Dear Mark: Gummy Vitamins, Heirloom Rice, and Regular Checkups

Gummy VitaminsFor this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ve got three of your questions and three of my answers. First up, I discuss the sugar content of gummy vitamins. Is it a problem for growing kids? Next, find out my take on heirloom rice, including whether it’s worth all the work required trying to get around the antinutrients. I also get into the somewhat counterintuitive role of antioxidants after exercise. Last, I give my opinion on the importance (or lack thereof) of getting regular checkups or physicals at the doctor just… well, because.

Let’s go:

Hi Mark!

I am the mother of two amazing kids (4 & 3), and although we eat well I do like to give them a daily multi to cover our bases. We have been giving them Gummi Vitamins due to the convenience and “kid-friendliness” factor, but my husband recently looked at the sugar content (3g in the multi and 3g in the fish oil) and realized that for their body size it was the equivalent of us eating 6 sugar packets first thing in the morning! Can you and the worker bees recommend a child multi and fish oil that has a LOT less sugar but that they will still be willing to take?

Thanks in advance from the next generation of Grok 😉


True, they are small, but according to official recommendations, active four year olds need between 1,600 and 2,000 calories a day and active three year olds need around 1,400. Six grams of sugar is 23 calories, or between 1-2% of calories (depending on age and calorie intake). That’s really nothing to worry about. Also, they aren’t just maintaining their body mass (or trying to actively lose some of it) like adults. They’re actually building new tissue, growing bones and teeth and brain. That burns through – and requires – a ton of calories.

Given the fairly consistent association between artificial sweetener intake and obesity in kids (which of course does not establish causation), I’d be wary of replacing the sugary vitamins with sucralosey vitamins.

Your best bet is to just focus on getting nutrients via food. At the very least, switch out the gummy fish oil for a DHA-enriched egg yolk or two. I’ll sometimes buy a brand from Whole Foods that gives you 150 mg DHA in each egg yolk, achieved by feeding the hens fish. That’s way better than most gummy fish oils, which only give about 50 mg of DHA per serving.

Don’t worry about the few grams of sugar if you give them the vitamins, though!

I don’t eat rice often (typically a bit when I go out for sushi), but I’ve been considering experimenting with it a bit as an occasional post work out carb source, to see how it effects me. I’ve been hearing recently about different heirloom rices, black, red, I think I saw something about a pink and a green. Most of what I’ve read has been talking about them having more nutrients, and antioxidants such as anthocyanin, compared to white or brown rice. I know the anti-nutrients in brown rice are in the germ, and the bran gets removed when producing white rice. From what I understand the heirloom rices retain the germ and the bran, but I haven’t been able to find anything one way or the other about anti-nutrients in any of these heirloom rices. I’m trying to find out if I should just experiment with white rice, or if these heirloom varieties could be worth looking into.


The colored heirloom rice varieties are pretty interesting. They’re certainly dense with antioxidant activity, mostly due to the anthocyanins (as you mention).

Unfortunately, if you want the color and the antioxidants, you need to eat the bran. That’s where everything is located, including antinutrients like phytic acid, which binds to many of the minerals. Even though heirloom rice is rich in minerals like magnesium and manganese, it’s unclear how much is actually available. If you soak and ferment your heirloom rice, you can eliminate the vast majority of the phytate, but that’s another step to follow. Luckily, most rice lectins are deactivated by cooking above 100 ºC or 212 ºF, so those shouldn’t be too big an issue. The rice’s trypsin inhibitor (the compound that can impair protein digested with the rice meal) is also deactivated by cooking (or removing the bran).

I’m just not sure the heirloom rices are worth the trouble of soaking and fermenting. You can certainly try it, but blueberries, cherries, and purple sweet potatoes require no special preparation and should cover you nicely on the anthocyanin front.

Besides, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting a big dose of anthocyanins immediately post-workout. I might even caution against getting a big dose of post-workout anthocyanins. There’s actually evidence that post-workout anthocyanins can impair the exercise effect. Sound weird? I know, I know. Anthocyanins and other antioxidant plant compounds are supposed to be good for you by reducing inflammation. What could be wrong with that?

Well, if you recall from the previous post on exercise and inflammation, a big part of the training process is inflammation. Exercise is a stressor that, like other stressors, increases inflammation in our tissues. It’s our body’s response to that inflammatory insult that explains the benefits of exercise. Lift weights heavy enough to damage the muscles and the muscles get stronger in order to handle the next bout. Run long enough to stress your cardiovascular system and your cardiovascular fitness improves so the next time you run isn’t such a stressor. Throwing in a big dose of antioxidants immediately after the workout blunts the inflammation and, thus, perhaps the beneficial response by our body to the exercise.

Studies have found that antioxidants in general taken after exercise can blunt the benefits of exercise. It remains to be seen whether large doses of anthocyanins (or blueberries, black rice, or cherries) have similar effects, but it’s possible:

  • In one study, cherry juice reduced the muscle damage after strength training and sped-up the recovery of strength. Two groups performed as many knee extensions as they could. 48 hours after the initial strength training, the group drinking cherry juice had recovered almost 93% of baseline strength and the control group had recovered just 88.5%. This sounds fantastic on the surface, but these were clearly truncated gains. Neither group was allowed to fully recover and, since the cherry juice attenuated muscle damage, the cherry group had less damage from which to recover. Generally, the greater the muscle damage, the greater the potential for strength gains – provided you give yourself enough recovery time. With sufficient recovery time, the control group might have ended up even stronger.
  • Another study found that acute ingestion of 375 grams of blueberries an hour before a bout of distance running reduced oxidative stress and increased the amount of anti-inflammatory cytokines in circulation.

Don’t go out of your way to avoid them, of course. A cup of blueberries won’t nullify the deadlifts you just did. Just don’t drink a quart of cherry juice followed by an intramuscular injection of purple sweet potato extract or you might shortchange your results.

If it’s easy, absorbable glucose you’re after, just go for the white rice. Make it more nutritious by cooking it in bone broth and a pat of grass-fed butter or red palm oil. Restore some of the lost minerals by adding a few splashes of trace mineral drops to the cooking liquid. Save the focus on anthocyanins and other phytonutrients for your regular meals.


How do you feel about getting regular doctor checkups/physicals, especially considering that most of us only have access to CW-minded physicians due to insurance?

On a related note, I tend to overanalyze numbers and feel like I’d be more consistent in my Primal lifestyle if I can avoid the knee-jerk reactions that come with tracking things like blood test results, body fat, and even weight (things that, for the most part, Grok did not have access to). Is ignorance of these markers indeed bliss for my situation, or is it important for me to maintain awareness?



It’s often said that prevention is the best medicine, with the implication being that one must regularly present himself to a licensed medical professional for examination if he is to prevent illnesses from occurring. I agree with the saying, but not with the common interpretation. The best way to prevent illness is to take a proactive role in your own health by eating well, staying active, performing vigorous exercise from time to time, lifting heavy things, getting adequate sunlight, doing things that you love, etc. – not by getting poked and prodded. Poking and prodding can be helpful, I suppose, if you’re not working from a healthy foundation.

In my personal opinion, which by the way is not medical advice, a healthy, lean, mobile, happy, content person does not need regular yearly checkups. There’s even a study from a couple years ago that found routine checkups provide no health benefits. Thus, I’m not big on going to the doctor unless I need to, like if I want to get a spot on my arm checked out.

Go to the doctor if something’s ailing you, if something hurts, or if you want to know your cholesterol levels or get some other lab number tested. Don’t fear the doctor if you need to go – they are excellent “mechanics” when something goes wrong – but don’t feel you need to go just because you’re alive and some horrible malady could be brewing inside you.

That’s it for today, folks. 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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51 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Gummy Vitamins, Heirloom Rice, and Regular Checkups”

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  1. Thank you for the gummy vitamin question. My default recommendation for patients is that food is your multivitamin. Multicolor diet = multivitamin.

  2. We give multivitamins sparingly to our kids (less than once a week). For the same reason–their diet really provides all they need. We do supplement Vitamin D, though.

  3. Mark, my question is about sunglasses. Given the recommendations to wear UV blocking sunglasses at night, would we be causing ourselves any issues by wearing sunglasses during the daytime?

    I would hate to try to manufacture the best night’s sleep of my life only to FUBAR it up by wearing sunglasses during that great sun exposure.

  4. The Japanese have something called gabba rice and gabba rice cookers. I think the process sprouts or germinates the rice before cooking. In the case of gabba rice, it is germinated and then dried again before you can buy it in stores. Supposedly this makes it more nutritious and higher in protein. I wonder if the process would also nullify some of the phytates or other antinutrients? I wonder if it would work on forbidden rice, too. Forbidden rice is really tasty.

  5. **Correction: The article suggested that only 4 vitamin supplements were actually useful.
    “Of the 51,000 new supplements on the market, four might be of benefit for otherwise healthy people: omega-3 fatty acids to prevent heart disease; calcium and vitamin D in postmenopausal women, to prevent bone thinning; and folic acid during pregnancy, to prevent birth defects.”

  6. Ooooh.. Thank you for addressing the multi-vitamin question. We have been giving these to our three kids for the past few years, and I was slightly worried about the sugar. In a pinch, mom and dad have been known to eat a few of them as well, altho I have managed to resist since going Primal this past summer.

  7. The big problem with gummy vitamins is that they are “gummy” and stick to little teeth so if you brush shortly after that sugar isn’t stuck on their teeth long. Although, those teeth are coming out anyway AND with all that healthy food their teeth should be stronger anyway right?
    I just want to eat gummy candy because it’s fun, not worth it now…. fond memories of eating a whole a bag of them. Sigh and an eye roll.

  8. Try Pure Encapsulation vitamins for kids. They make a chewable one for little kids. Most gummy kid vitamin are so low in nutrients it’s not worth giving them. I did a lot of research when my kids were little and Pure Encapsulation was the best. PE make excellent adult vitamins, too

  9. Mark, because I was curious if one could add the trace mineral drops you refer to in with what ever I am cooking, I checked with the company a while back and someone who had scientific type credentials responded. He said it was okay to add them after you cooked something but did not suggest adding it to the cooking process.

    Also, in regards to a regular physical. I tend to agree, in general, that a once a year check up is unnecessary if one is taking responsibility for their health or has some ongoing issue. However, I did get a check up, mainly to get acquainted with my new doctor. She ran the standard blood tests which turned up a high platelet count. Absolutely no symptoms but if left unchecked, could result is some sort of a thrombotic, if that is the word, event. From my experience, some horrible malady can be lurking inside you.

    So, I would say, get a check-up at least once in awhile. It also seems like it is good to have some kind of a relationship with your doctor. And then, of course, there is the issue of female gynecological check ups and mammograms…….

    1. oops, I meant one should go to regular check-ups if one has an ongoing issue. But then, you all probably figured that out.

    2. And then, of course, there is the issue of female gynecological check ups and mammograms…….

      my first thought too

    3. I know I worry about that too but haven’t been to a “regular” doctor for quite some time, mammogram yes, but I suppose I should get some testing done just for fun ….. however, as near as I can tell I’m not dead yet so that’s a good sign.

      1. Your welcome.

        My daughter shakes some on nearly everything she eats or drinks. She says it makes everything taste better. Most of the time, I seem to forget to add it to my food. Probably because I don’t really think that it makes everything taste better.

        1. I agree that it doesn’t make things taste better, which is why I like to add a tiny little bit to everything. I also try to get it from multiple sources, like epson baths or natural calm gummies.

          It is awesome your daughter likes it. I wish mine did! She still gets it though, I just have to be sneaky! 😉

    4. I’ve been once in the last 25 years. Females may have to check more often, not even sure about that. I just don’t trust ’em. Now they are lowering the colesterol counts once again, so you have to take statins. Pretty much everyone will fall below “their numbers”. The sick care system is just that. Sick care. Find a Paleo doctor if you can.

    5. I actually have grave doubts about the benefits of mammograms – if you do your research on that as well there is ample evidence that the mammograms themselves actually expose you to large amounts of radiation on a regular basis and there are other ways to check for breast cancer that are not harmful. A thorough self exam, a healthy diet and if you really want to be sure all is well then read through some of Dr Mercola’s site and follow some of his recommendations for getting the breast tissue checked out for abnormalities. I really don’t think a regular dose of radiation is the way to go! If you read some of the studies about the efficacy of mammograms (not the ones done by people who will benefit from your doing them!!!) then there is no huge incentive to get one done!

  10. Check-ups…great info-especially the link to the article on the skin check/blood pressure experience. My grandma is 96 and I take her to her (infrequent) medical appointments. They only ever take one BP reading and diagnose on that one reading. She avoids the Dr. except for specific reasons and is highly suspicious of prescription meds-probably one of the reasons she is 96 and lives independently.

    1. My insurance gives me a HUGE (nearly 30%) reduction if I take yearly physicals/blood tests. I find the results fascinating. They don’t alter my behavior but I like seeing a clean bill of blood health every year.

      BTW, I suspect that the only reason they do it is to test for nicotine — they’re very big on making sure that smokers pay way more for insurance.

  11. Good advice on the Trace Minerals drops. I also like to add some sea vegetables and sea salt to the cooking liquid to boost the mineral composition.

  12. The only way my wife will take vitamins is in gummy form. Pretty sure that’s the only reason she remembers to take them at all. She appreciated the fact that the question was brought up in regards to getting children to take vitamins.

    Since going Primal I doubt she even needs them anymore, but if that’s the worst thing she eats I have no complaints.

  13. The regular checkups post was timely. Thanks Mark. I was just having this conversation with my friend who goes to the doctor every 6 months regardless if something is wrong. When I told her that I haven’t been to the doctor in 3 years and didn’t intend to go unless I needed to, she gave me a weird look like I might suddenly catch the flu and die.

    1. Disagree with the advice on the checkups. It all depends on age and overall health as well – obviously a 30 year old won’t need to go as frequent as someone who is older or in poorer health. BUT! There is a lot you can learn from an annual checkup, you just have to know what to look for. As for blood pressure, if you’re concerned at all, a simple home monitoring device can do the trick for you. Just check your blood pressure at around the same time each day and if it creeps up past 140/90 consistently, then you might want to talk to a healthcare provider about it. As for the person who said that they got a diagnosis after just one blood pressure reading, there are supposed to be two readings done five minutes apart to actually diagnose someone with high blood pressure.

      Back to the things you can learn from an annual checkup, like I said you just have to know what to look for. I’m an RN so I don’t just go to the doctor to go to the doctor – I’ll go in asking for specific blood tests such as a CBC and CMP which looks at overall blood values, renal function, liver function, and electrolyte imbalances. I also like to ask for a lipid panel because I like to monitor my triglyceride levels. Other things you can ask for that are useful is a HgbA1c which is a great tool to see how well your. There’s also the hs-CRP blood test which is great at reading inflammation in your arteries. If you have an elevated hs-CRP then you can easily change your diet to include less inflammatory foods. A cortisol test is another useful one to see if your adrenal glands are working on overload or if stress is an issue in your life.

      The point is, don’t just go to the doctor hoping he’ll catch something. Go with a purpose.

      1. I get my blood pressure taken every 8 weeks when I donate blood. This lets me get 6 or 7 data points a year, enough that I can track a trend.

      2. Will insurance pay for those particular tests if they are not part of a regular blood panel? The hs-CRP test would be interesting as well as the cortisol test; however, I do wonder if the doctor would have to justify these tests to an insurance company.

  14. Our children’s dentist advised against ‘gummy’ vitamins since they tend to stick to their teeth.

  15. The main problem with gummy vitamins, aka CANDY, is that any self-respecting sugar addict will promptly devour the whole container in much the same way that starving piranhas will flense a hapless goat that blunders into their stream. An open bottle is an empty bottle in my house. The only solution I’ve found is not to have them anywhere near me.

    1. LOL – that is our/ my issue as well!! NEVER bring gummy anything into my house or it will vanish!

  16. Just discovered your site through Art of Manliness article on toughness. I like the idea of primal living but it doesn’t seem very primal if folks are asking questions about sunglasses, vitamins, etc. In a more primal state we would not concern ourselves with UV, or this brand of vitamin vs. that brand of vitamin.

    Living primal means you eat simple foods, and spend a lot of time outside moving. It does not require books, or advise on the best rice to eat. Cavemen did not consult advice columns.

    1. You’re using a computer, probably in a room with air conditioning and lights on. Obviously we’re not real cave-people. “Cavemen did not consult advice columns.” – They didn’t have to, as the food supply wasn’t flooded with fake garbage that, sadly, requires large amounts of reading and intelligence to sift through. If you go about your life and diet with this attitude, you will inadvertently end up ignorantly eating what you are referring to as “simple food”, but which probably only seems simple to you because you were raised to think it is normal to eat things like bread, cereal, oatmeal, corn, etc. But these foods aren’t simple. They require much processing to make them seem so “simple”. As the title of the article that you were just reading indicates, manliness is an art, and the term “art” indicates that to truly master manliness, some form of training and skill may be required (also, I am able to admit that advice from people like Mark and others on this forum is very helpful – does that make me less “manly”?). Manliness ? ignorance. Also, if “Cavemen did not consult advice columns”. then why do you feel the need to read an article on toughness? Shouldn’t it come naturally for you?

      1. Just happened to be reading an article, chill out. Merry Christmas jerk.

        1. If you “happened to be reading an article” then what made you feel the need to comment? Why couldn’t you have just read the article, disagreed with it in your head, and gone on with your day? Eventually they will come up with some phrase, acronym, or word that signifies that we only like to eat real foods and nourish our bodies that doesn’t make people argue about how “cavemen didn’t need advice columns or sunglasses or help on which rice to buy”, but for now, “Primal” does it (and it works for us)!

  17. While I couldn’t agree more with not seeing the doctor unless you really need to, in our area it can be a problem to not go for a yearly exam. Many doctors will drop you from their ‘current patient list’ if they have not seen you in X years, which means when you really do get sick and need a physician, you will be treated like a new patient. I’m sure most of us know that new patients cannot get an appointment for weeks. This happened to my husband in August and it was a horrific ordeal getting him in to a qualified doctor. From now on he will go once a year, essentially just to pay the doctor to keep him on the list.

  18. Thank so much for the gummy vitamins! Because of some chronic conditions (permanent, unfortunately, though helped by eating primal!) I will always need supplementation and my body can’t tolerate normal multis. Pills, capsules, chewable, drink powder, nothing. I even tried buying all the vitamins separately and taking them that way. No matter what, I would expel them in minutes. Gummys are the only type I cal keep down! An once my husband realized there are gummy vitamins, HE started taking vitamins for the first time in his life. It’s not an ideal solution, but I’m glad to know it’s not a really bad one.

  19. I have to comment on the use of regular check-ups… While I agree that they often aren’t necessary, my regular checkup this year revealed a rare form of cancer through a routine blood test. I felt great and without my yearly exam I wouldn’t have caught the cancer until it was too late. Please go get annual blood tests. Take whatever the doctor says with a grain of salt, but make sure your numbers are healthy. Sometimes even if you take excellent care of yourself and feel healthy there could be the beginnings of a bigger problem.

  20. We’ve been using Twinlab Norwegian Cod Liver Oil (mint) and the mint really makes it easy to take. Our toddler also consumes it happily. Best of all: no weird ingredients!

  21. Also bear in mind that you don’t have to visit a doctor to get routine lab work done. If you’re interested in getting your own vitamin D level, for instance, there are a couple of companies where you can order the test online, then bring a requisition slip to an approved lab. They run the test and e-mail you the results. I’ve been doing this for years through a company called DirectLabs. The tests cost about 1/3 of what my HMO would charge, and it’s totally legit. The lab I use is LabCorp, which ironically is who runs my HMO’s tests anyway. (And yet my primary care doc is suspicious of my going to an outside lab.)

    It’s not available in a few states, though — probably because the medical lobby doesn’t want anything biting into their profits.

  22. To add to the vitamin discussion, one thing I didn’t initially recognize was the way in which the kid vitamins or common children’s medications mixed with a sweet suspension liquid can affect BG with T1 diabetics. It took many, many insulin corrections to cover those nightly vitamins until we put 2+2 together.

  23. It might be a retarded question, but if it makes sense to reduce anti inflammatory foods post workout… Wouldnt it also make sense to just include some inflammatory foods after training? 🙂
    (Example before the 2 day break in case of exercising 3 times a week)

  24. I’m so glad someone else shares my sentiments on physicians! I go when I need one, no more, no less. Thanking my lucky stars I haven’t needed to see a general practitioner in over 5 years!

    No need to go “just because” you’re “supposed” to.

  25. Phytic acid has protective effects against bowel and intestinal cancer. And has been linked to reduction in depression.

  26. As a mom of a young child, you want to do everything right but life is short and fleeting. I wish I could get more vitamins into my daughter via vegetables and real food. But I also don’t want the stress in my life, nor do I want to make food a battle. I feed her real food and then give the vitamin for peace of mind.

  27. My DH and I went for our first ‘annual’ physicals in years due to a new job. I did have a mammogram and pap done the previous year but hadn’t in 10 years prior to that. This year, they insisted on the ‘routine’ screening colonoscopy that is ‘fully’ covered so you don’t need to pay. Funny how it still ended up costing several hundred dollars for each of us. Insurance is a nightmare and is the real reason we avoid medical care unless absolutely necessary. Ironically, I work in the medical field. The doc also insisted the DH get on statins due to his ‘high’ cholesterol (not really high) but we refused. It’s interesting that they never seem to look past the first ‘study’ that comes out. I believe that our body is a chemistry laboratory, everything affects everyone differently as everyone has a different ‘composition’ of factors in their lives, genetics, work schedule, environment, stresses, yadda, yadda. I have have been overweight ever since puberty hit and everytime someone tells me I wouldn’t be if I just had ‘willpower’ I want to scream. Those without the problem have no idea what willpower really is and how much we practice it. There is nothing more frustrating than following a supposedly healthy eating plan, lifting weights, doing aerobics, etc., and seeing the scale move a max of 11 pounds in 6 months while you are constantly hungry and hurt everywhere. The real help is from sites like MDA, The Paleo Mom, Paleo Parents, et al. I am still technically overweight but I no longer hurt, my skin has cleared up, and even though I am 53, bounce back fairly well after working my stint of 7-10 1/2 hour night shifts on my feet. I have more energy than I did two years ago.

    Sorry to go so off topic on physicals but everything else gets judged when you have one. The doc appeared to know better than to comment on my weight after looking at me so I’ll just continue on with my Vibrams (thanks again, Mark, for leading me there) and go out for a nice walk and some sprinting (which I can do again!). Best medicine there is!

  28. Hi Mark,
    As per usual, really good advice. I picked up this post (a little late admittedly), to read what you were saying about gummies. When it comes to vitamin C, I admit the taste of ascorbic acid is a tad tart, would you have advise on “tricking” (for want of a better word) someone into having some? Mix it into a smoothie?

    All the best,