Dear Mark: Ground Meat Amino Acid Balance, Casein and Albumin, Heart and CoQ10, and Probiotics

Ground Beef Amino Acid Content in lineFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions. First, are ground meats actually better for your glycine:methionine ratio, seeing as they contain all sorts of weird bits? Next, are the dairy proteins casein and albumin worth including in one’s protein arsenal? Third, is eating beef heart for its CoQ10 content another example of “eat like for like”? And finally, what’s my take on a recent article in the Atlantic about the futility of commonly-available probiotics?

Let’s go:

I’m curious about the collagen/gelatin/glycine content of ground meats vs. their wholesome counterparts. Since ground beef, for example, usually contains connective tissue (etc.), could it be considered a more well-balanced source of various proteins (assuming it’s the grass-fed, well-educated, impeccably-mannered stuff, of course)?


Yes. If you break beef products down by glycine to methionine ratio, after pure suet and thymus, ground beef has the most favorable numbers. Specifically, 70/30 ground beef is the best, followed by 75/25, and so on. For whatever reason, Nutrition Data doesn’t include any gelatinous beef parts like oxtails or cheeks which would probably outpace the ground beef. 

Still, I don’t think a diet of burgers will get you to the glycine promised land. You’d want to include some nearly pure sources of glycine like pig ears.

And yes, make sure your ground meats come from animals with at least some postgraduate education.

What do you think about casein and albumin? Casein has many drawbacks, it seems.


The dairy protein casein’s gotten a bad rap ever since T. Colin Campbell (of China Study fame) cited a study that found 20% purified casein diets led to increased rates of liver cancer in rats compared to a 5% casein diet. Sounds horrible. No one wants liver cancer. Except, as Chris Masterjohn lays out in an older post, the rats on a 20% casein diet lived longer than the rats on a 5% casein diet.

Here’s how it went. Rats were placed on one of the two diets and given a small dose of aflatoxin each day. Aflatoxin is a fungal toxin found in improperly stored grains and legumes, and it’s been shown to reliably induce cancer.

The rats on the low-casein diet were more vulnerable to acute aflatoxin toxicity—they were more likely to die right away from aflatoxin poisoning than the high-casein rats. Their growth was severely stunted, reaching just half the normal adult body weight. They developed severely fatty livers. And when another group of young rats on normal feed were placed on the low-casein diet, they stopped growing altogether. But yes, they didn’t die from liver cancer like the others.

The rats on the high-casein diet lived longer—long enough to develop liver cancer, which eventually killed them. But they grew well, developing into full-fledged adult rats. They were far more resistant to acute aflatoxin toxicity. And, believe it or not, they were actually more resistant to getting cancer in the first place. Once they got cancer, casein worsened the prognosis. But higher casein intakes protected against cancer initiation.

That’s not to suggest there aren’t issues with casein. There’s the A1 vs A2 debate, the dairy protein intolerance problem. But I wouldn’t say casein is “bad.” It can be useful, especially if you’re lifting heavy things. I wouldn’t get all of your protein from casein (which would be impossible without purified casein powder). But as part of a balanced intake of various protein sources? Yeah, eat some dairy.

So, it’s really up to you.

Albumin is another protein found in dairy. Raw albumin, from raw dairy, contains a rare chain of amino acids that increase glutathione synthesis when consumed in their raw, undenatured state. Raw dairy proteins like albumin may be responsible for the improved immune systems seen in kids who drink raw dairy from an early age. Pasteurization destroys a majority of albumin.

And what about eating heart for a source of coQ10?


Another good example of “eat like for like.”

Animal heart is probably the best source of CoQ10 in the diet, and research shows that CoQ10 is extremely important for heart health:

Heart failure patients who take CoQ10 have better survival rates and fewer cardiovascular events.

Statin-takers who take CoQ10 experience fewer side effects (statins actually deplete CoQ10 from muscle tissue).

It’s not just good for the heart, of course. CoQ10 is an “essential nutrient.” Plus, remember that CoQ10 isn’t some synthetic aberration cooked up in the lab. We produce it naturally (that’s why animal hearts and other tissues have it). It’s an important contributor to energy production in the mitochondria, and you know how vital those things are.


A Probiotic That Actually Lasts


The way the article talks about probiotics is misleading. Not everyone is under the illusion that yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and probiotic supplements will confer strains that take up permanent residence in the gut. Finding strains that can stay put, replace missing bacteria (say, from an antibiotics course) and improve health without having to keep re-dosing is certainly a worthy goal—and the Atlantic article you’ve linked explains the progress made on that front—but it’s not the only reason to take probiotics or eat fermented foods.

Probiotics do lots.

They can improve IBS symptoms and other GI issues. They can help the lactose intolerant tolerate it. They can improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. They can increase gut barrier stability

Fermented foods are great, too. I’ve written entire posts extolling the virtues and benefits of yogurt, sauerkraut, cheese, and other fermented foods.

The short of it? Just because they may not take up permanent residence, getting your probiotics through supplementation and eating fermented foods is still a worthwhile endeavor.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.

Primal Kitchen Pizza Sauce

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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25 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Ground Meat Amino Acid Balance, Casein and Albumin, Heart and CoQ10, and Probiotics”

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  1. Lots of good stuff here! Love the concept of eat like for like. I really want to eat heart, just a little scared. Somehow I got over the liver thing. Now need to overcome my fear of cooking/eating heart. Anyone have any suggestions? And totally agree about the probiotic thing. Even if they are not taking up permanent residence they can still be doing some good. Which reminds me, I should make some sauerkraut!

    1. I just cut it into chunks, sear it, and then pour water over for it to simmer for an hour or so. I then either add rice, or strain away the water (save it for other cooking, sauce, e.g.) and eat the heart with mashed potatoes.

      I think the part that makes it different is the feeling of handling an actual animal part, if you’re not used to it.

    2. Look up a recipe for peruvian anticuchos. I’ve made this before, and it is so delicious. Heart has a much milder organ meat flavour, and just a bit chewier than steak. I also grind up chicken hearts and chicken/pork/beef livers and hide them in ground beef meals; the kids love it.

    3. Elizabeth, go to USWellness meats. It’s all grass fed and finished product. They have Liverwurst, Braunchweiger and Headcheese in 1lb. rolls that are delicious and ready to eat. I put mustard and jalapenos on mine. Cheese would be good too!

    4. I’m lazy these days, but I used to ground/chop up some heart and mix it with ground beef: CoQ10 burgers! You won’t even taste the difference.

    5. Lamb hearts – best part of the lamb. Cut the hard its off, cut the muscle into chunks, and make kebabs.

    6. Heart meat is just muscle meat. It’s only slightly different from steak. It’s a little denser, and tastes (to me) meatier. My favorite way to eat heart is to slice pieces about 1/3 inch thick, and flash fry them like a minute steak. I leave them rare (more taurine, and I like meats rare anyway), and just eat them plain. Heart also makes amazingly delicious, rich stew. And if you cook it long enough, it will be tender and juicy.

    7. Hey Elizabeth, It felt weird eating it the very 1st time – you can taste all that iron… but I got over it and I now eat nearly once a week. And there are so many ways to enjoy it.

      Start with lamb’s heart which is milder and enough for one person (about 120 grams net weight) and progress to beef. Have it thinly sliced (I cut it at home but it could be hard to stomach at first) and pan fry it with coconut oil, sliced onion, 1 tsp grounded cumin seeds and salt & pepper; aim for no more the medium or you’ll end up with tough meat. You can cook beef heart in a similar way (cumin is a the key spice). Or, have it grounded (not too fine or it will turn into a paste), add minced onion and mention spices, plus a fair amount of chopped parsley and make kabobs and hamburgers you can grill or pan fry. At times, I cook the ground meat in the pan and add sliced zucchini and mushrooms, red and yellow peppers or cook some basmati rice and when they are both done I mix the both together….or omit the rice and add coconut cream which is really yummy.

      Tip: if you get it grounded, ask the butcher to incorporate some of the fat, which I personally find very tasty.

      And let’s not forget, it’s incredibly cheep and nutritious and when properly trimmed, beef heart looks like a nice slice of filet mignon. I hope that’s enough to get you started 😉

      1. Hi Elizabeth, I get a heart or two free with my grass-fed beef order and I just throw it in the crockpot with a few chipotle peppers, broth, lots of cumin, onions, etc and just let it go for a few hours. They’re often small enough that I put them directly from the freezer into the crockpot – a great solution if you want to eat the heart when it’s cooked but not deal with it too much when it’s raw. I’m that way with tongue – I’m like ‘blech, get in the crockpot, I can’t look at you right now.”

    8. I’m Pennsylvania Dutch. Grew up on pickled beef tongue and pickled heart. The vinegar tenderizes the meat into melt in-your-mouth goodness. Take your cooked heart or tongue [after removal of the outer skin] slice into about 1/2″ sliced and pickle in a vinegar/water solution.

  2. Very interesting, we often have ground (minced) beef as chilli, meatballs etc. I often add bone broth to the meal, so hopefully we are heading the right way, even if it wasn’t intentional!

  3. I’ve been reading more and more about CoQ10 and it’s health benefits. Is there any other source other than animal though?!

  4. In the “eat like for like” category, how about testicles for testosterone? Or animal ovaries for lady hormones, for that matter.

    1. I’ve been eating chicken breasts for years, but I’ve never really seen much improvement in that department. ?

      1. LOL! Darn it! Well, I guess if chicken breasts were actually mammary tissue and not just big, well-developed muscles…

        1. Yeah–I’m 53, and STILL waiting for the boob fairy to show up! 🙂

  5. Just a thought on the “like for like” idea… Some foods are high in cholesterol, but it’s now thought that dietary cholesterol doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in bodily cholesterol. Wouldn’t the same be true on the positive end of the spectrum? In other words, animal heart is high in CoQ10, which, coincidentally, is good for the human heart. But is this true of all “like for like” theories, or is it mostly wishful thinking?

    1. Eating like for like is not going to translate DIRECTLY, but at least it makes sure that you have the right building blocks in your system.

  6. Regarding probiotics. Eating them have a lot of useful benefits, as Mark posted. However, for the good bugs to stay in the gut, eating said bugs is NOT what keeps them there. What keeps them there, is the sun. One must live out in nature, all day long, as if in a tribe, to get these bugs STAY there. This is one thing that food can’t fix. It’s the modern lifestyle that has killed our bugs (and that includes bad food of course, but it’s probably not the biggest factor).

    1. I’m truly surprised that Mark didn’t throw in a pitch for his Primal Probiotics.

    2. Well then, after reading the Atlantic article, I don’t really get the point of eating “probiotics”. I have been making my own yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut all to no avail I guess. If “probiotics” are killed in the stomach acid by what mechanism are they actually helpful?

  7. Look up Symprove it’s a probiotic proven to arrive, survive and thrive. I’ve just finished the 12 week course and my gut has been so good I’m going to continue for 12 more weeks.

  8. I mentioned it a couple articles ago, but I’m hesitant to buy into the like-for-like idea. On one hand, it kinda makes sense that the nutrients needed for a particular organ would be found in eating that same organ. On the other hand, that’s where you get the “eating fat makes you fat” mantra.

  9. My concern about caseins is more about their molecular structure, they are prolamins very similar to gluten. Ok there’s no actual proof that they behave like gluten if not as a cross reaction, but since we have hard times in degradating proline-glutamine bindings, I’m wondering whether we may actually handle caseins very well. I found also some research that seem to confirm that adults lack of rennet, the necessary enzyme to hydrolize caseins, found in childhood. Is there someone with rennet perstistence?
    If we can digest caseins, why can’t we do it with gluten? Is there any difference between them that is the key factor?
    If they are similar to gluten, can they activate zonulin expression and lead to leaky gut?

  10. I am a 73 year old woman in fairly good shape until about 5 years ago when I just retired, so to speak. But at 11 years of age I was deathly ill with aortic valve involvement due to Rheumatic Fever. My cardiologist advocated eating raw learn red beef for my heart. I loved it and continue to this day to eat it with seasoning. And I have never had another heart problem.