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
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:
At first glance, this title probably threw you off. I mean, a guide to walking? Are we moderns really that dysfunctional that we can’t even walk correctly? C’mon, Sisson – you must be out of ideas.
Bear with me, here.
It may seem silly to need a definitive guide to walking, but I think we do. First off, walking is no longer necessary for basic everyday survival. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, the average person reading this blog can get by just fine without walking more than a couple hundred yards each day. Whether via buses, trains, cars, bikes, or delivery services, you’re not going to starve or die of thirst just because you don’t or can’t walk. I’ll argue that walking is an essential human activity that we ignore to our ultimate detriment, but millions of people do exactly that and think nothing of it. Progress? In a wider societal sense, sure. But on an individual level, people still need to walk.
Before I begin, I want to make something clear: this is not your standard definitive guide to whatever. I’d like to be able to issue a proclamation regarding diet soda that stands the test of time immemorial, but I cannot. Research is still in its infancy, and exactly what diet soda does to those who drink it – if anything – is incredibly confusing. The one thing I can say with any certainty is that, while it’s unfair to say it will kill you or give your unborn child prenatal tumors or make you impossibly obese, you’re probably better off without diet soda. It tastes weird, the list of unpronounceable ingredients is too long for my comfort level, and I’ve seen one too many unsuccessful dieters that seem to live on the stuff.
There are two things to consider when making any conclusions about diet soda’s place in a healthy diet. Do the ingredients used in diet soda pose a threat to your short-term or long-term (or that of your offspring’s) health? Is it a kind of sugary methadone, impeding healthy eating by making it harder to kick the desire for sweet things in your mouth because, well, you’re constantly putting things in your mouth that mimic sugar? Let’s dig in.
You’d think this post would come with a blaring alarm, flashing strobe light or at least an ominous gong. Sugar, after all, gets little welcome around these parts. It’s on one hand a dastardly devil, shameless snare for many a man, woman and child. Beyond this luring, ignoble reputation, however, you’ll find (as is so often the case in life and biology) the story is a bit more complicated – and compelling – than the proverbial black hat. Sugar comes in many forms of course, and each of these leaves a certain amount of damage and destruction in its path. Yet, what do we do when sugar naturally accompanies some of the healthiest fare out there? Do we forgo it altogether when a touch ties an otherwise good Primal recipe together? Are the typical substitutions any better when we choose to use a sweetener? We’ve covered the artificial options in the past, but today I’ll give several natural varieties of sugar their due – the obligatory facts, the practical details and a final Primal analysis.
Sleep Awareness Week (as sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation) technically ended March 13th, but somehow I’m guessing there are just as many sleep deprived folks milling about this week as there were a few days ago – just like our good reader Monday. Maybe a few of us feel better adjusted to the time change these days, but probably just as many stayed up late to watch the NCAA games this weekend. Or maybe it was a late St. Paddy’s Day party. Somehow it’s always somethin’, isn’t it?
Even if we’re good and diligent and never sacrifice sleep for entertainment purposes, life too often pokes holes in our most worthy intentions. Babies wake up in the middle of the night. Flights leave early. Deadlines, projects and bills keep us up later than we’d planned. Maybe we even burn the midnight oil to get a jump on the next morning’s tasks! Nighttime too often becomes a default slush fund for the day’s chores. Still others of us might deliberately stay up to bask (however groggily) in what seems like the only time we have to ourselves. The house is quiet, the kids/partner are asleep. The world is hushed, and the deep solitude is too much to resist.
I knew going in this was going to be a tricky one, because dairy, especially raw and/or fermented full-fat dairy, resides in a Primal gray area. The literature, the evolutionary reasoning, and the anecdotal reports all unanimously point to sugar, cereal grains and legumes, processed foods, and industrial vegetable oils as being net negatives on the human metabolic spectrum, but dairy is somewhat different. The other Neolithic foodstuffs we can rule out because the science condemning them is fairly concrete and they weren’t on the menu 20,000 years ago. Heck, they weren’t just off the menu; they were basically unrecognizable as food in the raw state. Dairy, on the other hand, is a relatively recent food chronologically, but it is most assuredly and obviously a viable nutritive source in its raw form. It’s full of highly bioavailable saturated fat, protein, and carbs – in equal portions. You could conceivably survive on milk alone (I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could technically do it; try doing the same with honey or raw millet). Milk is baby fuel. It’s literally meant to spur growth and enable a growing body. Our bodies definitely recognize dairy as food, even foreign bovine dairy. But is it good nutrition?
It’s probably the one thing that prevents people from fully buying into the Primal Blueprint. Almost anyone can agree with the basic tenets – eating more vegetables, choosing only clean, organic meats, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise is fairly acceptable to the mainstream notion of good nutrition. The concept of Grok and a lifestyle based on evolutionary biology can be a harder sell, but anyone who’s familiar with (and accepts) the basics of human evolution tends to agree (whether they follow through and adopt the lifestyle is another question), at least intellectually. But saturated fat? People have this weird conditioned response to the very phrase.
“But what about all that saturated fat? Aren’t you worried about clogging up your arteries?”
Maybe you’ve found yourself feeling self-conscious on evening walks while five people pass you (perhaps twice) in their best running forms. Perhaps you spent the day at the lake canoeing or hiking around the beach and later felt guilty for not having made it to the gym. Or maybe you’re frustrated having to mow or rake over the weekend because it means giving up workout time in exchange. Message for the day: shed the guilt, forget the self-reproach, and enjoy a little affirmation.
I’ve mentioned the Primal concept of play quite a bit recently, and I figured I should clarify what I mean with a comprehensive post.
But Mark! A Definitive Guide to something that is essentially formless, spontaneous, and boundless? Surely you jest!
Before you scoff, consider the current status of play in our society. Think about where “play” as a concept has been relegated – to the “important but ultimately expendable” category. Roving bands of children out for kicks and innocent thrills who answer only to the streetlights are absent, replaced by Purel-soaked kids being bused to their next “play date.” Working men and women accumulate enough stress for a dozen Groks in the course of a week, putting in overtime and working weekends, only to collapse on the couch in front of the TV once they get home. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a few hours a week on the treadmill or out in the yard with the kids or the dog. When they finally manage to get it, people enjoy play (it is fun, after all), but – whether it’s our Puritan past summoning hidden guilt at the thought of pleasure for pleasure’s sake or the consumerist mentality pushing us to work, work, work – there’s always “real life” calling and interrupting the fun. Pure play has become more of a luxury nowadays or, even worse, is considered to be “kids’ stuff.” But when your kids can’t even play without checking their schedules first, you know there’s a serious problem.
I was actually a little surprised that we hadn’t already done a Definitive Guide to fish oil when a Worker Bee suggested it to me. We’ve mentioned it enough, and it’s a hot enough topic that I just assumed we’d done a big comprehensive guide to the stuff. But, as my staff so eagerly likes to inform me, I was completely, utterly wrong (enjoy it now, cause it won’t happen again anytime soon!).
A quick look at the archives revealed that we actually had compiled enough content to make a Definitive Guide – we just had it spread out over several wide-ranging posts from various dates. But that’s not to suggest the following is just a rehash of old content. Rather, I’ve pulled it all up, cobbled it all together, and topped it with some entirely new stuff. The result, I think, should be pretty definitive.