Is It Primal? – Coconut Water, Chocolate Milk, Glycomaize and Other Foods Scrutinized

Perhaps the most common question I get from readers is some variation on the classic “Is X Primal?”  Probably a half dozen times a day, “Is this Primal?” or “Is that Primal?” pop up in my inbox, often attached to some ridiculous food or product. My personal favorite was “Is whole wheat bread Primal?” (it’s not), closely followed by “What’s more Primal, red or black licorice?” But that’s not to suggest that all I get is nonsense. Some – most, even – are actually quite reasonable queries about foods that either seem to reside in Primal limbo, get talked up by people who you’d think would “know better,” or just taste really good and have people hoping that somehow, someway they’re compatible with Primal living.

Today, I’ll be scrutinizing ten commonly asked-about foods. Let’s go:

Coconut Water

It often feels like the coconut enjoys deific status in the Primal community, and for good reason. It’s rich in medium chain triglycerides, a relatively rare type of fat with some intriguing health effects, particularly for weight loss and brain health. Its flesh can be pulverized and combined with water to form a creamy, milky beverage that works well in curries, coffee, and with berries, or dried and ground to form a useful flour. But what about the water? The water is where all the sugar lies (16 grams in 12 ounces), so it’s natural for some people to be suspicious. Sugary drinks, whether they be soda or juice, are generally frowned upon.

But coconut water has some cool stuff going on. It contains five electrolytes the human body needs to function – potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphate, and calcium. In a pinch, it can double as a short-term IV hydration fluid. It’s good for a hangover (or so I hear). It can rehydrate athletes after exercise, and though it isn’t particularly more effective than something like Gatorade, it’s certainly tastier and healthier.

Verdict: Primal, but kinda sugary, so go easy on it unless you’re in Thailand sipping on fresh young coconuts (because there’s nothing quite like cold coconut water straight from the coconut), nursing a hangover, or training hard and need the hydration.

Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk? You’re probably wondering why this one didn’t get tossed out as nonsense, and I don’t blame you. For one, it’s dairy, usually low-fat and ultra-pasteurized. Two, it’s full of sugar. Three, it’s chocolate milk. What’s the deal here?

Chocolate milk is actually enjoying a renaissance in the fitness community. Over the past several years, a number of studies have teased out the recovery benefits provided by post-workout chocolate milk:

  • Muscle protein turnover and performance enhancement after endurance training – Following a 45-minute run, trained subjects who consumed fat-free chocolate milk (as opposed to a carbohydrate only beverage, like Gatorade) experienced improved muscle protein turnover and a higher treadmill time to exhaustion.
  • Improved recovery after prolonged endurance exercise – Following several cycling sessions, subjects who consumed chocolate milk were able to recover more quickly for a subsequent session to failure. They lasted 51% and 43% longer than the cyclists who had a carb-only beverage or just water. An earlier study found similar results.

It seems like it’s the protein content of chocolate milk, paired with the sugar content, that provides the benefits over just water or Gatorade. I’ll agree that if there’s a “good time” to consume sugary beverages, it’s immediately after a long workout, because the sugar will be primarily (if not completely) used to fuel your energy-sapped muscles. Throw in some high quality dairy protein and you have yourself a decent recovery drink. Better than Gatorade, at least.

But really? If I were you, I’d just eat some meat, a piece of fruit, and have some water. Or if you do milk, have plain whole milk, preferably raw, skip the “chocolate,” and eat a banana. That way you get the dairy protein and some fast-acting sugar.

Verdict: Not Primal.

Milk Chocolate

We tout dark chocolate over milk for several reasons:

  1. Dark chocolate generally contains more cacao, which is the source of all the polyphenols and other antioxidants that provide most of the health benefits associated with chocolate.
  2. Dark chocolate generally contains less sugar than milk chocolate, making it healthier and giving it more of a complex flavor profile (rather than just cloyingly sweet).
  3. Dark chocolate contains healthy fats, like stearic acid (which has a neutral effect on LDL), while the milk in most milk chocolates comes from powdered dairy. It can also be adulterated with vegetable oils (because using cocoa butter in milk chocolate when soybean oil is available is just crazy talk, right?).
  4. Dark chocolate is more filling than milk chocolate. For the most part, you don’t see people going on three-bar 85% cacao dark chocolate binges. Polishing off a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, though? Who hasn’t done that at least once?

That said, in recent years a new wave of “dark” milk chocolates has surfaced, sporting higher cacao contents, complex flavor profiles, and lower sugar counts. Slitti’s Lattenero 70%, for instance, is 70% cacao. If you go with one of these bars, and you’re okay with dairy, I don’t see a problem with it, especially since the presence of milk proteins do not seem to affect absorption of polyphenols. Besides, it’s not like chocolate – dark or milk or dark milk – should be anything but a treat.

Verdict: Potentially Primal.

Cocoa Mass

Everything that’s good in good dark chocolate can be found in cocoa mass, which is simply the fermented, roasted, ground, crushed cocoa beans. Cocoa mass has both the cocoa solids and the cocoa butter, but that’s it. No sugar, no flavorings, no binders, no emulsifiers. It’s the last step before undergoing either Dutch processing or Broma processing, the former of which removes most of the phenolic content and the latter of which preserves it (along with some bitterness). Cocoa mass, then, contains all the antioxidants, all the phenolic content, and all the bitterness. It’s great stuff if you can handle it. If you can’t, you might try melting a nugget in a small saucepan with some coconut milk. Add a bit of cinnamon, some cayenne, and a teaspoon of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, stevia), and you have yourself a delicious way to eat real cocoa mass.

Just make sure you’re really getting 100% cocoa mass and nothing else. Here’s an example of a good 100% product. Or you could dig up some unsweetened baker’s chocolate, which is high in antioxidants and is basically just cocoa mass formed into bars.

Verdict: Primal.

Cocoa Butter

If dark chocolate and cocoa mass are Primal, then cocoa butter definitely qualifies, too. It’s mostly saturated (stearic acid) fat, with about 30% monounsaturated, and a paltry amount of polyunsaturated fat.

From what I’ve seen, cocoa butter as a cooking fat hasn’t really gone mainstream, so you’ll probably have to pay a premium for it. I don’t see any huge advantage to it (besides maybe the LDL-neutral stearic acid content), but if you can get a good price, go for it.

Verdict: Primal.

Goat Whey Protein

If cow whey is Primal – and I think it is, which is why I use it in Primal Fuel – then goat whey is also Primal. In fact, I strongly considered using it and might have were it not for the high price of goat whey. You see, there’s simply not as much goat milk whey produced in this country. It remains a niche product, a product with low supply and high prices.

However, if you’re willing to pay for goat whey protein, there are a couple potential benefits that could distinguish it from cow whey:

  • It tends to be less allergenic than cow’s milk. Oftentimes, folks who can’t tolerate cow dairy protein will be able to tolerate goat dairy protein. If you have problems with cow whey, but still want a quick and easy protein source, goat whey will probably work well.
  • Goat milk oligosaccharides have displayed intestinal anti-inflammatory effects in animal models of colitis. If the goat whey protein you’re using retains these oligosaccharides after the purification process (and one study confirms that raw goat whey at least starts out with oligosaccharides present), it may not just be less inflammatory than cow milk whey, but positively anti-inflammatory.

Verdict: Primal.

Sacha Inchi Seeds

The next South American superfood (I for one am sick of these superfoods always being a berry or a bean or a root of some sort; I hereby nominate capybara glandular extract in juice form as the next big South American superfood/MLM scheme), sacha inchi seeds are omega-3-rich “Incan peanuts” that have been eaten for hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of years by people living in the Amazon. How rich in omega-3? Well, one site boasts that their sacha inchi seeds contain 13 times more omega-3s than salmon (ounce for ounce), without those “unpleasant fishy flavors and aftertastes.” Yeah, I hate life every time I eat a big piece of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, too. I practically have to hold my nose and force it down to avoid that disgusting fishy flavor.

Problem is that the omega-3 in a sacha inchi seed – 50% of the total fatty acids – is all alpha linoleic acid. It’s not the EPA or DHA that our omnivorous bodies utilize best; it’s the ALA that we have trouble converting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with ALA, and it’s probably beneficial to people who don’t get any actual animal-based omega-3s, but it can’t beat a simple, tasty can of sardines. Oh, and the fatty acid composition of a sacha inchi is about 34% omega-6 linoleic acid, a pretty hefty dose.

I think sacha inchi seeds are fine as a snack. Just don’t think they’ll replace marine-based omega-3s.

Verdict: Primal to a point.


The bad is that hominy is corn, a grain with questionable health effects. We generally avoid grains, and they are definitely not Primal. The good is that hominy is nixtamalized, a traditional corn preparation process which increases the protein availability, breaks down phytic acid, kills off mycotoxins, and increases the calcium content.

I often talk about foods existing on a spectrum of suitability, and corn is no different. If wheat, barley, rye, and other gluten-containing grains are at one (bad) end, and rice is at the other, nixtamalized corn lies somewhere in the middle, perhaps sharing a ride with oats.

Verdict: Not Primal, but “less bad” than some other grains.


Glycomaize is just a catchy name for waxy maize, a type of corn-based starch that looks like wax under a microscope and contains high amounts of amylopectin. Amylopectin is the plant equivalent of glycogen; its glucose subunits are highly branched and easily digested. This quality has earned it a reputation among gym rats as the quickest way to SLAM GLYCOGEN INTO YOUR STARVING MUSCLES TO THE POINT OF ENGORGEMENT. Even if waxy maize were able to supranaturally pump you full of glycogen (which it doesn’t appear to be any better at than other sources of starch, according to this well-researched article from, I question its value for most people.

If you want some carbs after a workout, eat a sweet potato. Unless you’re training twice a day and getting paid for it, you don’t need to have fully-replenished glycogen stores immediately after a workout. The potato, maybe some coconut water, maybe a banana, and a bit of meat will do the trick just fine. And, they’re actual food that you have to cook, chew, and swallow. They will sustain you, satisfy you, and keep you full, whereas tossing some corn starch down your gullet will only add cheap (yet expensive) carb calories that your satiety hormones probably won’t even acknowledge. Helpful for an elite athlete training two or three times a day, but not for the average (or even above average) fitness fan.

Verdict: Not Primal.

Banana Flour

Banana flour is actually plantain flour, meaning it’s made by grinding up the banana’s starchy, less-sweet cousin. It’s not going to be very sweet, and it’s usually combined with standard flours because of the difficult texture and consistency.

According to the FAO, neither plantains nor bananas contain significant levels of any known antinutrient or food toxin. They are the very definition of a “safe starch,” then. If you’re looking for something starchy and you engage in sufficient activity to warrant its inclusion in your diet and you’re able to come up with something edible without adulterating it with wheat flour, go ahead. Just don’t let banana – or plantain – flour become a gateway to daily Primal approximations of baked goods and you’ll be fine.

Verdict: Primal, but likely easy to abuse.

Well, that’s it for today. If you’ve got any foods (or food-based items) that you’ve been wondering about, feel free to drop a comment in and I’ll try to do a follow-up next week. Thanks for reading!

TAGS:  is it primal?

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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158 thoughts on “Is It Primal? – Coconut Water, Chocolate Milk, Glycomaize and Other Foods Scrutinized”

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  1. Hi Mark. Thanks for the post. Maybe you can clear up some confusion on this one, since no one else seems to be able to:

    It’s not a grain. It’s a seed, the seed of the goosefoot plant, to be specific. Wikipedia calls it a “pseudocereal,” as it is not a member of the grass family. However, most people who choose to/try to eat Paleo avoid it. That seems like a shame to me given quinoa’s amazing nutritional properties. What gives?

    1. Quinoa iirc listed along with white and wild rice as a safe starch of choice in Mark’s new version of BP. Buckwheat is another pseudo-cereal with great nutritional profile, but it can be allergenic on its own.

      1. Hmmm interesting.Do know if brown rice is listed too and if not why not?

    2. Even though it’s a seed, it’s a high-carb food (39g/cup). I found that it was just like eating any other starchy food, causing a sugar high, crash, then cravings. I need to avoid it, even on strength training days.

  2. I love snacking on baker’s chocolate. It took a little while to adjust to the grittiness but now it serves as a good snack on the go.

    1. I thought I would be able to handle bakery’s chocolate since I typically eat at least 85% dark, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m willing to try again with another brand (I tried Camino organic), but might be trying Mark’s coconut milk concoction so that this bar doesn’t go to waste.

      1. The problem I’ve found with most baker’s chocolate is the texture – and yes, the bitter taste. But I do love some good 100% chocolate & have been extremely happy with Dagoba’s baking bar, which I buy by the 6-pack from Amazon since my local grocery shops don’t carry it.

    2. I can’t quite handle baker’s without something to cut the bitterness. Sometimes I add a dab of almond butter. I also break up baker’s and pour cream on it. Either way, maybe a dash of cinnamon.

    3. I discovered how to eat high % dark chocolate without grittiness. I take my hot coffee, and dip the corner of my piece of dark chocolate into the coffee for about 2 seconds. This melts the surface. I then suck it off like a lollipop. Delicious, heavy with smooth chocolate and coffee. I then dip the piece in again for another hit.
      I feel very satisfied with the treat- andof handling the food extends the experience, and makes a smaller piece of chocolate satisfying.

  3. No chocolate milk???

    I make my own with good cocoa, a bit of stevia and raw milk. Primal in a dairy sort of way.

    I also make mayan cocoa occasionally, with raw milk, stevia and cocoa powder with a bit of chili powder. Maybe a little unsweetened whipped cream on top.YUM!

    1. This sounds really good, especially the chili version! I’ll have to try that tonight. I would think making your own (knowing your ingredients are raw/organic) is probably more primal than buying a store bought brand.

    2. we make chocolate milk with coconut milk and unsweetened cocoa mmmmm

      1. Primal Hot chocolate… coconut milk, cocoa and honey. It’s what heaven would taste like if you could eat it.

      2. I love dark chocolate + coconut.

        Primal hot chocolate is cocoa powder (unsweetened) mixed with coconut milk. (For ease of blending, I mix 1 tbsp cocoa with boiling water in a mug, then whisk in coconut milk, heat in microwave [not primal! but you could heat in a pan, if you prefer] then whisk again. Delicious.

        I also make a primal snack by mixing cocoa nibs (which are 100% chocolate, and very strange but satisfying to eat plain) with coconut cream (skimmed from the top half of a can of coconut milk) and refrigerated. This has the consistency of ice cream.

        For me, the bitterness of the 100% dark chocolate and the natural sweetness of the coconut makes a perfect combination.

    3. Me, too, I make my own cocoa, only I don’t sweeten it – I don’t have any problem with the taste. Thanks for the chilli suggestion, I might try it one day and see if it tastes good (which I think does, since “I like it hot”. 😉

    4. I used to make this too but it would always make me feel sick to my stomach afterward. Turns out I don’t tolerate stevia very well. I just now use a bit of honey and I’m good to go.

    5. That’s exactly what I do as well, I have my own Jersey cows so going “dairy free” is a bit of an impossibility, especially when I’m getting 10 gallons a day! We enjoy “chocolate milk” a lot, I blend it with cocoa powder and a touch of stevia, oh so yummy. It’s even better with extra cream and a spoonful of instant coffee 🙂

    6. I also make my chocolate milk homemade. I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cocoa powder, and a bit of honey or agave. I make it mostly for my daughter (she is 3 and hasn’t kicked the chocolate milk habit yet). I occasionally have a sip or two. It’s pretty close to primal and way better than indulging on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or something equivalent.

  4. Well, a relatively clean version of chocolate milk might be milk (as good as one can get) with raw honey and pure chocolate powder. I heard this one to be recommended as a start-up for a carb up.

  5. In baking, one ripe banana can be substituted for one egg if someone has an egg allergen.

    1. The one you ripped from the plant.
      But then, I love real licorice, especially in teas. (Which is to say, licorice tea not the candy)

      One could probably make a case for real, potentially home-made, black licorice, with all the other “ware sugar” disclaimers.

      1. In my country (Italy) we used to eat tons of licorice… but nowadays a huge part of that is unfortunately of the “candy” style.
        We still also have a traditional “pure black licorice” which is a 100% licorice crystal-like preparation made only by infusion/evaporation/extrusion of the plant’s roots. It is incredibly bitter but it has wonderful, wonderful (!!) taste… I think you should try this if you can find it but I believe it’s impossible to produce that at home! We also have the dried plant’s roots you can chew as a treat!
        Well, they’re regarded more as a natural medicine then treats but I love them. Now that I live in Japan I miss licorice a lot. I believe that italian traditional licorice is a GREAT primal treat.

  6. How do you think geography should be factored in to compiling an individuals food list? To follow your model, I would think a north american Grok would have had resources different from what a central asian Grok would have. Or are we extrapolating to what Grok would have eaten if he had access, from what Grok did eat of what he did have access?

    1. I think the answer depends on what you are looking to get out of PB. If you want to live a very healthy life while experiencing the many flavors of Grok’s time, feel free to eat primal foods from around the world. If you want to perform at you highest potential level, you should eat food that YOUR grok ancestors would have consumed. PB is an individual lifestyle, because although we all evolved to a similar place, the journey through generations may have been drastically different.

    2. This is the question I ask so often. I am an American living in South Korea and following a primal/paleo is impossible, without making major concessions. For example, the Korean meat is the highest antibiotic filled meat in the world. There is hardly any beef here so we get a lot of our beef (if we can afford it and I’m not talking about grain fed price vs grass fed price) from Austraila which proudly states it is grain fed. I have yet to find grass fed beef in the six years we have been here. We have not found raw milk either. This is just a small example of the items we can’t get. The western world is so full of anything and everything your heart desires when it comes to food but the rest of the world is not necessarily following the western ways. As much as we try to follow the primal/paleo lifestyle, sometimes it is more frustrating than anything because of the improvising, not having and honestly, not knowing what to substitute, especially when you have been raised on the SAD as most Americans.
      Nonetheless, we keep pushing forward, doing what we can and doing the best we can for our health but it would be nice if the people writing about the primal/paleo lifestyle would not steer toward the items that are so specific to the USA. This would be helpful to the rest of the world too.
      Thanks to all who make it possible for us to have this information so readily available, we appreciate it.

      1. Can you get New Zealand beef there? It’s pretty much all grass-fed.

  7. Lindt is now making a 99% cocoa bar. It’s a little shocking at first, but a nice bite once in a while.

    1. Lindt’s 90% is a favorite of mine. I’d love to try the 99% but it doesn’t seem to be widely available…

    2. I LOVE lindt 99%. So much so, I can’t keep it in the house anylonger. I devour it in such a manner that leaves small children looking like the model of restraint by comparison.

      when im asked by my wife how I can stand how bitter it is, I say “Bring on the buttery, silky bliss!”

    3. A few weeks ago I decided to give Lindt’s 99% a try. To my surprise, it didn’t even taste bitter, but sour and it stuck to my tongue like crazy. Honestly, I can’t eat this stuff^^

      Maybe I should melt it the way described above, so that it wasn’t a complete waste of money…

  8. Well I have given up all grains and legumes (for almost 2 years) and am VERY satisfied with that. However seeing Hominy is not being ‘as bad’ perhaps I can have a tamale at Christmas…:) or maybe not it might get me started back down a bad road..

    1. As a Southern Belle, I was a little excited to see hominy, too. Maybe now when I go back South for family visits, I can enjoy a bowl of grits without feeling so guilty.

  9. Coconut water becomes much more primal if you KEFIR it! Depending on how long you let
    it culture, the sugar content goes down to almost zero, and you’re left with an incredibly
    delicious and nutritious probiotic beverage. Absolutely heavenly.

      1. Put kefir grains in it, or water kefir grains (regular kefir grains will have to go back to milk after you use them in a non-milk substance a few times or they will start to die, water kefir doesn’t need milk).

  10. Two years in Guatemala left me a coco ADDICT. And there is nothing better for a hangover on the beach than a fresh coconut wiht a straw popped in it. Then later in the day you can add rum and it’s a whole other world of ohmygodthisshitisdelicious

  11. Phew…. I have been stressing for the longest time about the milk in my smoothies blocking the adsorption of the raw cocao I put in there.

  12. “It’s not the EPA or DHA that our omnivorous bodies utilize best; it’s the ALA that we have trouble converting.”

    Not sure where you got this info, but there are only two essential fatty acids known to humans: ALA and LA. And we absolutely have the capability of converting whatever DHA and EPA we need to function from ALA in our body. Of the ALA we take in, only about 5% is converted to derivatives, because that’s all we NEED — not because we have trouble converting it.

    I highly recommend you take a look at Brian Peskin’s research on the subject, which is an expansion of Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg’s findings. It was certainly an eye-opener for me.

    1. I’ve read over some of this too. He kind of slams fish oil though, because we’re giving our bodies more than we’d “naturally” produce, but that’s like saying not to eat prized liver or butter because it gives us much more vitamin A than we’d naturally produce by consuming carotenoids…

      I don’t think we need to supplement with fish oil, but I DO think eating fatty fish is healthy… there’s a reason so many of the historical populations thrived by the sea (among other reasons).

      I personally notice much better health when I consume larger amounts of fatty fish throughout the week, but I could be one in a million!

      1. Try taking pharmacological overdose levels of vitamin A and see what happens, it’s toxic & you die. EPA & DHA in fish oil taken in pharmacological overdose levels can do the same thing, too much thins out your blood & causes excessive bleeding & risk of stroke, ischemia & infarction, and imbalances the whole eicosanoid production pathway, not good.

        The reason “so many of the historical populations thrived by the sea” is because fish are easier & a hell of a lot less work & dangerous to hunt & catch. The best thing about fish is the protein, NOT the fish oil.

        Take a minute & go to Wikipedia & look up the term ‘homeoviscious adaptation’, it’s an term used to describe a feature of cell membrane fluidity exhibited by certain fish that explains why humans that live on land, in the sun & are endothermic (can regulate their own body temperature) require & should be eating saturated fats NOT unsaturated fats.

        The research shows that the purpose of the higher levels of EPA & DHA phospholipids in cold water fish is to maintain the proper ratio of cell membrane fluidity while they’re living in extremely cold water that’s barely above freezing. They have the ability to produce thinner oils so they don’t freeze up, just like you put thinner oil in you car engine in the winter so it will start when it’s 20 below. Then when the fish move to warmer waters nearer the equator they synthesize & replace the o-3 lipids with more saturated fat to maintain optimum cell membrane ratios & fluidity, and the reason ‘poikilotherms’ do this is to maintain thermal homeostasis. This is why humans need saturated fats, we live at a constant 98.6 plus or minus a point or two, we can live indoors, put on sweaters & jackets if we get cold or crank up the thermostat or build a fire.

        The point is that our temperature is constant, and too much liquid mono & poly unsaturated oils thins out our cell membranes too much. That’s why Brian Peskin & Udo Erasmus & even Mary Enig recommend limiting total intake of ALL unsaturated oils to just 2 or 3 percent of total calories, which works out to a mere 1 or 2 grams of liquid oils per day. 1 teaspoon at about 5 grams is already twice too much, so a tablespoon (3 teaspoons) or a huge splash of your much loved EVOO several times every day has the potential to destabilize every one of your cell membranes. That’s why humans need to eat A LOT more saturated fats as found in bacon & butter.

        1. Our 3 year old had to stop taking cod liver oil as it would cause her to vomit for hours and multiple times per hour. (Her episodes started a month apart and gradually moved to 1 week apart over a 3 month period.) I suspected the cod liver oil and stopped giving it to her. No vomiting for one month. I gradually added it back into her diet (3x/week at 1/4 tsp) and within 2 weeks she was vomiting again.

          Yesterday we saw a pediatric gastroenterologist and he thinks her tolerance of vitamin A is very low. She takes vit D supplements with no problem.

          It’s been very difficult for us as she also doesn’t like to eat fish. I figure I’ll disguise it and feed it to her that way.

        2. I’m not sure i understand how it’s possible to make unsaturated oils only 2-3 pecent of total calories.. you recommend bacon and butter but bacon fat is predominately unsaturated and butter is almost half unsaturated… Your argument doesn’t match with your reccomendation.

    2. I too would love to know Mark’s views on Peskin’s research.. especially Peskin’s thoughts on fish oils..

      1. @mars et al, short answer is that I disagree with much of Peskin’s reasoning. I guess I’ll need to do a longer post.

        1. That means Mark’s gonna trot out Chris Masterjohn’ s article about why he thinks O-6 linoleic acid is not essential.

          Yawn. I’m already bored.

        2. Mark, what do you think of the Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate? Is that one of the higher grade ones at 34% cacao, or is that still too sugary?

        3. I can’t wait to see that post. There is something to what he says and he is mostly consistent with your opinions, but his “scientific” reasoning is pretty flawed at places. Like how exactly does fish oil decrease insulin sensitivity when it contains no sugars? And many more like this. Guys a bit half baked.

    3. It’s Essential- meaning we have to get it from our diets, and the primary form we would have gotten it (primally) is from fish. EPA and DHA are the active forms, and it is a long, messy conversion from ALA to DHA and EPA and many (most?) people are missing the complementary nutrients to make the conversion. It makes sense that it wouldn’t convert as much (5% or whatever) because primally, we were getting the remainder from food.

      Just skip the conversion of ALA and eat DHA/EPA containing products.

  13. how do you feel about wm-hdp? 20 grams pre and post workout

  14. I love coconut water! (i actually just wrote a post about it today) But I only drink it as a treat so I don’t go overboard with the sugars.

    1. I tried coconut water and just couldn’t do it. I almost had to throw away the whole thing after a small glass. I drank it but diluted it using a 1-to-4 ratio with plain water.

      1. coconut water flavor changes from one brand to another, from one pack to another and even from temperature (colder has less coconut flavor) try a taste test on a few different ones before you give up.

  15. Possible solution to aversion to salmon? Eat it raw!!!! 🙂
    I personally hate cooked salmon with a passion, but I’ll live off of it raw. It’s sweet and fatty that way.

    1. Me too!
      I ate WAY TOO MUCH cooked salmon at one point in my life but now my day is made (once every 10-14 days) when I treat myself to raw salmon. One of my top three favourite foods, for sure. And it has a completely different flavour and texture than cooked salmon.

      1. I could never stomach salmon of any kind, even the canned back when I was on a weight-reducing program. Too bad, because relatives live in Alaska and dry their own fresh-caught salmon.

    2. As an adopted japanese I feel to suggest you to try raw salmon with a little bit of wasabi paste and 1 drop (literally) of soy sauce on top of it. It is an all time favourite.
      Want another secret tip? Eat it with a small (!) stripe of cut parsley on it… it emulates “japanese shiso” and you get an idea of how we get delighted here!

  16. I’ve grown to LOVE the 85% and 86% dark chocolate bars by Lindt and Ghiradelli. As much as we try to not make food emotional and we try to separate feelings from eating, food will always affect more than just our tastebuds. If anyone is having trouble with “willpower”, you will grow to LOVE these dark chocolate bars with high cacao content, and they will be just as rewarding as any old treat you use to have.

    1. I love these dark chocolate bars too. I sometimes put a smear of good almond butter on my daily piece. Also, if you haven’t tried the recipe on this site for the dark chocolate macadamia nut bark with sea salt, you should definitely try it. It’s delicious!

      1. +1 We’ve made it. It’s awsome. Just don’t overdo the sea salt…

  17. Banana flour!? Wow, that is exciting! I am struggling with what to use for a special baked-good treat for my husband who is allergic to nuts and coconuts (so,obviously no almond or coconut flour). If anyone else has some good flour ideas for me, I would appreciate it! He’s allergic to eggs too so a flourless option doesn’t work either! He enjoys dark chocolate though and thankfully, there are a couple good ones out there that are made in a nut free facility! Hooray for dark chocolate!

    1. Hi Holly ! Try these guys :

      They have a neat little thingy at the side that lets you filter recipes according to ingredient. According to this your Hubby could still have their Chocolate and Peppermint swirl Truffles.

      The other, slightly odd, advice I can give you is to search for “Vegan” recipes, as they have no eggs (which is usually the tricky bit – although more tricky with no nuts as well…). I used to have a killer recipe for Vegan brownies made with zucchini, mashed bananas, baking powder and dark chocolate, although I can’t for the life of me find it (Sorry !)

      How does your Husband do with buckwheat ? Its horribly carb-ridden, but would be fine for a treat. Or maybe Cornflour (made with maize) – NOT Primal, even slightly, but would maybe work to make an Angel cake with egg replacer….

      These aren’t ideal, but they’re gluten-free and can be used to make cakes and baked treats for Birthdays etc 🙂 Rice flour is another one – Not Primal but very useful if you can’t have Nut Flours, which basically Primal baking relies on.

      It does seem that there’s a bit of a choice here between being 100% Pure Primal and being able to bake at all….

      Commercial brands of gluten-free flours often mix them up – tapioca, arrowroot, potato flour, maize flour and rice flour – you seem to get a better consistency and texture that way. Ogran do a very good flour mix, but I don’t know if you can get it in the US – they do egg replacer too. All their stuff is nut free and soy free, which is nice. But not Primal 😀

      I come from a household in which half is gluten-intolerant and the other half is lactose-intolerant. Going Primal helped a lot, but it was SO hard before I found MDA and got rid of both !!

      I love baking, but Primal baking is really hard without those nut flours. I think if you can stay gluten-free for those special occasions you can avoid too much damage 🙂

      1. When we ate raw vegan (yikes!) we made an avocado based chocolate pudding that was fabulous. I am sure there are several versions online, but it was basically avocado, cocoa, & agave (ick) (I would use only maple syrup or honey now). Anyway, it was really tasty and a lot of our friends, who did not eat that way, loved it too. Maybe worth a try!

    2. Can he eat seeds? Some people grind sunflower or pumpkin seeds into flour and that can be subbed for nut flour.

    3. Sweet potato flour is a good option. I find it at Whole Foods. You could also try potato flour (if you eat potatoes) or tapioca flour/starch (both are easy to find). Rice flour is an option is you are OK with rice.

  18. Maaaan… banana flour? If you keep introducing primal foods I haven’t heard of before, I will never get this grocery budget under control.

    1. The tapeworm risk is so low that i wouldn’t worry about it. If you try to eliminate all risks from your food you often create a greater risks from nutitional deficiencies, carcinogens, etc…

  19. Hi all,

    Newbie question: Vinegar. I’ve seen some say that it is NOT allowable, but I also see almost constant reference to Apple Cider Vinegar. So, is vinegar good? If so, is all vinegar good?

    Thanks for your time.

    1. why is vinegar not primal? aside from some balsamic made with caramel coloring.. vinegar is just old wine 🙂 mark has recipes for making your own red wine vinegar..

    2. Many white vinegars are now made from distilled grains. Red wine vinegar, balsamic, apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar…those are all okay from what I’ve gathered (and awesome ways to add flavor in marinades or dressings).

    1. Almond milk – primal
      Black eyed peas – not primal they are legumes

    2. Almond milk- check the content list on the brand you buy. Usually contains sugar- not primal.

      1. Good point, that is true some are sweetened. Juat be sure to get the unsweetened variety they are easy to find.

    3. Or make your own – Soak 1 cup blanched almonds overnight. Strain, rinse, strain, rinse, strain. Put in blender with 2 cups water blend, blend, blend some more. Add 2 more cups water blend some more. Strain through nut milk bag.

  20. The combination of an authentic Chinese cookbook and Wikipedia has been swelling my list of is it Primal nuts and tubers for some time now. I don’t trust the name “nut” or “seed” anymore and there’s a dizzying amount of root vegetables out there with equally confusing names. Some are included in your recipes, Mark, but I’m not sure what the metric is. So here’s a few that I’ve encountered (and eaten) lately that I’d like to know about:

    Gingko nuts
    Lotus seeds
    Cassava/manioc/tapioca/yuca/yucca (Yes, I’ve seen all these names and spellings. Eating it in arepa form with curried goat doesn’t seem to have any backlash.)
    Teff (OK. this is not a nut or root vegetable. Is it a grass like wild rice or a grain?)
    (Yes, all of these are rather readily available to me in Columbus, OH.)

    So what’s the verdict? I could see a whole post on the world’s root vegetables.

    1. i got some ginkgo nuts in an organic Japanese grocery. they have very hard & inedible shell. so my guess is its defense system is probably in the shell.

      my guess (as a layman) is the inside of ginkgo is probably ok. but i don’t have it raw.

      i dont’ know about lotus seeds. maybe you need to soak it for a long time. you can try lotus roots. it’s also very pretty.


  21. How about coconut and/or almond flour treats made w/ “natural” sweetners? I’m as weak as anyone with these but it doesn’t seem very “primal” and a lot of bloggers out there/authors seem to say it is. I personally think of it is as less negative cheat than something with grain based flour and white sugar, but a cheat nonetheless. And if eating it means you’re cheating on PB/paleo, is it really primal?

    1. Oh, I make almond flour pancakes ( silver dollar pancakes, a couple times a month here- I use one or two T. of honey- they are fantastic!

      So good, I would consider them a treat, but the kids consider it breakfast.

  22. I am also curious about coconut and almond flour. I would love to make some pancakes or muffins

    1. almond flour and coconut flours are primal. They just ground up coconut and almonds, coconuts and almonds are both primal. I want to make some muffins made with almond flour soon.

      1. btw, coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid so know that in advance before baking with it. it’s best to use in combination with other flours/meals

    2. Coconut flour is very high in fiber. Be careful consuming it until you know your tolerance or your gut may complain to you.

  23. I basically ignore fish oil and fish. I think of all the humans for the last 2 million years that lived far from the oceans, receiving no fish nutrients except for fresh-water fish every now and then. For me, high protein (meat and whey protein isolate, eggs, etc.), moderate amounts of natural fats, and maybe a handful of leafy greens every couple of days, does quite well. (What does me in are carbs, whether from a candy bar or from blueberries.)

    I have nothing against the fish oil supplements or salmon, mind you, I personally don’t find them necessary. I like to smoke/BBQ my salmon when I do purchase it but fish just ain’t my thing.

  24. Other interesting non-grain flours are buckwheat which can be bought sprouted and chestnut flour which has a long history of use in southern france and italy.

  25. “capybara glandular extract”

    Capybara!? NO! They’re the bigger cousin of my sweet little cavy!! (aka guinea pig) I know they’re a food source in South America, but let’s not go overboard here. 😉

  26. Those of us who are lactose intolerant can drink chocolate milk with fewer side effects than white milk so these are not equivalent substitutions as you implied when you wrote, “Or if you do milk, have plain whole milk.” Please, do more research on this.

    1. Why can you drink choc milk with no side effects if you’re lactose intolerant? Adding sugar and cocoa does nothing to reduce lactose content. Just curious to know.

  27. My wife has this thing about peanuts and peanut butter. Is there any type or situation where these are ok? From what I’ve seen they are mostly frowned upon due to the various fungi that are found on peanuts that persist through processing, correct? If you could find a “clean” source, let’s even say roasting and grinding your own, what effects do peanuts have nutritionally? Are they high Omega 6?

      1. So, basically, I can take from that post that a little bit could be ok? As part of your 20? (Assuming, say, you get the highest quality stuff you can – no industrial oils, organic, etc.)

  28. Is baby corn primal? You can eat it raw in a salad, stir-fry it or steam it. Can I use it as a vegetable or is it considered a grain?
    I cook a little rice or potatoes with supper. Is that acceptable?
    And oats in say baking or cooked as a porridge?

    1. At least this time Kathy is posting it on an appropriate thread. I did a search for the phrase “baby corn”, and all I saw for the first several pages was Kathy asking about it. Maybe answering her will satisfy.

      So here goes… No Kathy, baby corn is not primal. It is a grain. Is it acceptable? That is up to you. This is all about choices. I eat some Chinese food stir fry dishes now and then, and I don’t pick out the baby corn. That is my choice. I figure it is probably a less bad choice than downing a Coke with dinner. (I don’t cheat that much, even when I cheat.)

      I have also had 1 or 2 ears of corn on the cob over the past 5 months. That is also distinctly not primal. That is a choice that I made at the time.

      When you say “I cook a little rice or potatoes with supper”, that sounds like a habit. Why do you make that choice? That is not a choice that I would make, at least not enough for it to be “normal”. It is certainly not primal.

      When I was overseas on a recent trip, I ate a few potatoes and about a cup of rice either out of lack of choices or out of politeness. It was a conscious violation of my normal eating pattern. I wouldn’t make a habit of that. Of course, I also don’t make a habit of cheating on my eating plan once a week either, and some folks here have done very well with that. But if you want someone ELSE to make the choice for you, then I will tell you “No Kathy, stop cooking the rice and potatoes. You don’t need them with your meal.” Does that help?

      Finally, Oats are a grain. They aren’t primal even if they are baked in a bar, or cooked in a porridge, or even packaged in an envelope with a friendly looking man on the outside and covered in “Heart Healthy” messages.

  29. how about corn on the cob? i know its gotten a bad rep cause of HFCS but there’s something about a nice ear of corn slathered in butter at a summer bbq…

  30. Primal Hot Chocolate

    Melt your fave dark chocolate in a double boiler (chocolate chips melt quickly). Stir or whisk until smooth. Put 1 to 2 TBS in a cup and fill with boiling water. Delicious just like that (albeit not creamy). You could play around with coconut milk and or whey powder if you wanted to 🙂

    Note to Lindt lovers: A mom friend told me a few years ago that it caused a reaction in her celiac daughter. She (the mom) looked at the label, and sure enough, there was gluten in it. Not sure if there still is, so better look!

    1. Hummus is not primal. It’s made from garbanzo beans – legumes.

        1. Meh, I eat hummus occasionally. Legumes don’t bother me. Just had some with lunch yesterday — nothin’ like it with a veg stirfry and some eggs!

  31. I get up 3 or 4 times during the night. I grab a few almonds and a date. 2 or 3 nights of the week I swap the date for dark chocolate. This started recently. It’s the only “non” paleo food I buy. I want to try the cocoa mass out. Thank you. And yes, after a long run a Thai coconut will replenish electrolytes(instantly). The rare chocolate milk is also awesome after the run.

  32. My town just started a farmer’s market for local produce, eggs, and meat (yay!) and there is a booth selling local raw honey and pollen. I bought some honey but I decided to wait on the pollen. The seller says to eat 1 tsp/day and let me sample it. I like it, but I was wondering about your take on it.

  33. Whole milk + cacao won’t have the same effect if used for post-workout recovery because the fat content slows the absorption.

    Fine for other times, I suppose.

  34. Seems like covering wild edible foods is a natural extension of covering primal foods. I’m new hear so maybe that has been already covered in the past – I suspect it has. But in case it has not been covered very well it should be, because there are a lot of free highly nutritious wild edible foods which are very worth ultilizing, starting with many of the weeds on an organic farm.

  35. I feel comparing chocolate milk with a carb only recovery/energy drinks is apple and oranges. A more relevant analysis would be recovery times between chocolate milk and a more natural (healthier) protein + carb alternative such as grilled chicken + quinoa. I’m sure once exists with the bodybuilding community being so obsessed with maximising protein synthesis.

    1. These are gluten free grains – but still grains. My guess is not primal.

  36. I live in Sweden and up here in scandinavia we have some primal foods that i don´t think have been covered on this site yet and that i think may have some interesting properties. Birchsap and cloudberrys. Traditionally birchsap has been used in northern Europe in all kinds of ways. Drinking, baking, etc. My personal favourite is to add yeast to it and…. well, you get the point:) Cloudberrys was the only source of vitamin c for samis in the north for thousands of years, and they are also very tastefull. It would be interesting to hear Marks take on these foods.

    1. I have tried cloudberries while in Finland, and loved them – also love lingonberries. All berries are primal (blueberries, cranberries, etc.). Cloud/lingonberries are very sour. (For me = yum!) But if you add sugar when cooking or make them into jam or syrup, then they are no longer primal!

      1. Yes, without sugar of course. Berrys tastes better raw and without sweetener. Only excemption i know of would be buckthorn, that is almost impossible to eat in a primal way. By the way, my grandmother occasionally eats a few rowanberrys as a way to keep urinary infections at bay. I find that interesting. She claims it works.

        1. Cranberries are famously helpful for UTIs, and I can attest to this working. So it would not be surprising if rowanberries have the same effect.

    2. I live in Cumbria in the UK. We have cloudberries and also an abundance of bilberries here in summer – deliciously sweet, but they take ages to harvest and you usually arrive back home with a very few at the bottom of the basket, and a blue-stained mouth. My father-in-law used to make birch sap wine too, it was very sweet but extremely potent. Interesting about the rowan berries, I always thought they were poisonous, but perhaps they are just very bitter.

  37. So, where do you guys stand on beer? It’s got all sorts of grainy goodness going on…anyone partake occasionally?

    1. Well, yeast is a fungus, so it’s primal. Hops are a vegetable, so that’s primal. Malt sugar metabolizes slow, and most of it gets consumed by the yeast. Water is primal.

      Your liver needs vitamin B to metabolize alcohol and yeast is high in vitamin B, so cask and bottle conditioned beer and home brew is more primal than the massed produced stuff that have corn, rice or wheat. 😉

  38. My favorite “treat” involving super dark chocolate (91% plus) is to put a square of it in a little dish with a little almond butter and a little coconut butter. I warm it in the microwave for 15 seconds. It tastes like a warm almond joy. Awesome for those times when I’m having a craving for something naughty. 🙂

  39. New favorite condiment: Garlic cloves long-simmered in real lard. Oh my good heavens amazing! That’s primal right? Garlic is wild and certainly lard is.

  40. I just bought a little snack bag of sacha inchi yesterday. Not bad. They tasted like those sesame stick things you can get at bulk food stores, just not as salty or wheaty. I wouldn’t go out of my way to get them again, but a neat thing to try.

  41. Hrm, 90% of the reason I love eating primally is because it feels good, and the other 10% is because it’s easy.

    I wonder if people can’t accept that a particular “diet” can be easy, so they have to ask 89702542 questions. I figure, if it’s not recognizable, it’s not primal.

    I consider chocolate the 20 of the 80/20 principle. I don’t bake with any kind of whatever-flours because it’s too easy to make something that’s just less-bad junk food, so that stuff gets saved for the 20 of my 80/20.

    I don’t eat dairy often because it doesn’t agree with me, but that’s me. I eat eggs, bacon, meat, vegetables, fruits, fats including leftover bacon fat, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, and nuts. I have dark chocolate after dinner.

    I just don’t think it’s that hard!

  42. Maple syrup. And I mean the stuff from the trees not the aunt jamima corn syrup impostor. It is a whole food besides being boiled right?

  43. Licorice, the real stuff, has been used as medicine for 2,000 yrs. It’s not advised to consume it if you have problems controlling high blood pressure.

    Just because people view it as “candy” today does not mean it should be ridiculed and automatically considered non-Primal.

  44. I only consider the most basic foods truly primal because I consider “primal” to be the state of a human acting on simple instincts. I imagine primal foods and activities being incorporated into a spectrum of how primal they are – how likely a person born and raised wild would be to favor certain foods and activities. Basically I think a person in that state would be likely to gather, store, eat, and repeat, like a squirrel. I wouldn’t expect much hunting until people got a little more well established, populous, and with the knowledge of a few generations. If you can find it in nature and eat or drink it without altering it’s chemical composition then it’s primal.
    With this line of thinking the most primal foods are easily harvested and readily consumed plant foods: vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Then there’s meat, with raw being more primal than cooked.

    1. Mushrooms are primal too.
      I thought of another reason to consider milk primal. What would you do if you killed a lactating animal?
      I’d probably use its milk for something – maybe even a post workout/hunting drink.

  45. How about grits? Grits are made from Hominy and with some butter and bacon bits they are great. Since I’m a southerner I grew up with them. Sausage gravy, eggs, and grits-best meal going.

  46. I’d like to know about low-carb natural sweeteners like xylitol, erythritol, and stevia.

    Yes, as a matter of fact I *do* lose a lot of my sweet tooth when I choose to do without sweet foods, and some treats I used to love now taste too sweet to me.

    But I still like a little sweetness in some things, and I prefer to go with what seems harmless, like the three I mentioned above. Unless they’re not as harmless as I think?

  47. Popcorn? i know corn is obviously not primal but if popcorn were to be cooked in an olive oil or just pasture butter does anything happen to this legume when heated and “popped” ? this is the one food i miss when watching a movie and such and if it is indeed not primal, what is a similar and viable substitute? thank you

  48. if you even vaguely care about the welfare of the Amazon and it’s inhabitants, I think it would be best to ‘re- think all of the south American “superfoods”…