Dear Mark: Marcona Almonds, Olives, Grass-Fed Whey, and Carbquik

AlmondsIf you weren’t at UCLA this weekend for the Ancestral Health Symposium, you really missed out on the brainiest, brawniest, most physically and mentally impressive gathering I’ve been witness to. My hat’s off to the organizers!

Let’s get right to the questions. I field a Marcona almond query, discuss the unpalatability of raw olives, explain my stance on grass-fed whey protein, and lambast Carbquik.

Hi Mark,

I hear a lot about how almonds are good for you, but I could never get myself to enjoy the taste and have typically avoided them. However, recently I’ve discovered marcona almonds, which appear to be a related but different nut, and boast a delicious, addictive taste and lighter texture. Are marcona almonds just as beneficial as regular almonds?



Yes, Marcona almonds are just as beneficial. Every online resource I could dig up relayed nearly identical nutrition profiles for Marcona and regular almonds, so I’m unaware of a huge difference beyond the taste: Marcona almonds tend to be sweeter and slightly softer. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were slight variations (as is always possible when you’re dealing with whole foods that grow in soil or eat the things that grow in soil). Do be careful with some Marcona almonds, as they are traditionally fried in oil before serving. If your almonds are fried, check the packaging to ensure some unhealthy seed oil wasn’t used.

Quick sidenote: as I understand it, Marcona almonds are kinda like champagne or bourbon in that they are only Marcona almonds if they are grown in Spanish soil. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Dear Mark,

I have an olive question. It’s my understanding that fresh off the branch olives taste like gasoline, and that only after brining do they become delicious. I know they’re full of great stuff, but would Grok have eaten them if they taste so awful fresh? Seems like a loud and clear “stay away” message from the plant.

Any idea what makes them taste foul, and why brining fixes it? It seems an awful lot like sprouting/soaking/fermenting to neutralize phytic acid in grains and makes me wonder if I should be eating them, despite their long list of good qualities.



Raw olives are packed with several unpalatable phenolic compounds, the most bitter of which is oleuropein. But while you probably wouldn’t pluck a raw olive from a branch, eat it, and enjoy it, it wouldn’t hurt you and it might even improve the stability of your serum lipoproteins (if you could choke a few down). Oleuropein, you see, is also a potent antioxidant with several pharmacological effects. You might recall an older post in which I mentioned that dietary extra virgin olive oil protected LDL cholesterol from oxidizing in the serum of older men. Well, it’s very possible that oleuropein is the primary compound responsible for the LDL protection, as a couple in vitro studies show.

Unpalatability in the raw state doesn’t necessarily indicate an unhealthy or unsuitable food. It’s a good tool, a good lens through which to view food, but it’s not always accurate and it can’t solely be relied upon. If Grok encountered raw, uncured olives in the wild, he may have avoided them, sure, but so what? They’re delicious and good for you, and this is borne out by clinical trials and longstanding tradition. The olive is just one of those seemingly unpalatable foods that takes a little extra preparation to make edible. Once it is edible, though, it’s definitely worth eating. And you don’t have to eat bitter olives to get the good stuff; extra virgin olive oil retains much of the raw olive’s antioxidant activity (hence the peppery bite after a swig of the good stuff).

Dear Mark,

I noticed that the whey protein in Primal Fuel isn’t grass-fed whey protein. Why? Isn’t grass-fed better?


Grass-fed animal fat is better. Grass-fed meat is better. Grass-fed dairy is definitely better. But grass-fed whey isolate? I find it unnecessary. Why? Well, let’s look at the commonly cited reasons for preferring grass-fed animal products to grain-fed animal products.

-Grass-fed has better fatty acids. More omega-3, more CLA. Whey isolate contains no fat.

-Grass-fed has a better micronutrient profile. More minerals, more vitamins. Whey isolate contains neither minerals nor vitamins.

-Grass-fed has a better taste. Some say it’s “gamey,” I say it actually tastes like an animal. Whey isolate has no flavor, so “better” doesn’t enter the equation.

Don’t get me wrong – you can’t understand a whole food by reducing it down to its constituent macronutrients, micronutrients, and biologically active non-nutrients. Nuts are not just globules of linoleic acid, fruits aren’t bags of sugar. You have to consider the whole picture. But when trying to assess the suitability of a single, isolated constituent part of a whole food, you must dismiss the rest and narrow your focus.

Hi Mark,

My wife often cooks primal-ish meals from Linda’s Menus & Recipes and Linda often suggests using Carbquik as a white flour substitute to reduce the carb count and make our bread type dishes taste more “bread like”. Can you give us a review of this item? No matter how many people tell me that flax seed and almond meal breads, biscuits, pizza crusts, etc… TASTE GREAT I must respectfully say, bulls*#t!

Thank you sir!  Keep up the good fight.


In short, no. To both understand why avoiding white flour is paramount and prove that Carbquik is not a healthy substitute, we must look to the ingredients. Carbquik contains “enzyme enriched wheat, vital wheat gluten, wheat fiber, high-protein patent wheat flour, vegetable fiber, canola oil, salt, dextrose, emulsifiers, enzymes, ascorbic acid, sucralose, calcium propionate.” I don’t know about you, but I see several red flags: added gluten, canola oil, sucralose (Splenda, which many people have trouble with), and, I dunno, the fact that it’s wheat flour. Remember that the primary reason to avoid wheat is the gluten protein (which Carbquik certainly contains) and the wheat lectins (like wheat germ agglutinin, which Carbquik might contain). The carb content is secondary, at least for folks who don’t have trouble with carbohydrates.

Sorry, man. It’s just not worth it. You may have to suck it up and go without bread.

Well, I’m gonna try to rest. It was a long, wild weekend, so I’ll let you folks hash it out in the comment section. Thanks for reading, and send along any more questions you might have!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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