Meet Mark

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...

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Tag: smart fuel

You Don’t Have to Try to Like Celery Anymore

Celery doesn’t have a passionate fan base. There are no “core users” of which I am aware. In fact, I’m convinced that even the celery fans among us (myself included…sorta) probably wouldn’t eat it if it weren’t, well, just there all the time.

Celery is great in soups and somehow also got the reputation of “peanut butter’s soul mate” though I for one will dispute that. A world without celery would probably also upset the makers of Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix, so celery does serve a good purpose.

But, there’s a stringless alternative to celery that I love: allow me to present bok choy. Talk about genius calories.

Bok choy isn’t quite as bland as celery, so I don’t recommend forcing it on your almond butter. This is mainly because bok choy actually tastes like something. But bok choy’s noted fresh flavor is mild in a mushroom kind of way – it’s not overpowering and it complements whatever else it’s paired with.

Bok choy is loaded with calcium, Vitamin A, and vitamin C, and even if it weren’t, I’d still love it for the lack of strings. Although it’s technically a cabbagey thing, bok choy bears stalky resemblance to celery and is virtually interchangeable. And again about the strings.

Use bok choy in stir fries, vegetable medleys, casseroles, soups, stews, and even those Bloody Marys. You’ll love it!

Here’s a recipe.

[tag]bok choy[/tag]

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You’re Only 2 Feet Away from Changing Your Health Forever

We fret. We’re fretters.

We worry and obsess about which diets to try, what kind of exercise to do, and which weapon is most powerful in the all-consuming War on Free Radicals.

Hey, it’s all important. But here’s a big secret about getting and staying healthy: the little things do count. That’s because health is cumulative. Make a few really simple switches, stick with them until they’re habits, and you’re well on your way. Eventually, the habits add up, and you’ll get into Total Health Overhaul Territory. But the belief that THOT happens overnight, with a single “I’m really, no, really gonna do it this time!” vow, is a myth. Stop pressuring yourself! It’s not that tough!

Start small – really small. As in, the two feet of refrigerator real estate we all have reserved for condiments. Also known as those “foods” that last longer than some relationships.

Ten condiments you really don’t want in your fridge – and what to replace them with:

10. Oh sodium, how I love thee.

You don’t want: soy sauce

At least it won’t kill you: light soy sauce

You do want: Bragg’s aminos

Aminos don’t make the world a better place, but they’re really good for you.

This is Mapgoblin’s Photo

9. Mrs. Butterworth(less)

You don’t want: artificial maple syrup

At least it won’t kill you: whole-wheat pancakes with fresh fruit and honey

You do want: a sparing amount of real maple syrup + fresh fruit + nuts

Get the flavor of pancakes and syrup without giving your pancreas hives. (Sorry, Mrs. Butterworth.)

This is Flickrich’s Photo

8. Yea, though I walk through the aisle of dressing…

You don’t want: Hidden Valley anything

At least it won’t kill you: raspberry vinaigrette

You do want: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Try walnut and avocado oils for variety. It’s best to mix up your own vinegar/oil combos, because many vinaigrettes are high in sugar and come drenched in additives.

This is Krobbie’s Photo

7. That thing about sugar and spice being nice? Yeah, they were wrong.

You don’t want: BBQ sauce

At least it won’t kill you: steak sauce (still loaded with weird things, but only a few calories and no sugar)

You do want: to whip up your own marinades using vinegars, oils, and fresh herbs

Spices: paprika, cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper. Add those spices to equal parts tomato paste, dijon mustard, and olive oil. Give it a dash of apple cider vinegar. So easy, it doesn’t feel right (but it is).

6. Avoid pale things

You don’t want: mayonnaise

At least it won’t kill you: Omega-3 mayonnaise (still often uses canola and palm oil, but better)

You do want: European yogurt (admittedly pale, but that can’t be helped, can it?)

This plain, high-fat, sugar-free yogurt also goes by “Greek” or “Mediterranean” yogurt. It’s got that mayo tang, it’s dense and smooth, and it’s healthy.

5. No seriously, avoid pale things

You don’t want: cream cheese (contrary to popular belief, this is not

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Smart Fuel

This week’s Smart Fuel:

Plants.

That’s right: plants.

It seems that marketers are on an eternal quest for the ultimate “superfood” with which to ply health-obsessed consumers. First there was margarine. Then bran. Then low-fat milk. Then soy. (None of which, by the way, have anything remotely “super” about them: trans fat, sugar, more sugar, and chemicals. They are also all highly-processed “foods”. I’m not sure they should even be referred to as food.)

What makes plants such a smart fuel?

Plants are the lowest-calorie food on the planet next to rice cakes..and air.

Plants have almost no fat. What little fat they do have is excellent for your skin, organs, brain and digestive tract.

Plants contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Plants, being made of plant cells, contain cellulose, an indigestible cell lining that we often call “fiber”. “Fiber” removes waste, toxins, and other harmful substances from your body. “Fiber” is linked to reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even reduces stress. “Fiber” is found in plants.

– The benefits continue: not only are plants the healthiest, tastiest, most nutritious foods on earth, they are also the cheapest. The myth persists that fresh food is expensive, but the truth is that processed snacks, meals and treats are far more costly than plants.

Plants have been around longer than humans and even rodents, and that’s saying something.

Plants come in some 36,000+ edible varieties for your gustatory pleasure. Plants grow everywhere. The theory that plants help one reduce body weight, body fat, major disease risk and even one’s “case of the Mondays” is compelling. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of studies have presented a convincing case in favor of plant consumption.

For those unfamiliar with plants (men of all ages; children aged 3-7; Uncle Ned), allow me to quell your apprehension: plants are completely edible.

Plants are also known as “greens”, “veggies”, “rabbit food”, and “vegetables”, a word derived from the Latin vegetal (or something like that). Plants are not addictive.

Here are a few pictures of plants that many humans now enjoy. You can find them in most stores:

Mint. An herb, which is a type of plant.

Artichoke. A delicious type of plant.

Cabbage. A very fibrous plant.

Crispy cone. Not a plant.

Technorati tags: [tag] vegetables, veggies, healthy food, plants, nutrition [/tag]

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What’s Shakin’?

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

We’ve got great news for you to check out today – and fried vegetarians, too. Yes.

Now That’s Rare: FDA Gets Tough

Well played, FDA, well played. As everyone and their goldfish knows by now, the FDA is no stranger to bribery and corruption. Various moves (a new chief, a new pyramid) haven’t yielded much improvement.

Alas, in an effort to stop annoying us, a meaningful measure has just been announced.

Something’s Fishy? Good!

A well-conducted little study shows that fish oil pills are the way to go, especially for those concerned about their blood sugar. Fish oil beats fish, but make sure you buy a good one so you don’t get those awful fish burps. (Yeah, we’re biased.)

Other ways to get those beneficial fatty acids into your body? These days, there’s hardly a thing that isn’t Omega-3 enhanced. It’s actually getting pretty difficult to find non-good-fat products.

A quick tip: Look for eggs, butter, mayonnaise and nut butters with added EPA (eicosapentenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexanoic acid). These are the two best types of Omega-3 fat. The other kind, ALA (alpha linoleic acid), is often used in vegetable spreads and vegetarian products, but your body has to work pretty hard to utilize this type. It’s still good, just not great.

The cool thing? Chickens fed flaxseed (an ALA source) do all the converting for you, so scope out the enhanced, free-range eggs in your dairy case.

News to Go Nuts Over

Megnut is a nutty blogger you should definitely check out. While we don’t condone cookies, we’re so glad we stumbled onto this savvy, smart blog. Case in point: Finally, someone’s doing something about those torturous mama pig gestation crates. Whether you eat pork or not, this is a really humane step in the right direction, and it’s worth reading about. Be sure to scroll down to read Meg’s other enjoyable snippets on Starbucks’ milk, Wal-Mart and nutritional slow-pokes. (Why does everything “take years” with these big companies and organizations? Come on! Years?)

The Real Reason We’re All Too Chubby

This picture is from the Heart Attack Grill, an actual place that serves this actual burger behemoth.

As promised…

Fried Vegetarians

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10 Easy Steps to Good Health

The Tuesday 10

It’s easy to get lost in the details – organic or local? wild or farmed? fresh or frozen? – and to me it seems like the majority of health news out there is just obsessing over the minutiae. No wonder we give up and go back to our old habits.

The little things can matter, but on balance, it’s the consistent application of a few simple lifestyle changes that count. Make a few very basic – but significant – healthy changes, and the little things tend to take care of themselves. Or no longer matter so much.

Here are ten simple steps to better health that you can implement, starting right now:

10. No More Rules

First things first: no more worrying about the so-called Holy Grails of Health. Here’s what I’m talking about: Water. Coffee. Breakfast. Sleep. Following the pyramid. Fat. Sunlight. These supposed hard-and-fast rules of health cause more stress than the actual things. How about trusting your body enough to know what’s right for you? You’re up for the challenge, I guarantee it.

9. 90/10 or 10/90?

A lot of us focus on rules, numbers or specific amounts in an attempt to lose weight and feel healthier. We vow to eat a certain number of calories, for example. Even Uncle Sam falls for the magic of numbers (the failed 5-a-day vegetable campaign that is now being retired). But getting healthy is about being healthy. 90% of your regular habits and 10% of healthy habits added to that is just not a recipe for health. It’s got to be the other way around.

8. Eat something green at every meal.

Pretty easy! It should be at least half of the portion size, plate, cup…

7. Absolutely cut out the sodas and sugary drinks.

Yup, they have to go.

6. Don’t eat anything that comes in a box, bag or package.

I’m not talking about a bag of frozen broccoli or a jar of almonds. I’m talking about processed, packaged, preserved foods. This is a big commitment. It is tough. But there is just no way you can be as healthy and fit as you want if you don’t stick to this most of the time. You can cheat (we all do). But keep that 90% in mind. Keep it fresh.

5. Eat meat that isn’t so processed.

Vegetarians don’t have to worry about this too much (unless you’re eating lots of processed mock meats). Fresh, clean, lean chicken and fish is going to do wonders for your health in the long run – you’ll help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. Sausage, bacon, deli meat, processed meats, on the other hand? Carcinogen special.

4. Eat a salad – every day.

So, I’m a little obsessed with my daily salad. But it’s such a no-brainer! You can even enjoy some goodies on it (nuts, a little cheese, dressing). Who said humans were meant for burritos and sandwiches?

3. Fight stress.

Whether it’s with a run, meditation, yoga,

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Ain’t No Thing But a Chicken Wing

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Is it possible to combine compelling, handy health information with humor? Bees agree: it ain’t no thing! Get clickin’, Apples, and then scoot over to the forum to share your thoughts!

Raising Insurance Rates Everywhere

We know young male drivers get in more auto accidents than anyone. Apparently, it’s all the video games.

Finally, Britain Is Bad at Something!

We might not eat our vegetables, but at least we don’t eat 50% too much salt. Oh, wait, we eat 200% too much. Good grief! Processed food products have got to stop! Salt is in every processed food imaginable. Why? It tastes good, it’s really cheap, and it makes poor-quality ingredients seem more appealing to the taste buds. From salad dressing to burgers, from cheese sauce to pasta, food producers of America are on a relentless mission to turn every body into a giant salt flat.

Gardawind Flickr Photo

Pork: Just Another Meat, Really

Junior Apple Greg wrote in the other day to ask if pork (and ham) is a safe protein bet. While associations of cleanliness don’t extend to our cloven, curly-tailed friends, the truth is that pigs are just as safe as any other meat and the days of pork-borne trichinosis are pretty much gone, thanks to tougher standards for factories farms. Absolute safety of pork (and meat), though, is another issue altogether.

Pork is usually really high in sodium, mainly because so much of the pork people eat comes in processed forms like bacon, sausage, ham and deli meats (and why Mark’s email to the Apples this morning recommended indulging in bacon on an infrequent basis – and make sure to find the lower-fat variety). Even pork loin is often packaged in a saline solution. If you can find organic, low-sodium pork, that’s sayin’ something.

However, the pig farmers of America want you to know that pork is great because, hey, it doesn’t have mad cow disease. Now that’s some marketing. (Imagine the possibilities: “Pork – unlike cheese, it doesn’t melt. Therefore, it’s better.” “Ham – why refill the stapler when you can make a sandwich?” Hey, this is fun! “Pork: Absolutely nothing to do with the price of tea in China. And therefore better.”) Meanwhile, scientists are attempting to clone pigs that are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. And that concludes our pork dissertation for today.

Boodoo Flickr Photo

Apples, Mark recommends sticking with organic chicken or turkey, fermented tempeh, nuts, and wild cold-water fish.

Web It Out:

Oddity 1: Scientists Create Miniature, Live Hearts
Oddity 2: Why Mark Is Canceling His Subscription to the British Medical Journal

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Sick of Cereal?

Smart Fuel

If you’re sick of cereal, or simply want to follow a healthy diet that is low in sugar and refined grains, you’re in the right place. There are plenty of alternatives to, well, the alternative: eggs, eggs and more eggs.

1. Blueberries ‘n Cream

Why pour processed, sugary low-fat milk over dry little grain flakes when you can pour luscious cream over blueberries bursting with antioxidants and flavor? We think cereal is kind of sad (and the stuff they do to make low-fat milk is pretty unappealing). You’ll love blueberries ‘n cream if you’re getting tired of eggs for breakfast. This high-fiber treat also provides some fat (great for those sensitive morning tummies). Toss in other fruit like strawberries for additional variety.

The Pack Flickr Photo

Prep Tips:

Buy frozen blueberries – they’re inexpensive and actually work better for many recipes, including this one.

Thaw a cup of blueberries overnight in the fridge or pop them into the microwave for about 30 seconds. They’ll be cold, like cereal, but not frozen – who wants a brain freeze at 7 a.m.? Drain them carefully.

Pour about 1 ounce of cream over the fruit – not too much. Cream, while high in nutrients and fat, is also high in calories. We recommend raw or organic cream, of course!

Garnish with a little cinnamon, nutmeg or a few drops of vanilla extract for a delicious breakfast that provides more fiber than cereal, fewer carbs, and just tastes amazing! Be sure to brush your teeth afterwards, or everyone will think you’ve been nursing a blue popsicle addiction.

2. Plain Yogurt Parfait

Look for Greek, Mediterranean or “European style” yogurt. It’s so rich, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to cream cheese heaven. What can we say? We love fat around these here parts. European yogurt has less of the stuff you don’t want (chemicals, additives, sugars) and more of the stuff you do want (rich texture, flavor, and nutrients). Be sure to get the plain, unsweetened kind.

Shutterberry Flickrstream Photo

Prep Tips:

You’ll want to eat just a few tablespoons of this yummy stuff, as it’s really filling. Boost the fat and protein with some fiber by adding a half-cup of any fresh or frozen fruit of your choice.

We like frozen mango chunks (thawed) and fresh raspberries. Elliott and Sara both keep their freezers stocked with all kinds of delicious frozen fruits, so it’s easy to make a healthy breakfast even when you’re in a rush.

Next step: toss a handful of unsalted, high-quality nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, filberts, or walnuts into the mix. This little protein boost will also provide you with a great Omega-3 fatty counterpoint to the saturated fat in the yogurt. And evidence increasingly suggests that it’s the balance of saturated to unsaturated fat that is so important to good health and longevity.

You can go all out and make a true parfait if you want, by layering in a glass cup or dish. But if you don’t have that kind

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Smarter Fuel?

Sara here, with some Big Moo musings for the girls. Dairy is one of those food debates that can go on ad infinitum, with plenty of good points on either side (much like vegetarianism). Raw vs. organic vs. regular vs. low-fat vs. full-fat…you get the idea.

Dairy is just not, um, a black and white issue. I have my theories. I can’t promise that my views aren’t slightly biased due to the existence of things like Humboldt Fog goat cheese (Ben Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I think you could easily switch “beer” for “cheese”.) But having experimented with different forms of veganism, vegetarianism and carniveatin’ over the years, and being interested in issues like osteoporosis, cellulite and fertility (what woman isn’t?), here are a few thoughts, subject to change and open to your criticism. Mark’s big on questioning what we think we know – so let’s have at it!

1. In a perfect world, we’d eat raw dairy.

We know raw dairy is theoretically healthier. For one thing, cows themselves can’t survive on pasteurized milk. In many parts of the world, people consume raw dairy (until recently it was next to impossible to get it here unless you happened to live on or near a farm). Many edgier health experts say raw dairy is the only kind we should eat, because it’s truly the way nature made it – full of living and beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Of course, there’s the concern about food borne illness; then again, our mechanized manufacturing standards are arguably a lot cleaner and safer than a century ago, when you had to worry about TB in your butter. (Here’s where the FDA says “Hell no it’s not safer! Pasteurize!”)

2. Go organic or, like, die.

Should we even bother eating dairy if it’s not raw, then? After all, about 3/5 of the world doesn’t even consume dairy and some cultures even consider dairy to be downright gross. We’ve all heard the phrase “cow’s milk is for baby cows.” And it’s true. We’re the only mammals that continue consuming milk after we’re weaned – the milk of another species, no less. It gets further complicated by genetics: evidently some Europeans adapted to dairy consumption around 7,000 years ago, but many people just can’t digest dairy.

So what does going organic do? Well, organic milk and cheese don’t come with antibiotics, chemicals, and added hormones. It’s also supposed to be more environmentally friendly, and I guess the cows are allegedly happier. Then again, I don’t know if any dairy cow is thrilled with being artificially inseminated in perpetuity just so I can have cheddar on my broccoli.

It gets further complicated: cows these days are fed mostly grain, a food that makes them nice and fat but isn’t so good for them – or us. Cows are meant to eat grasses, and not only does this make the cows feel better, it makes their milk taste

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Smart Fuel

Olives

Did you know that this decadent little guy is actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat?

(Pál Csonka photo)

Olives are high in fat, but fortunately for us, it’s the good kind. Olives are fairly high in calories for a fruit, but you can certainly do a lot worse for snack fare (think cheese, honey-roasted nuts and processed deli meats). We love olives because they provide a rich, dense, satisfying texture and flavor – when cucumber slices just won’t do, put the cheddar down and reach for these chewy cholesterol-reducers instead.

Olives are great for your heart because they’re a “smart” fat, but they also contain high levels of antioxidant vitamin E, gut-busting fiber and important trace minerals like copper. If you want to strengthen your cardiovascular system, reach for olive tapenade instead of the cream cheese next time you’re at the grocery store.

We all know olive oil is a wonderfully healthy alternative to refined oils like canola, corn and soybean oil. Why not go right to the source? Get creative with your olives – throw them in salads, slice sour green olives right into your scrambled eggs, and bake them into your vegetable dishes.

Everything you could ever want to know about olives.

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If I See 1 More Carrot-Cauli-Broccoli Blend, I’ll…

Smart Fuel

You know what I am sick of? Boring vegetable blends! No wonder people don’t eat their vegetables.

Every restaurant, catered buffet and frozen blend seems to feature the same old julienned carrots, pale broccoli chunks and soggy cauliflower (does anyone really, truly love cauliflower?).

Let’s not forget the ubiquitous cucumber slices with bitter skins and the endless selection of pithy, depressing tomatoes.

I refuse to eat boring, soggy, uninspiring vegetables. Why eat broccoli stem chunks when you can stuff yourself with olive oil-drizzled broccolini? Why deal with yet another white onion when you can try out shallots for the same price?

I’m not exactly what you’d call a chef, but fortunately, coming up with meals that taste amazing is incredibly easy if you just expand your idea of what “getting your veggies” means. It’s just about impossible to mess up vegetables.

So try something new this weekend. There are plenty of really flavorful, interesting plants to nosh on in your quest for flat abs and more energy.

Here are a few to try:

Heart of palm

We can’t get enough of this stuff around the Sisson household. You can slice these stalks up like potatoes au gratin and bake them with a little ricotta, goat cheese or cottage cheese for a really indulgent but healthy meal. Heart of palm is almost nonexistent in the calorie department, and provides a lot of fiber. The texture is similar to canned artichoke or bamboo but is far more rich and satisfying. Heart of palm has the perfect amount of chewiness and a mild, salty flavor that makes it perfect for replacing starchy items like potatoes or pasta – and it makes a great snack.

If you’ve tried and failed at tofu, you will love heart of palm.

Thanks to Chodta for the picture!

Okra

If you’re from the South, you already know (and possibly love) okra. A lot of people hear “okra” and think “slime”. But prepared right, okra is…off the chain. I buy frozen chopped okra, thaw it, and rinse it thoroughly several times. It takes a little work to drain and press the goop away, but what’s left is a vegetable that makes a mean stir fry. I cook okra over a really hot grill to get it a little bit seared for maximum flavor, dryness and crunch. Goes great with chili flavors and hot sauces. Okra is just about the easiest way to lose that belly fat – you can eat an entire bag for fewer calories than a slice of cheese.

Sea vegetables

Seaweed is just the beginning. Look around – health food stores, organic and vegetarian aisles, and ethnic food stores all carry many types of unusual sea vegetables. Some of them are passable, but some are so good I don’t know why anyone continues to suffer through green-white-and-carrot. Experiment. Sea vegetables are nutritionally dense – they’re particularly good for the thyroid and the cardiovascular system.

Herbs

All those little packets of fresh

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