Dear Mark: New Primal Blueprint Edition Comments, and Is Healthy Living a Placebo?

Feature_320x240For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll first be addressing questions from the comment section of the new Primal Blueprint edition announcement, plus one from the placebo post.

The first question comes from barry and concerns the omission of raw food on the new PB food pyramid. Did I make a mistake by not including overt recommendations for eating raw veggies and meat? Are cooked foods responsible for our health problems? After that, I field a brief question about non-running alternatives for the MAF method. And finally, I explore whether healthy living is all just one big placebo.

Let’s go:

I love your dieting aspects as well, although, I haven’t heard you or anyone else really address the benefits of eating raw. The only people I can find that address this is the WAPF. I eat raw animal products daily and I was surprised to see this hasn’t really been discussed much. Raw meat, raw eggs, raw dairy, raw plants, etc. it’s all good for you. Humans are the only animal that cooks their food yet we’re the sickest.

Thanks for the kind words, barry.

I’ve spoken glowingly of raw dairy. I’ve explained how the raw dairy proteins can boost immune function and increase glutathione synthesis.

I’m also supportive of raw egg yolks. Those fatty acids and cholesterol can be fragile, especially if they’re battery-raised, conventional eggs (pastured are more resistant to heat), and a good raw egg yolk is to be savored, in my opinion. I like them separated and dropped into smoothies, sauces, or blenders full of coffee, or consumed in the context of a sunnyside-up egg.

I eat a large bowl of mostly raw plants almost every day: my Big Ass Salad. While heartier greens like kale and chard are more digestible when cooked, I think there’s value in eating a mix of raw and cooked vegetables.

Raw meat can work, sure. Steak tartare, sashimi, poke, liver smoothies. Raw meat is quite digestible, but not uniquely so.

Humans are also the only animal to wield fire, wear clothing, participate in spiritual rituals, and—yes—cook. We are unique animals. And there’s considerable evidence that cooking increased the availability of calories, reduced the amount of labor and chewing required to obtain them, and triggered the brain growth spurt that enabled our ascension to the top of the food chain.

I’ve written about the potential dangers of the carcinogens and toxins that form during certain types of cooking. I’ve also discussed our likely adaptation to some amount of these toxins in our diet. There may even be hormetic benefits to occasionally consuming foods cooked at high heat.

I haven’t come across any quality evidence that cooked foods are major contributors to the degenerative diseases afflicting humans.

I just started looking into MAF, but I cannot run. I do a brisk walk on the treadmill. All the self testing seems to be aimed at runners. Not sure if I can accurately self test…

You can.

The MAF method works with anything. You can row, hike, bike, or swim. You can hop on the elliptical, the gazelle, the recumbent bike, or one of those weird vehicles that looks like an elliptical on wheels. Anything works. Just move.

If you can hit the numbers briskly walking, it will work.

Finally, from the placebo post:

So this primal lifestyle we’ve embraced … ?

HealthyHombre broaches an important question. Could “healthy Primal living” be one big placebo effect?

Maybe. Partially.

We know that the placebo effect worms its way into everything we do.

When people are told they’re drinking a 620-calorie “indulgent” shake that’s actually just 300 calories, their postprandial ghrelin—a hormone that increases hunger and generally drops after large calorie intakes—plummets. As if the shake was indulgent and high in calories…

When non-exercising housekeepers are split into two groups—one group told their daily duties are a great way to exercise, the other told nothing—the “exercising” group loses weight and improves their blood pressure despite no change in activity levels.

I think it’s a case of placebo + real effect. This way of eating, living, and training really does work. Clinical trials (placebo-controlled ones!), anecdotes, and common sense confirm it. Food has hundreds of physiological effects. Exercise stresses the body and provokes an adaptive response. Sunlight does produce vitamin D, spending time in nature does reduce stress and boost immune function. These are all real things happening.

But belief in what you’re eating and doing has to have benefits. If believing a sugar pill can improve your IBS works, believing your salad is good for you probably has helpful effects above and beyond what’s actually in the salad.

Living a healthy Primal lifestyle physically and embracing it psychologically might just offer the best of both worlds. In my experience, real emotional investment makes living against the grain easier anyway.

That’s it for today, folks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts down below. Take care!


TAGS:  dear mark

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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12 thoughts on “Dear Mark: New Primal Blueprint Edition Comments, and Is Healthy Living a Placebo?”

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  1. I’ve eaten a lot of foods raw but draw the line at raw meat. Unless the animal in question was hunted and/or freshly killed, thereby avoiding the pathogens often associated with commercial slaughtering and processing facilities, some degree of cooking is usually necessary to avoid illness.

    1. Gotta be careful with the wild animals too, due to the risk of parasites. I feed my dog raw, and he gets all the squirrels I shoot and the leftover parts of my deer, but I always freeze it for at least 30 days before I let him eat it, because I’ve read in numerous places that that’s the magic number to kill everything.

      I suppose it’s all in the risk you’re willing to take vs. the benefit you perceive you’re getting. If I thought raw meat was really THAT MUCH better for me, I might force myself to try it. But I don’t, so I live happily in my “ew that’s gross” world.

    1. Maximum aerobic function training … long low intensity training. There is a MAF test. It’s out there on the internets. 🙂

  2. I always think a combination of raw, cooked, and fermented foods is best. Of course some foods cannot be eaten raw- stomach ache or poisoning!

  3. All good questions. I definitely consume raw food every day…I have a green drink (fresh leafy greens, usually blended with a lemon and ginger) and often eat my eggs over easy. I enjoy sushi from time to time, and when eating nuts I try to consume them raw as much as possible, if for no other reason then to avoid the crappy oils they are usually roasted with. Eating a raw carrot daily has helped balance my hormones in a way that nothing else could. That being said, I feel best eating a combo of raw and cooked foods. I was completely raw at one time and while it seemed great at first I eventually felt terrible.

    1. I frequently eat raw carrots too. I like them either raw or roasted but not halfway in between. People who don’t like vegetables should try cooking them until they are fork tender rather than still crisp. Slightly longer cooking brings out the natural flavor and sweetness. String beans and asparagus are two veggies that definitely benefit from cooking until they are tender.

    2. I’m intrigued — why does eating a raw carrot help balance hormones? And which ones?

  4. There’s an active indiegogo campaign for a device called “bionic gym” that is basically a device that stimulate muscle shivering using electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) to help burn calories… genius or snake oil?
    I’m thinking if the science is valid, it can help many especially those who are injured or too sick to work out. If coupled with MAF method, it sounds like it’s possible to improve the base aerobic capability of a bunch of people and hopefully reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. What do you think, too good to be true?

  5. I think there’s an element of the placebo effect that makes you more motivated. If I believe that housecleaning is good exercise, I’m going to start treating it like exercise and move more vigorously. Our belief effects our attitude and how much energy we put into our activities.

  6. I was the treadmill/MAF questioner. I’m glad to see it verified! My knees are very bad, so I briskly walk on the treadmill. I had started kicking up the incline to boost my heart rate up high (anaerobic) but I’m going to focus on walking longer, but lower. I noticed that my “endurance” wasn’t getting better as time progressed even though the weight was coming off.

    Same approach to weight lifting – I went from 3 whole body workouts a week to twice a week (I’m 50 and started working out 20 months ago with just Pilates) and noticed that I was actually doing better that way. Mark’s focus on rest was what I needed, so I feel pretty confident MAF will help as well.

  7. The only group that eats totally raw food are people in the raw food movement. All pre-industrialized tribes cook their food. There is a theory among anthropology circles that cooking food came *before* speech–cooking food, in a sense, is “predigesting” food in that it makes it easier to consume more calories with less effort–allowing for bigger brains and it allowed the jaw to change shape to allow speech. Cooking food is uniquely human, and it may be the way that hominids found their niche.