The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Prior to 1980, how in the world did anyone know how to eat? When you think of all the centuries, the millennia of human existence, how did the species manage to survive bumbling their way through day after day of undirected eating patterns? I’m guessing those of you who know me expected a few irreverent remarks when you read the title of today’s post. Still, I’ll try to keep myself on a short leash today. It’s a legitimate and even, in some regards, culturally (and probably politically) significant question: why were government dietary guidelines ever put in place—and what was the backstory of their uses and modifications over time? Finally, what perspective can it bring to our understanding of embracing a “niche” dietary model like the Primal Blueprint?
First off, let’s make no mistake. Americans are still binging on junk food. No one is declaring the end of fast food. Financial trends show as much, as does a casual look around. That said, there’s plenty to suggest that we find ourselves at an interesting junction these days when it comes to the food economy.
We’re seeing big packaged food giants, who lost four billion dollars of the market share last year, initiate “healthy” or sustainable changes they hope will drive consumers back to their product lines. Several fast food chains are doing the same. It’s all part of a “Big Food versus Granola Startup” movement, as described by a recent Fortune Magazine analysis of the food industry, a review that highlights the increasing role of health goals and smaller sourcing as well as questions the ability of large food companies to maintain their market share, particularly without heeding the alternative writing on the wall.
For today’s Dear Mark, I’m responding to as many of the questions and concerns relayed in the comment section of last week’s raw milk post. You guys had a lot of them, ranging from whether raw milk can help with eczema and adult asthma, if homogenization is dangerous, why raw milk might taste and smell fishy, to how many people get sick from pasteurized milk. I also respond to reports of raw milk not being a panacea for immune health, and even an active impediment to it.
Lots of ground is covered today, so let’s get right to it.
Here we go:
Is homogenization dangerous?
I don’t drink much, if any, milk. A little cream in my morning coffee, good cheese regularly, some yogurt and kefir on occasion are about the extent of my dairy consumption. But milk? That pure white untouched fluid gushing from swollen udders? No, not really. Not anymore. It’s certainly a nutrient-dense food, don’t get me wrong, and I’m good at breaking down lactose. I just don’t see the need for it in my regular diet.
Ambivalence and lack of personal investment aside, I can’t ignore the bitter debate raging between raw milk advocates and raw milk skeptics. I may not have a personal dog in this fight (for what it’s worth, I seem to tolerate pasteurized milk just fine), and lots of Primal folks reading this are in the same boat, but many of my readers do drink milk — or would like to drink it if a healthier version existed. Raw milk may or may not be that version. Plus, it’s always interesting to wade into the fray to see whose claims are science-based and whose aren’t.
To answer the title, kind of. The same basic principle of yogurt-making applies to all yogurts: the inoculation of milk with specific strains of yogurt bacteria followed by incubation at a temperature warm enough to encourage growth and proliferation. Yogurt is milk transformed into a creamy, tangy, more nutritious product. All yogurt is initially created equal, but after that, all bets are off. For whatever reason, food producers have seen fit to ruin a perfectly good thing with misguided additions and subtractions.
Last week, I wrote about how the available evidence indicates that full-fat dairy is a very healthy, nutritious source of food for people who tolerate it. The comment section exploded with questions, so I figured I’d use this week’s “Dear Mark” to answer most of them. First up is a question about dairy’s oft-reported positive effect on weight gain. Next, I briefly go over the A1/A2 milk issue. Is it something you actually have to worry about? (Maybe.) After that, I discuss whether dairy has to be raw to be worth eating (or drinking), and I give my rationale for choosing the dairy that I do. Then I give my take on why the osteoporosis rates in the United States are high despite our high dairy consumption, followed by whether using inflammatory forms of dairy to heighten the post-workout spike in inflammatory markers makes sense. And finally, does a gluten intolerance make dairy more problematic?
One thing that sets the Primal way of eating apart from other ancestral health approaches is our acceptance of dairy fat. Obviously, those people who can’t tolerate dairy shouldn’t eat it, but in my experience a significant portion of the community can handle high-quality, full-fat dairy, especially butter, yogurt, and cheese. We like these foods for many reasons. They’re delicious. They make vegetables more appealing and nutritious. They’re inherently nutritious themselves, containing fat-soluble vitamins and important minerals, while the potentially problematic components of dairy – the whey, casein, and lactose – are either absent or mitigated by fermentation. Fermented dairy is a good source of probiotics, too. All in all, dairy is worth including if you can do it.
Last week, I opened the discussion of whether or not the whole world could go Primal. As you may recall, I noted that given the realities of our infrastructure, our policies, and the entrenched interests who wield considerable amounts of power and influence, practically speaking such a dramatic shift simply isn’t likely anytime soon. While it may be true that much of the world can’t access or afford grass-fed beef or other examples of privileged dietary staples it shouldn’t keep those that can from enjoying it. In fact, pulling out wallets can go a long way toward changing the state of things as they are now. That was last week, though. Today, I’m going to address some of the logistical concerns many of you raised regarding a transition to a world of Primal eaters. This is a huge topic beyond the scope of any one blog post, and there’s no magic bullet, but I’ll give it an honest go.
Every couple weeks, I get an email that asks about the global sustainability of the Primal Blueprint diet. It’s a common question, one that probably deserves a comprehensive answer – or as close to one as I can muster. See, the problem is that the world is really, really big. And the problems that affect the world have many layers. Each of those problems is made up of dozens of smaller problems, localized issues whose solutions – if they even exist – don’t necessarily apply to the others.
Indeed, the question posed in the title of today’s post isn’t just one question. It is many. Next week, I’ll attempt to answer the question(s) as best I can.
But for now, I just have to ask: is it even a valid question?
Shortly after writing the cold cuts post, in which I gave Applegate Farms some praise for being “one of the good ones,” I received an email from a perceptive reader who had a slightly different appraisal of the situation. Applegate Farms, it turns out, doesn’t raise any animals themselves. There’s no farm to visit. They source all their animals from outside farms. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sourcing meat from outside sources, especially when you make a concerted effort to procure good meat from well-raised animals, but I’ll admit that this does change things a bit for me. My idea of the ideal meat producer, however romantic, outdated, or unrealistic it might be, is one that handles every single aspect of the business in house: from raising the animals to feeding them feed grown on site, to tending their pastures, to slaughtering them (or, as the law requires, having them slaughtered at a USDA-inspected “harvesting site”), all the way to curing, slicing, and distributing the meat and related products. I like shaking the hand that castrated the calf, scratched the pig’s snout, and collected the egg, as the other slides me a vacuum-sealed package of short ribs at the Saturday morning farmers’ market.