Dear Mark: Soy Lecithin, Healthy Fat Alternatives, Wasted Workouts, and Magic Grapefruit

Things got a little heated regarding the milligrams of evil soy lecithin used as in emulsifier in most dark chocolates in last week’s Dear Mark post, so before launching into today’s questions and answers, let’s go over that. Soy lecithin is simply the byproduct of soy oil extraction. It’s not hydrogenated soybean oil, folks allergic to soy can eat it without ill effect, and lecithin actually contains choline and phospholipids that can be quite beneficial. Don’t go out of your way to eat soy lecithin for any health benefits (egg yolks and liver are far better sources of choline), but don’t pass on some excellent dark chocolate simply because “soy” appears on the package.

Okay, onto the questions. We’re covering healthy fat alternatives, whether walking constitutes a wasted workout, and the magic of grapefruit.

Hello Mark!

I recently found out that I’m pregnant with my second child. I just started eating Primally about a month and a half ago, and my main sources of good fats are–outside of meat–avocados, raw macadamia nuts, and coconut oil. I’m dairy intolerant but I’m growing weary of the aformentioned fats. Do you have any suggestions for the good fat craving mama?


Have you ever tried rendering animal fat? Rendering beef tallow, leaf lard, and even duck or goose fat (for those occasions you want to roast or fry some tubers, nothing’s better than duck or goose fat) produces a fantastic, clear, delicious, versatile cooking fat. It’s inexpensive – just look for a butcher, preferably one that deals in grass-fed/pastured animals, and they’ll usually give you the fat for rendering at a great price, sometimes for free. Here’s a basic guide to animal fats and another explaining how to render the raw fat into cooking fat.

What kind of “meat” are we talking here? If you want to increase your fat intake, eat stuff like 80/20 lean/fat ground beef, braised short ribs, pork belly, big chuck roasts festooned with yellowish suet, and bone marrow. Oh, and egg yolks. I’ll sometimes add a raw egg yolk (from a trusted source, of course) to a sauce just before serving or a plate of veggies cooked in fat just to enrich the dish. There’s also good old olive oil.

I would suggest you not obsess over any single fat source. Don’t douse everything with olive oil; don’t only eat egg yolk omelets; avoid making pork belly your daily dinner. Instead, spread the love. Maintain a strong arsenal of various rendered animal fats, quality olive oil, and fatty cuts of meat, along with the avocados, mac nuts, and coconut oil at all times, and getting tired of any one fat you eat will be difficult simply because you’ll be eating so many different kinds.


My question is in regards to reaching 55% of my max heart rate. For me it is 105 BPM, it seems that when I go out for my walks, my heart rate only reaches in to the 90’s, and 55% of my max HR is the bare minimum to consider my effort a workout. Does this mean I must jog to reach my desired heartrate, or do you think walking will still do the trick. When I jog im in the 120’s, but would rather go on some longer hikes, and take brisk walks for an hour to an hour and a half instead of jogging all the time, what to do?

You may hate me for this, but I’m going to answer your question with a question: do you enjoy jogging? I have the nagging suspicion that you detest it but feel obligated to the workout gods to elevate that heart rate or else risk a wasted workout. I know, because I spent half my life that way. Logging hundreds of miles despite hating much of it because if I didn’t I felt restless and useless. Does that sound like you?

Stick with the longer hikes and brisk walks. If you’ve got the free time, don’t spend it pounding the pavement and trying to drown out the drudgery with a podcast or music or whatever. Hit the trail. Take in the sights. Walk to the grocery store. Breathe the air. Be in the moment. You can still elevate the heart rate by walking a bit more briskly or finding a trail with good elevation, but I wouldn’t even necessarily worry about the heart rate on these walks. Think of them as explorations, not workouts. Weave instances of elevated heart rates into your walk – sprint to that boulder, climb the traffic light (ever notice how they have those conveniently placed handholds and footholds?), do some pullups, maybe carry a sandbag or a heavy-ish rock on your shoulders for the duration – if you want to get a workout without turning them unpleasant.


I came across this post today:

and was interested in #5 about Grapefruit. I got a little lost reading the two links, however, i was wondering what your opinion is on the extent of the effects grapfruit could have as far as ketosis and the “fasting-like benefits” go.


– jocelyn

As the article says, naringenin and naringin (which partially metabolizes to naringenin after we consume it) are flavonoids present in grapefruit that up-regulate PPAR-alpha, the very same peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor that turns on in the fasted state. Upregulation of PPAR-alpha is required for the generation of ketone bodies, and its agonists (activators) lead to the fat loss and improvement in metabolic parameters associated with fasting. These are all good things. But does eating grapefruit really have the same effect as fasting?

It depends. One study used 400 mg of naringin per day for eight weeks to induce beneficial metabolic effects in human subjects, while another used 500 mg for four weeks but found no effect on the blood lipids of “mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women.” What gives? It might be that naringin needed more time to take effect in the 500 mg study. In rats, for example, the beneficial effects of naringin were both dose- and duration-dependent. Benefits arose at six weeks but not at three.

What about dosage – can you get adequate naringin from eating grapefruit? According to a study on the naringin content of New Zealand grapefruit, you can: the flesh from an average grapefruit contained roughly 730 mg naringin. The juice had about 400-500 mg/L, but I’d advise against drinking a liter of fruit juice, for obvious reasons. Just eat the fruit instead. Now, some folks love grapefruit. I am not among them. If you do enjoy grapefruit and you want to play around with it, have half a grapefruit each day. It’s fairly low in sugar and research suggests that the flavonoids may provide a boost to your metabolic health. You’ll be getting 300-400 mg a day that way, which is a safe, moderate dose. Just don’t expect any miracles.

Well, that’s it for today. Keep sending along those questions, and I promise I’ll try to get to them. Thanks for reading!

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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68 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Soy Lecithin, Healthy Fat Alternatives, Wasted Workouts, and Magic Grapefruit”

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  1. I’ve noticed, actually, that several manufacturers are switching to sunflower lecithin, which apparently doesn’t need the extensive processing the soy equivalent does. Sounds like a win to me!

    Also – good to know about the grapefruit. Since going primal, I’ve discovered that naked grapefruit is DELICIOUS! Prior to, I used to douse it in sugar. Perhaps I’ll add a few to my shopping cart this week…

    1. You have noticed this about sunflower lecithin? What brands? I buy Lindt more than any other brand and they still use soy. Its good to know that it does no harm to my body. I never really thought it did anyway.

      I used to love grapefruit doused in salt! I now enjoy it plain – so much better.

      1. I personally love AlterEco fair trade Dark Chocolate Blackout (85% cocoa solids). It does not contain any soy lecithin or other emulsifiers. In fact it only has 3 ingredients – cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and unrefined cane sugar. It’s a bit more expensive, but is so worth it as it tastes amazing, it’s fair trade, and it’s organic. The website says that a 3.5 oz bar is $4.39 but I have gotten it anywhere from $2.50 to $3.50 at my local grocery stores (Wegman’s or Giant in my case). If 85% is too dark and bitter for you, they also have a yummy 73% bar with cacao nibs and dark chocolate with almonds (which I have yet to try but it also sounds good). The 85% has by far the fewest grams of sugar in it, though. I usually will eat 4 small squares of it and I’m good to go.

        1. You are awesome. Just sayin. AlterEco is great. I love the 77 percent with the nibs in it. sooo good

      2. I get the Lindt 85%, it doesn’t have the soy lecithin or any emulsifiers. Maybe the high chocolate content negates the need?.

        1. SURPRISE!

          I was wrong. I have 85% Lindt as well and the ingredients are: Chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, demerara sugar, bourbon vanilla beans.

          That sounds PERFECT to me! My favorite is 99% Lindt but I rarely get that.

      3. Lindt 85% does not use soy. All tehir other percentages do, though.

    2. I’ve noticed the same thing. In my younger days, grapefruit was piled high with sugar. Now I eat it with nothing. I wonder why that is?

      1. I used to pile it with sugar as well – but after going without sugary foods for so long, I’ve noticed a lot of foods (like grapefruit) taste great without it.

  2. what about soy lecithin in FISH OIL caps? It is very hard to find a fish oil that does not contain soy lecithin…

    1. Stronger Faster Healthier brand of liquid fish oil does not contain any soy lecithin and it comes in great flavors (naturally flavored – no added dairy, soy, gluten, sugar). Go to:

      I do not get paid to endorse them. This is just the brand that I was introduced to by Whole9 Life and I love it!

    2. The fish oil caps from contain Vit E derived from soy, but the lecithin is from sunflower.

  3. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely give rendering fat a try to get a healthy cooking oil. Is it something that I should, uh, open the windows for?

    1. There are recipes for Chinese duck where you steam the duck and the fat renders out into the pan. Don’t know them off the top of my head, BUT, getting the fat as a by product of cooking is an efficient use of time.

      When I rendered pork lard my wife complained about the aroma- so maybe windows open is a good plan!

      1. I think we’ve forgotten that “real cooking” sometimes comes with smells. My wife wont let me make bone broth in the house because she can smell the vinegar I add to leach out the minerals. So I have to make it outside on the camp stove!

  4. In response to the fats for the “good fat craving mama”, I had these cravings too when I was pregnant with both of my children. I turned to 100% grass-fed organic beef (full of GOOD fats if raised the right way), lots of eggs from pasture raised chickens (remember that the white and the yolk complement each other…eat them together), raw milk and cheeses (sometimes if you’re dairy intolerant the raw milk products will settle fine with you since it’s still a live food), and peanut butter. My aim was to get all those good fats and also get the increased amount of protein I needed while growing a baby inside of me!
    I hope this helps!

  5. Another wonderful cooking fat is ghee, or clarified butter. It’s simply butter with all the milk solids removed, leaving behind almost pure fat, mostly saturated, loaded with vitamins A, D, E, K, linoleic acid, and heaven knows what other good stuff. It’s got a pretty good O6:O3 ratio (2:1) but for best results, get yours from a grass-fed cow.

    Ghee has a unique scent reminiscent of buttered popcorn. It has a high smoke point and is easy to cook with using a skillet. I like to use ghee to lightly fry bacon, and then use the resulting lard/ghee brew to lightly fry bratwurst and then eggs. Finally, I pour the remaining grease over a large bowl of parboiled broccoli. This is one of my favorite meals.

    1. OMG! I just swallowed a big gulp reading your post:) I’m hungry now!

  6. Mark, thanks for the reply in regards to my question about walking and HR%. And yes, 150%, that sounds like me, you literally just took a 1000lb boulder off of my shoulders and threw it off a cliff. Thank You

  7. Re: walking and HR – I like the “walk to the store” concept because I automatically work a bit harder on the walk back because I’m carrying 10-20 lbs of groceries with me.

  8. Try clarified butter! I’m fairly certain, but somebody correct me if I’m wrong, that in the process of making it the milk solids are boiled off and so all that’s left is fat.

    1. See post above from Timothy about Ghee. That’s clarified butter and yes it is almost all fat. 🙂

  9. I have to respectfully beg to differ with you on the issue of soy lecithin being a problem for people with soy allergens. I have a reaction to soy in all of its forms, including lecithin (not to mention animal products from soy-fed animals as well), and one of the major components to my own healing process has been eliminating all of its forms. I have had the experience of a soy reaction when I thought I had eaten no soy whatsoever in the previous 24 hours, only to look, just for curiousity’s sake, at the ingredients on a box of tea I had just drank, and find that there was soy lecithin in it. It is in EVERYTHING, and it is not innocuous.

    1. I disagree with Mark on this one too. I was diagnosed with soy allergy 5 years ago and cut out all soy products-including soy lecithin and felt much better for doing so. It was only when I became sick with instant heartburn and headache one day after taking a multivitamin (from new bottle) that I realized I should look at the ingredients. Though it was the same manufacturer, the ingredients had changed to include soy lecithin. Moral of the story…always check the ingredients of pre-packaged products even if you routinely purchase them.

      1. My soy-allergic sister actually reacts more consistently to soy lecithin than any other soy-derived product. It is absolutely possible to find soy-free chocolate; if you are sensitive to soy, skip the stuff with soy lecithin.

        1. Did you mean to say that it’s impossible to find soy-free chocolate? Not necessarily. Theo is one such brand:

          Additionally, super-duper dark varieties can be soy-free by virtue of having no room, such as New World Market’s 99% cacao chocolate and any 100% cacao baking bar.

          Just keep your eyes peeled. Too delicious to be missing out on chocolate. 🙂

        2. Definitely! It can sometimes take some looking, but they’re certainly out there to be found! A few brands I have found that skip the soy lecithin and dairy are Equal Exchange (dark bars only, obviously), and Nirvana Chocolates (bars only, not the truffles), which are totally OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious. Enjoy Life makes some decent allergen-free chocolate chips, and Vital Choice makes soy-free bars as well, although they’re not nearly as tasty as the other ones I listed. I’d love to know if there are other tasty brands people like.

    2. I also react to anything deprived from soy, even chicken that ate soy.

      And just as any other plant oils get deposited into our cells, soy lecithin does, too. It creates weak collagen, early wrinkles and age spots. It oxidizes just like any other plant oil (e.g. corn-or sunflower oil).
      He left that little info out of his article.

      Therefor I’m avoiding ALL fats that don’t come from an animal source…except coconut and palm oil.
      Justifying Soy Lecithin because ya can’t fight the addiction to chocolate and suffer from mineral deficiency, isn’t exactly primal.

      Sorry if I come over harsh, but I know I’m right.

  10. I eat grapefruit just because they are delicious off the tree… but I found out by accident one day that they cured headaches…. not sure why.. but I have used them as a remedy since then and it has worked every time.

  11. I’m allergic to soy and, in my case, he’s right, I do tolerate soy lecithin which is in a lot of things!!

  12. I suspect that the problems caused by ingesting the pure sugar calories of a grapefruit every day for 6+ weeks may well exceed the benefits gained at the six-week point.

    Also, note that there is an important difference between clarified butter and ghee. With clarified butter, the foam is skimmed and the water boiled out. With ghee, the small amount of solids remaining on the bottom are briefly toasted, producing the “nutty” aroma.

    Ghee smells delicious, but it’s easy to burn it by mistake. I recommend making it with cheap butter first before you risk a pot full of Kerrygold.

    1. Thanks for “clarifying” that 😛 I didn’t know there was a difference!

  13. I didnt know all that about grapefruit. Interesting. I sure love grapefruit so I’d have no trouble adding a half to my breakfast.

  14. I third the suggestion for ghee..

    I like using a variety of fats as well.. Olive oil’s typically reserved for home made salad dressings, and I cook with ghee, butter, beef tallow, and coconut oil, depending on the dish and the cooking temperature.. The next fat I’d like to try but haven’t gotten around to yet is palm oil..

    1. I use palm oil a lot- it has no residual flavor and high heat. I love coconut oil but my we one hates it. so we use palm oil. It is harder to render fat than one might think.. It can get burnt and it does stink up the house. And finding a good quality source for your fat is hard to do as well. Keep in mind that while fat is good for you that is also where all toxins are stored in a body…so you need to have a good source for it.

      1. Tropical Traditions has an expeller-pressed coconut oil with no coconut flavor whatsoever. I’ve even got my husband – who normally does not like coconut oil – to start using it.

  15. Oh yeah and any Canadian Primal people don’t forget to VOTE today!

  16. A recent study at the University of Western Ontario found that a tangerine flavonoid called nobiletin is 10 times more effective than naringenin.

    But it’s mostly found in tangerine peels (which could be loaded with pesticides), and as far as I know no supplements are available.

  17. Great to get some proper information rather than the usual article “a diet rich in whole grains and low in fats is the best” blah di blah that you get in supposedly leading periodicals and newspapers. I feel like you are making people think about what is right for them and that the mainstream media just trumpet the same old same old.

  18. Mark.

    People who are intolerant to dairy usually get away with butter and especially ghee.

    Mustard oil is awesome too.

    Sesame oil, palm oil, nut oils are good options.

    Just remember too enjoy every bite as it nourishes you.

  19. Dripping (tallow) is such a great product. It’s pretty easy to make a lot in very little time, and it is generally free!. We have so much fat when we kill cattle, I freeze chunks of it (and organ meat, nobody seems to ask for those things) and make at my leisure. Tallow freezes well, too.

    Nice pictoral recipe, Mark.

    Dark chocolate is wonderful, but its only so if it has the “Fair Trade” tick.

  20. I say be careful about your broad allowance of soy in chocolate, Mark. While I see how soy lecithin as such may be harmless, there’s also the possibility of other components of soy being included. I know some brands actually include soy oil because they believe in conventional nutritional wisdom, and that’s worth watching out for.

    It might be redundant, but it’s always worthwhile to nurture the habit of reading food labels. I do so instinctively nowadays.

  21. I read the paper on lecithin being OK for those with soy allergies. However, I can attest that my mother has had both lecithin and soy and soybean oil allergies for over 30 years. She has submitted to several food allergy testing and knows from personal experience the fatigue and brain fog that comes with exposure.

  22. I love grapefruit. I’m taking warfarin (coumadin) since breaking my right leg last year and suffering bilateral DVTs at 1 month, and 8 months post-op. I’m not sure if grapefruit and coumadin are compatible. Anybody have any insight?

    1. Grapefruit and its juice does react with many Rx due to CYP3A4 enzyme; however, this enzyme does not seem to affect coumadin; however, always consult your MD or PharmD if you have any questions, especially if you are taking blood pressure medications as many of these are known to have interactions with grapefruit causing unsafe levels.

  23. Kurt,

    I wouldn’t worry about the coumadin and the grapefruit. It’s low in Vitamin K. You need to worry more about leafy greens like spinach and kale.

  24. I love Green & Blacks drk chocolate 85% a few times a week. I’m not hard on myself. It’s better than those other chocolates with words you can’t even pronounce. Lindt I’ll get if there are none. I’ll have to try the AlterEco, sounds good.

    I didn’t know about the grapefruit info. Good to know. Not much of a grapefruit eater but more towards oranges.

    I haven’t taken a hike since I was a kid. My son is going on one next week & I’m coming. He’s
    excited “mommy” is coming too.

    Eggs. 2 a day, keeps the docs away 😀

  25. I know beans and legumes are not in the primal but chickpea or humus once in awhile will that knock the diet off?

      1. I never had it to be honest lol. I’ll try it just for curiosity.

    1. 20%
      Everyone has their own boundries.
      If you want a little hummus as a treat, don’t beat your self up for having some.
      You’ll know what your body can & can’t tolerate.
      there’s no PB police out there that are gonna whap you on the head with a stick if you don’t obey every word…

  26. I recently heard the 4-hr body guy on a podcast mention that a glass of grapefruit juice in the morning on a “cheat day” helped mitigate the expected insulin spike (according to a blood sugar monitor he uses). Anyone else tried to replicate this, or know if there’s any support for the idea?

  27. Kurt,

    Definitely check with your MD re coumadin and grapefruit. When I worked as an RN in orthopedics, patients were told not to eat grapefruit while on coumadin. Also stay away from dark, leafy greens due to vitamin K.

  28. Another tip for making your walks more effective: add walking/hiking poles! Incorporating your upper body will naturally burn more calories and help increase your heart rate!

  29. You suggest in response to the first cited letter about healthy fat alternatives that the woman try rendered animal fats? She had the right idea already with monounsaturated (avocado) and saturated (coconut) oil, as long as moderation is understood and as long as a source if essential fata is also understood, be it a reasonable amount of leafy greens and/or a chia seed supplement to the diet. I am not a vegetarian, and am not against the idea of rendered animal fat for some moral high-ground type of reasoning. I’ve read Enig and Fallon’s take on animal fats, and the argument is tempting, but the fact is that it is just not a healthy way to eat. Americans WANT to believe animal fats might actually be healthy…anything so as not to demand diet alteration, but it just isn’t the case. The science of dietary fats is not simple and i do suggest anyone interested to pursue the topic, as there is plenty of good reading out there. Ultimately though, and especially for the readers who aren’t going to delve into the primary literature in search of ultimate truths, there exists an easy ‘formula’ to differentiate between healthy and not healthy. Intuition – what do you think is healthy vs unhealthy…if you stop to think about it – really think about it, then it’s not so difficult. The most concentrated form of almost every type of nutrient comes from some or other plant source. The best sources of anti-oxidants and anti-cancer compounds – all plants. This coming from a guy who loves bacon by the way:) …and a guy who has done over ten years of regular research via the primary literature into nutritional relation to disease processes. Not claiming some kind of educational supremacy, only that the field of nutrition is vast and often complicated – but healthy vs unhealthy, while complicated too, may as well be purely intuition:) There are many legitimate reasons why the author’s recommendation to use rendered animal fats is dangerous to the health if any reader who takes him seriously. In short, fats are not harmful, as the general consensus if the contributors to this discussion seem to agree – but in excess any are harmful, and some are harmful in less than obviously excessive amounts. Even just the fieild of lipid biology/biochemistry is vast and i blame no one for an incomplete understanding if any aspect of it. I do really think, though, that dietary impact on human health is astonishing, and before altering your diet based on any one nutritional belief, please make sure that there is good scientific support to said belief – more so than just grasping at whatever argument supports the diet most closely related to the one eaten prior to undertaking investigation.

  30. About grapefruit. I’m sure someone else has mentioned it at some point, but I would like to point out that eating Grapefruit interferes with the absorption of most medications. Including birth control, antibiotics, and almost every antidepressant ever made. Many of you will likely need less of the antibiotics and antidepressants as you continue to “go primal”, but birth control is likely one of the medications the readers here still keep.

    That said, Grapefruit similarly inhibits absorption of many poisons and toxins. Not as well as, say, activated charcoal, but there you go.