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
For years, wine was my stress reliever at the end of a long day. Having given up grains and grain-based beverages over a decade ago, I swapped beer for wine. It was my frequent dinner companion. Grilled grass-fed ribeye wasn’t grilled grass-fed ribeye without a glass of California Cab. And then I suspected my 1-2 glass a night habit was impairing my gut health and affecting my sleep. I ran a quick experiment, determined that the nightly wine indeed was having bad effects, and stopped drinking altogether.
It worked. My gut health and sleep improved. Yet I still missed wine. I missed pitting the crunch of an aged Gouda’s tyrosine crystals against a big red, lingering over a glass with an old friend, clinking glasses, giving toasts. I missed what Hemingway called “one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things in the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection.” But I didn’t miss the poor sleep and gut disturbances.
Coffee is serious business. We Americans drink about 400 million cups of it per day and spend several billion dollars on it each year. It’s the most popular drug on earth, and certainly the most socially acceptable. In many ways, coffee’s the closest thing we’ve got to a universal, daily ritual, as just about every morning, billions of people across the planet prostrate themselves before the holy, energy-giving legume. It also hails from the same place the earliest members of our species do: East Africa (Ethiopia, to be exact). That the most industrious animal ever to walk the planet and the psychoactive legume that fuels said industry both hail from the same place on earth is pure poetry.
Coffee’s also delicious. I’d say you’d have to pry my coffee from my cold, dead fingers, only the ensuing struggle would slosh it all onto the floor, and that would be such a waste.
Go back 160,000 years and we all share a common ancestor: The emergence of the first Homo sapiens in East Africa. Since then, humans have spread across every environment imaginable and adapted to those environments. Much remains the same. We all breathe oxygen, require protein, produce insulin, oxidize fatty acids. But extended stays in unique environments have created genetic proclivities in different populations. For example, descendants of people who settled in high-altitude areas like the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Ethiopian highlands tend to show greater resistance to low-oxygen environments, while the Greenland Inuit show unique adaptations to cold environments, including increased activity of heat-stimulating brown fat. And among the island-dwellers of Sardinia, where the landscape constrained the amount of available food, there’s considerable evidence of positive selection for short stature.
What other differences exist, and how can we explore them to inform and improve our own diet and lifestyle choices?
Print this out. Bookmark it. Send it to friends who don’t quite get the Primal thing. Consider this a valuable resource for all-things Primal. It’s a nice, alphabetical encapsulation of what it means to lead a Primal lifestyle. It’s not everything, of course. You can always dig deeper into the details, but this summary gives a high-level look at just about everything.
Without further ado, I present The A-to-Z Guide to Leading a Primal Lifestyle.
Avoid chronic cardio. I spent about half my life running (and later, with triathlons, swimming and cycling) myself into the ground. I thought the more miles I could log, the healthier I’d be. That’s the mindset many people have, and it’s absolutely wrong. Running a ten-miler is different than running a ten-miler every day. We have the capacity to go long distances and even outlast wild animals upon which we’re preying. We don’t have the capacity to do that every single day without consequences to our health. Run long distances if you love it, compete if you love competing, but know the cost it incurs.
In most Western nations, napping is a sign of weakness. Those who do it — or, even worse, need it — are slothful wastes of resources who can’t hack it in the “real world.” They lack grit, determination, and stick-to-itiveness. They’re getting old. Why nap when you can put in more hours, be more productive, make (your employer) more money? Naps are for babies and senior citizens and other non-productive members of society. They simply aren’t tolerated in able-bodied adults.
Yeah: as much as people are willing to pay lip service to the importance of a solid eight hours every night (actually sleeping that many hours is another thing entirely), most do not seriously entertain the value of napping. That’s a real mistake, because not only do humans have a long and storied tradition of snoozing in the middle of the day, there are also huge benefits to naps. Far from being anti-productivity wastes of time, a well-timed nap can boost cognitive function, improve work output, and make you healthier, happier, and a better employee (and person).
Last week, I gave you the definitive guide to nuts, focusing on the ten most widely available types. Today I give the same treatment to edible seeds. If you’ve ever wondered whether chia seeds are good to eat, or sesame seeds can be legitimate snacks, or flaxseed actually isn’t as good (or bad) as you may have thought, this is the post for you. If you need to choose sides in a long-standing and bitter blood feud pitting the sunflower seed farmers on your mother’s side of the family against the pepita producers on your father’s, this post will help you decide. If your trustafarian friend’s obsession with the industrial applications of hemp is getting on your nerves, this post will give you the tools to analyze his arguments.
As you’ll see below, seeds are nutrient-dense little guys that can really pack in the minerals. Let’s get to it:
Of all Primal-approved food categories, none is more bedeviling to even seasoned followers of the lifestyle than nuts. The questions never end. What is a nut? When you’ve got all these nut-like gymnosperms, drupes, and legumes masquerading as nuts, what even qualifies as an actual nut? Does it even matter? Or phytic acid. Is it or isn’t it a problem? And soaking — am I supposed to soak every type of nut, just some nuts, or none of them? Aren’t nuts really high in omega-6s, which we’re supposedly trying to limit or at least balance with our omega-3 intake? How do we reconcile that conflict? Why is “hazelnut” one word, while “pine nut” is two?
I’m out of breath, but this is a fairly representative sample of the nut-related questions I receive from readers. It is confusing, so today I’m going to give you the definitive guide to nuts. After today’s post, you’ll have a solid grasp of which nuts you should and maybe shouldn’t be eating.
Several years ago, I briefly discussed a few methods for overcoming procrastination, but they didn’t take. The sea change I expected never came. People still procrastinated as much as they ever did, despite views for that particular post reaching the upper tens of thousands. Today, that changes. I’ve created a definitive guide to overcoming the procrastination preventing you from accomplishing your goals, completing your duties, fulfilling your responsibilities, and realizing your dreams. After reading today’s post, you’ll never mess around when you should be doing something more important again.
A few years back, I briefly covered a throwaway Yahoo! article about how “carbs will make you lose weight” because so many readers had emailed about it. It turned out that the “carbs” in the article were resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that our digestive enzymes cannot break down. I’ll admit now, with regret, that I didn’t look as deeply into the matter as I might have. I didn’t dismiss resistant starch, but I did downplay its importance, characterizing it as “just another type of prebiotic” – important but not necessary so long as you were eating other fermentable fibers. While technically true, we’re fast learning that resistant starch may be a special type of prebiotic with a special place in the human diet.
Before huge multinational corporations did it for us, humans had to figure out how to turn raw, unrefined formerly-living things into food that could be cooked or eaten. And before standup freezers, refrigerators, ice boxes, canned soup, bagged bread, tinned fish, and grocery stores hit the scene, we had to figure out how to preserve foods. Yes, we humans were a wily, resourceful bunch – still are, if you give us half a chance – who came up with an impressive number of food preparation and preservation techniques over the ages. Some techniques were designed solely to preserve the food. Some improved the taste. Others increased the density of the nutrients, as well as our ability to access them. Still others were simply concerned with removing natural toxins and making the food safe to eat. And some techniques accomplish some or all of these things at once. Whatever the technique, however, from basic mechanical pounding to month-long fermentation, these methods all sought to accomplish one simple thing: increase the availability of safe, nutritious, digestible caloric energy.
Let’s take a look at some of them and explore what, why, and how they work: