wrote on May 23rd, 2012
      • What do you mean by “not too many carbs”? Refined white sugar also has 4g of carb per tsp.

        Anna wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • I put coconut milk in my coffee…mmm perfect

      mars wrote on May 23rd, 2012
      • What brand do you use?

        Carla wrote on May 23rd, 2012
        • Natures Forest (pricey but BPA-free cans) or Golden Star which I store in a glass jar..i love it in coffee, smoothies, soups, sauces..

          mars wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • I use coconut oil in my coffee, 1 TBL per cup which counteracts some of the bad part stuff in coffee. If I wanted my coffee or tea sweet, I’d use Coconut Nectar, or Maple Syrup, or Stevia. My husband puts butter in his coffee, or we also use raw heavy cream.

        Kathryn wrote on May 27th, 2012
  9. I also had not even heard of Quorn until this post. Sound disgusting. I’m actually hesitant to invite liquid/coconut aminos to the condiment party in my fridge. The seesawing opinions on whether it causes MSG-like effects on the body scare me a little bit. Any way some light could be shed on that?

    Christine wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • That’s my concern too – does anyone know anything more about this?

      ThePrimalist wrote on May 24th, 2012
  10. The number 1 thing I loved about eating the Mark’s Daily Apple way from Primal Blueprint is no longer worrying about taking the skin off chicken. I knew when that was sanctioned, I had no excuses for turning back.

    Cheryl Boswell wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  11. When the salmon are running thickest, the bears ONLY eat the fattiest parts of the fish — brains, roe, and skin!

    The rest of the fish (meat) gets tossed aside for other critters.

    If the bears know to do it, then so should you.

    Willymon wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  12. I eat skin unapologetically – along with the gristle and part of the bones. If I see someone take off chicken and salmon skin, I tell them to send it my way.

    Carla wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Recently I fed a friend a bunch of sardines and she refused to eat the spines.. that was fine with me. I love eating spines. : )

      Animanarchy wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • By far Animanarchy, you are one of the first people I’ve read or known about that will do all this crazy stuff. Now I know that handfishing for me is a favorite pastime but eating raw snails and collecting wild ants. It gets me thinking why haven’t I thought of this stuff to do? Next time camping, I’m getting me some ants and grub!

        Michael wrote on May 28th, 2012
        • I think many can relate to this:
          Tool – Reflection
          I have come curiously close to the end, down
          Beneath my self-indulgent pitiful hole,
          Defeated, I concede and
          Move closer
          I may find comfort here
          I may find peace within the emptiness
          How pitiful

          It’s calling me…

          And in my darkest moment, fetal and weeping
          The moon tells me a secret – my confidant
          As full and bright as I am
          This light is not my own and
          A million light reflections pass over me

          Its source is bright and endless
          She resuscitates the hopeless
          Without her, we are lifeless satellites drifting

          And as I pull my head out I am without one doubt
          Don’t wanna be down here soothing my narcissism.
          I must crucify the ego before it’s far too late
          I pray the light lifts me out
          Before I pine away.

          So crucify the ego, before it’s far too late
          To leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical,
          And you will come to find that we are all one mind
          Capable of all that’s imagined and all conceivable.
          Just let the light touch you
          And let the words spill through
          And let them pass right through
          Bringing out our hope and reason …
          before we pine away.

          Animanarchy wrote on May 30th, 2012
  13. All excellent points, especially about animal skin: “As long as the animal in question was healthy and fed a good diet”. That animal comes from the wild in pristine locations, your own land (assuming it s not contaminated)and your local chemical-free sustainable farmer. Finding that last one can be tricky and even fraught with deception, but you can know exactly how to source your food as cleanly as possible here: http://www.nu-gen.net/securing-best-food-sources/

    You want to avoid the following allowable “certified organic” practices:
    - The use of irrigation water from aqueducts which are directly contaminated by neighboring conventional farms.
    - The use of land which has been intensively chemically farmed for many decades.
    - A period of only three years to build up the intensively chemically-treated and depleted soil in order to be qualified as an organic farm.
    - Washing produce with chlorinated water, letting it absorb this water, and bagging it.

    David wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  14. I’ve sincerely tried Paleo for 3 months- haven’t lost an ounce, and have constant heartburn from bacon and other fatty (pasture raised) meats. Body pains are increasing; not feeling well. Why doesn’t it work for me?

    Linda wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Have you been to the forum part of MDA? Come and tell us in detail what you are eating and more about yourself. We can probably help you.

      Harry Mossman wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Hi Linda, Harr is right, we need more information to give good advice. Still the first things that come to my mind are: eat plenty of vegetables with the meat and heat the fat carefully (if you like your meat crispy, maybe use leaner cuts and add fat afterwards). Furthermore, maybe try intermittent fasting as a substitute for eating high-fat; both methods train your fat metabolism. Start slowly with IF. Do you eat offal?

      Victor Venema wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  15. Mmmmmm….mold burgers…..

    jill wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  16. Duck skin off of confit—remove and saute—crispiest, best “bacon” you’ll ever eat.

    Graham wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  17. I was so thankful when I realized that it was “ok” to eat animal skin again. My SAD approach for so many years made me feel incredibly guilty for eating chicken skin and salmon skin, which I’ve always loved. Now I relish it – not that I eat it super frequently. But when I cook chicken these days, I do my best to get a nicy crispy crust on the skin and then I chow down. Nom nom nom.

    Alice wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  18. Thanks, Mark. It was a very timely message. I’m a newbie to the primal diet, and was wondering if I should sprout my mung beans, or get rid of them.
    I’m not going to bother to sprout them…
    Loving your site, by the way!

    Linda wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  19. Soy is in everything even gum. A lot of people are allergic to soy and don’t know it, I think it is because we are so saturated with it. Soy is a rotation crop for corn, so they had to figure out what to do with it and it is cheap. Soy has been linked to Autisum.

    Debbie Trask wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  20. I had to do a double-take when I saw Quorn on this list. I’m surprised anyone wonder if it’s Primal-friendly, lol.

    I admit, though, I like it even though it’s totally high-protein junk! Different versions of it have different ingredients; the “tenders” have least offensive list of ingredients and aren’t made with gluten. My husband doesn’t eat land mammals, so I do keep it in the freezer and use it for chili once in awhile.

    I know, I know… ridiculous. :)

    j3nn wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  21. “nor feed your baby dark chocolate”

    Err what? Why? My 2yo has been eating 80% since she was 1 year or so… Should I be concerned?

    Also, isn’t chicken skin particularly high in Omega-6?

    Wout Mertens wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • I started drinking Coke when I was, I think, 5 and have been a caffiend since. In high school I moved on to energy drinks and drank them just about every day.
      I also had an experience with red whine around the age of 5 (I think it gave me a strength boost – I was at a wedding reception at a farm and lifted one end of a plow with ease while two older kids stood there in awe) and accidentally got high off cough syrup as a kid a few times (I recently discovered this through self reflection).
      I crave all the above, though I don’t drink much.
      Whenever I was sick with a cough as a kid even if my throat didn’t hurt I always wanted cough syrup and I’d ask my mom for it. I loved drinking it from the spoon even though it tasted gross, and then I’d feel better. I thought it was because I wasn’t coughing and the syrup just took away cold symptoms. Dextromethorphan is a semi-synthetic opiate with a wide range of pleasurable effects. No wonder I loved taking medecine so much when I was younger, like the banana-flavoured antiobiotics I slurped down regularly through an alligator spoon for my constant ear infections until I had tubes in my ears. I also had plenty of sugar as a kid. Cereal, pancakes, fruit roll-ups (“made with real fruit!”), “fruit snacks”.. that was a huge part of my diet.

      Animanarchy wrote on May 24th, 2012
  22. Mark,

    How about Luo Han juice used as a natural sweetener? I’m thinking it’s like stevia and therefore primal, but is it really

    Sheri wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  23. Quorn ‘…comes from a mold organism (Fusarium venenatum) that was discovered in soil by scientists in the 1960s. This organism is then multiplied en masse in steel containers with some added sugar and nutrients and then contrived into foods such as burgers, sausages and meat.’ – Dr John Briffa

    Not a natural food just because it is manufactured from mold in dirt.

    Richard wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Thanks for the input Dr John. I’ve never heard of this Quom-stuff til now. It’s disgusting! Worse, I must have eaten it and didn’t know it (like so many foods). And contains sugar? All I can think of now is moldy meat burgers, moldy sausages, and probably moldy spaghetti and ravioli. Humans can be really sick in the head sometimes.

      Kathryn wrote on May 27th, 2012
  24. I love chicken skin…. its almost the whole point of roasting chicken… duh.

    Katy wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  25. Good write up, but doesn’t clarify sprouts enough for me. A later comment mentions “goitrogens”. Real? Concerned?

    Animarchy, as a bug eater, I recommend you check out bee larvae. Tasty, numerous, big and more than one reference discusses how the larvae were an early intended food source for people.

    thanks for the conversation folks.

    DougT wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Thanks, you just gave me an idea… Buying bugs at pet stores.

      Animanarchy wrote on May 24th, 2012
  26. Love this info….thanks, Mark!!!

    Kevin Lin wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  27. The study about mitochondrial function in frozen-thawed spermatozoa is about ram, not rat, sperm.

    Thanks for the heads up about soy lecithin. I only eat it in chocolate, and assumed it was such a small amount as to not bother me, but it’s worth eliminating and testing.

    LaZigeuner wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  28. Just found this website on chocolate ingredients, sort by cacao content and start at 100%. Looks like Green & Blacks is soy lecithin free as well as several others. Just not sure how available they all are but worth checking out.

    Erin wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  29. I used to eat quorn but I started getting sick – like really sick when I ate it. In my research I found that it’s not just some “fungus” found growing under a tree in Ireland or whatever – but it’s a highly processed fungus they made in a vat – and then they add a bunch of sugar and other stuff to it to make it taste good – it’s definitely not primal! Yeah, anyway, I like sprouts on my salad… but lately, i’ve just been eating pears on my salad – way tastier!!

    melissa daams wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  30. *btw-OLD email address :)
    I always appreciate these posts but I really don’t GET why PRIMAL is so hard for everyone? I am probably…gosh 75% primal, i’d guess, but I follow a few simple rules i’ve picked up from various places:

    1. If it doesn’t have a mother or it doesn’t come from the ground-it’s not going in my mouth. ;)

    Narrow that further-
    2. I don’t eat grains, legumes, or dairy.

    3. Whole foods only.

    I don’t get much more specific except to eat organic, grass fed, and free roaming as much as possible.

    WHOLE FOODS. It’s not that hard.

    mcoffeesnob wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Surely you just forgot to mention number

      4. Healthy fats.

      I’m with you on numbers 1, 2, and 3…it’s not that hard to eat right. But it is hard to find the good foods. Fortunately, I can raise all my own food…chickens, sheep, goats, veggies and very little fructose (fruit). I adore healthy butter, and the good salts. I’m eating a tablespoon of butter right now…yummmy

      I do miss some old favorites: spaghetti, mac and cheese, and burgers. So I splurge (fall off the wagon) once in a great while. Then back on the good stuff, feeling no guilt.

      Kathryn wrote on May 27th, 2012
  31. Many people have hassled me over my love of chicken and salmon skin…it’s one of the best parts! Thank you for the vindication. ; )

    Adrienne Kuhn wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  32. Question about skin: if it’s not organic skin, is it still a good idea to eat it?

    I was under the impression that in non-organically raised meat, that the skin has the highest concentration of toxins?

    I’ve been wanting to eat pork rinds, etc but havent found any “organic” ones and am scared off by te possible toxins.

    Please advise

    Ps: salmon skin, a little crispy on the outside, with that creamy omega-3 rich fat on the inside: pure heaven.

    Gabrielfs wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • My understanding is that the toxins do tend to concentrate in the skin, so this yet another reason to eat organic chicken and wild salmon. I love pork rinds too, and would be curious to know if organic ones are available as an indulgence once in awhile.

      Adrienne Kuhn wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  33. i LOVE salmon skin!!! yummmm today i had some :D

    Isidora wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  34. Fairly new to the Primal diet but learning a ton. Agave nectar as noted in this blog is a “no-no”. What are the three most “primal accepted” types of sugar? One for say coffee or tea, one for sprinkling on fruit and perhaps one for baking?

    Carla wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Xylitol is not bad for baking, but baking usually involves some kind of flour, so you’re treading a treacherous path no matter how you slice it. As an occasional treat, okay, but daily primal muffins are a bad idea and a crutch.

      Honey and real maple syrup are okay in moderation. I know some people that put honey in their coffee.

      You don’t need to sprinkle sugar on fruit. Especially once you have cut down on the amount of sugar you consume, you’ll be surprised that even vegetables taste kind of sweet.

      Mark’s done at least one post entirely on sweeteners, so you could look that up for more on the biochemistry.

      Abigail wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  35. Thanks for warning me about quorn mark.

    Scilla wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  36. Doesn’t Quorn products contain wheat flour as a binder and wheat gluten?
    I used to sometimes eat Quorn but not now as it has gluten in it according to the list of ingredients here in the UK. Just thought I’d mention it, cos I don’t eat wheat flour or gluten, and I’m trying not to ingest gluten in any shape, form or way.

    Renate wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  37. I, like a few others, am having a hard time understanding why some people find it so difficult to determine what they should/should not eat. Granted, when it comes to certain whole foods I do understand some of the confusion–but I don’t understand why so many people are buying/eating so much packaged and processed food. I guess I’m just so spoiled living down here where the only things I buy in packages in the supermarket are cleaning products and toilet paper.

    I also don’t know if the meat I eat is organic or grass fed or whatever but it doesn’t matter to me because it is what is available from the butcher. I only buy locally raised chicken and chicken eggs, alpaca from the nearby Andes, beef that is raised in the central and southern regions of Chile, and fish/seafood that I either catch myself or buy from the sea port.

    Yes, I do eat cheese and won’t give it up for anyone or anything. I love it and I eat it almost every day with no adverse affects. I did try a 30 day “no cheese” test and felt no different physically during or after I reintroduced it, so it isn’t causing me any problems. I feel deprived without it and my life is not about deprivation.

    I also don’t want to have to “learn” to like something. If it tastes like shit then it tastes like shit. Period. I don’t care how good it is for me. I won’t take supplements because I know I can get all my vita-nutrients from the food I eat.

    I guess I can’t sit around getting my knickers in a twist about every little thing. Life is too short–even if you do live to be a 100+ to spend so much time worrying and tying yourself in knots about every little thing. If you feel good and are eating as well as you can–yes, finance and likes/dislikes definitely play a role–then you are probably fine. So what? One thing you really enjoy, like crispy chicken skin, is not from an organic source and you eat it a few times a month–seriously–you’re going to worry about that? You probably get more toxins from the air around you than the small amount you might pick up from non-organic chicken skin every once in a while. The worrying and sitting on your ass in front of the computer researching everything until your brain is running in circles when you could have been outside taking a walk does more damage.

    Oh, when I say “you” I don’t mean anyone in particular, just a general word meaning “anyone who is having these kinds of concerns.”

    mila wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Love your post!

      Jane wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Amen.

      Victor Venema wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • You just spoke volumes. And by “you”–I meant you, you wise woman!

      Bella wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  38. Without your vetting of foods, I would be somewhat lost.. I began the ‘Primal’ diet 3 months ago, so to have an invaluable resource as this site and your knowledge is so helpful…Thank you for the diligent research!

    GreenEyes wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  39. Very interesting to read on the USA vs. UK websites the ingredients in the same Quorn products. The UK items have fewer ingredients. But nothing I’d ever eat.

    Carrie wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  40. Thank you for the post on Agave. People keep saying it’s a healthy sugar substitute, when it’s actually as good as high fructose corn syrup or some other extracted-sugar-syrup. Now I have it confirmed. :)

    Caitlin wrote on May 23rd, 2012

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