Dear Mark: Marcona Almonds, Olives, Grass-Fed Whey, and Carbquik

AlmondsIf you weren’t at UCLA this weekend for the Ancestral Health Symposium, you really missed out on the brainiest, brawniest, most physically and mentally impressive gathering I’ve been witness to. My hat’s off to the organizers!

Let’s get right to the questions. I field a Marcona almond query, discuss the unpalatability of raw olives, explain my stance on grass-fed whey protein, and lambast Carbquik.

Hi Mark,

I hear a lot about how almonds are good for you, but I could never get myself to enjoy the taste and have typically avoided them. However, recently I’ve discovered marcona almonds, which appear to be a related but different nut, and boast a delicious, addictive taste and lighter texture. Are marcona almonds just as beneficial as regular almonds?



Yes, Marcona almonds are just as beneficial. Every online resource I could dig up relayed nearly identical nutrition profiles for Marcona and regular almonds, so I’m unaware of a huge difference beyond the taste: Marcona almonds tend to be sweeter and slightly softer. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were slight variations (as is always possible when you’re dealing with whole foods that grow in soil or eat the things that grow in soil). Do be careful with some Marcona almonds, as they are traditionally fried in oil before serving. If your almonds are fried, check the packaging to ensure some unhealthy seed oil wasn’t used.

Quick sidenote: as I understand it, Marcona almonds are kinda like champagne or bourbon in that they are only Marcona almonds if they are grown in Spanish soil. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Dear Mark,

I have an olive question. It’s my understanding that fresh off the branch olives taste like gasoline, and that only after brining do they become delicious. I know they’re full of great stuff, but would Grok have eaten them if they taste so awful fresh? Seems like a loud and clear “stay away” message from the plant.

Any idea what makes them taste foul, and why brining fixes it? It seems an awful lot like sprouting/soaking/fermenting to neutralize phytic acid in grains and makes me wonder if I should be eating them, despite their long list of good qualities.



Raw olives are packed with several unpalatable phenolic compounds, the most bitter of which is oleuropein. But while you probably wouldn’t pluck a raw olive from a branch, eat it, and enjoy it, it wouldn’t hurt you and it might even improve the stability of your serum lipoproteins (if you could choke a few down). Oleuropein, you see, is also a potent antioxidant with several pharmacological effects. You might recall an older post in which I mentioned that dietary extra virgin olive oil protected LDL cholesterol from oxidizing in the serum of older men. Well, it’s very possible that oleuropein is the primary compound responsible for the LDL protection, as a couple in vitro studies show.

Unpalatability in the raw state doesn’t necessarily indicate an unhealthy or unsuitable food. It’s a good tool, a good lens through which to view food, but it’s not always accurate and it can’t solely be relied upon. If Grok encountered raw, uncured olives in the wild, he may have avoided them, sure, but so what? They’re delicious and good for you, and this is borne out by clinical trials and longstanding tradition. The olive is just one of those seemingly unpalatable foods that takes a little extra preparation to make edible. Once it is edible, though, it’s definitely worth eating. And you don’t have to eat bitter olives to get the good stuff; extra virgin olive oil retains much of the raw olive’s antioxidant activity (hence the peppery bite after a swig of the good stuff).

Dear Mark,

I noticed that the whey protein in Primal Fuel isn’t grass-fed whey protein. Why? Isn’t grass-fed better?


Grass-fed animal fat is better. Grass-fed meat is better. Grass-fed dairy is definitely better. But grass-fed whey isolate? I find it unnecessary. Why? Well, let’s look at the commonly cited reasons for preferring grass-fed animal products to grain-fed animal products.

-Grass-fed has better fatty acids. More omega-3, more CLA. Whey isolate contains no fat.

-Grass-fed has a better micronutrient profile. More minerals, more vitamins. Whey isolate contains neither minerals nor vitamins.

-Grass-fed has a better taste. Some say it’s “gamey,” I say it actually tastes like an animal. Whey isolate has no flavor, so “better” doesn’t enter the equation.

Don’t get me wrong – you can’t understand a whole food by reducing it down to its constituent macronutrients, micronutrients, and biologically active non-nutrients. Nuts are not just globules of linoleic acid, fruits aren’t bags of sugar. You have to consider the whole picture. But when trying to assess the suitability of a single, isolated constituent part of a whole food, you must dismiss the rest and narrow your focus.

Hi Mark,

My wife often cooks primal-ish meals from Linda’s Menus & Recipes and Linda often suggests using Carbquik as a white flour substitute to reduce the carb count and make our bread type dishes taste more “bread like”. Can you give us a review of this item? No matter how many people tell me that flax seed and almond meal breads, biscuits, pizza crusts, etc… TASTE GREAT I must respectfully say, bulls*#t!

Thank you sir!  Keep up the good fight.


In short, no. To both understand why avoiding white flour is paramount and prove that Carbquik is not a healthy substitute, we must look to the ingredients. Carbquik contains “enzyme enriched wheat, vital wheat gluten, wheat fiber, high-protein patent wheat flour, vegetable fiber, canola oil, salt, dextrose, emulsifiers, enzymes, ascorbic acid, sucralose, calcium propionate.” I don’t know about you, but I see several red flags: added gluten, canola oil, sucralose (Splenda, which many people have trouble with), and, I dunno, the fact that it’s wheat flour. Remember that the primary reason to avoid wheat is the gluten protein (which Carbquik certainly contains) and the wheat lectins (like wheat germ agglutinin, which Carbquik might contain). The carb content is secondary, at least for folks who don’t have trouble with carbohydrates.

Sorry, man. It’s just not worth it. You may have to suck it up and go without bread.

Well, I’m gonna try to rest. It was a long, wild weekend, so I’ll let you folks hash it out in the comment section. Thanks for reading, and send along any more questions you might have!

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.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

68 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Marcona Almonds, Olives, Grass-Fed Whey, and Carbquik”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I’ve been waiting for an answer on the grass-fed whey thing, thanks for confirming what I believed!

  2. Mark – Thanks in advance for letting us know when those videos from the conference become available. I looked at the schedule and it looked great, but I’m on the east coast and could not actually attend.

  3. thanks for the information. I have found that using your resources will keep me reading for years to come.

  4. That Greek Meetza in the related posts section above is delicious! We make it regularly.

  5. “…and, I dunno, the fact that it’s wheat flour.” Ha! *facepalm* I love it when you’re sarcastic, Mark.

  6. I know grass-fed doesn’t necessarily mean organic, but what about higher concentrations of hormones or pesticides? The grass-fed whey I use claims that other “less pure” whey can concentrate these harmful elements. Is that BS?

    1. I’ve always thought that the “toxins” are stored in the fat. Whey is pure protein. I am not sure about pesticides and hormones but I am guessing none of that shows up in the protein.

      It’s why I am fine eating non pastured chicken breasts. Its a hunk of protein and I am on a tight budget!

      1. chucken breast has an abundance of omega 6, which you dis in later post???

      2. Here’s some common issues with most protein powders out there:

        whey protein authenticity, protein potency, melamine, solvent residue, heavy metals, herbicide & pesticide residue, stability, bacteria, yeast and mold counts.

    2. I get all the meat from an amish farmer in PA, is not organic by law or certification, but sure is free of hormones and pesticides. However I dont use whey it gets me really bloated and i stay away from it.

  7. I’m still a macadamia girl – if I’m going to eat a few nuts, it’s going to be one with the best ratio of Omega 6 and 3.

    1. Be careful. Someone might come back and say that walnuts have the best ratio because, well, they do. However, 1 ounce of walnuts has 10 grams of omega 6 fatty acids!!

      Macas are the best because they only have .36 grams of omega 6 per a one ounce serving. And, they are stuffed full of monounsaturated fat.

      We all love our olive oil but have you ever tried macadamia oil? The taste kills olive oil and it has a healthier fat profile!

      1. I have been using Macadamia oil for some stuff like eggs for the last few months. It does taste a lot better than olive oil.

      2. There is virtually no omega 3 in human skin or arterial intima endothelial cells or media structures. As a matter of clearly established physiological & biochemical fact there is an overwhelming 1000 to 1 presence of & physiological need for omega 6 over omega 3 in human tissues, so taking lots of omega 3’s is worthless for providing optimum skin & arterial health.

        1 ounce of walnuts has 10 grams of good, pure, bio available CIS molecule omega 6 linoleic fatty acids which are ESSENTIAL for human health & are COMPLETELY different than the TOXIC, oxidized, adulterated, biologically dead TRANS fat molecules that cause inflammation by blocking oxygen flow through the cell membrane inhibiting the oxidative phosphorylation that the mitochondria uses for energy production.

        People that have not studied up on lipid science & the eicosanoid production pathway do not understand the difference between the inflammatory omega 6 in oxidized processed vegetable oils as opposed to the good natural omega-6’s in nuts, seeds & grass fed animal proteins, and so lump them both together thinking they are both the same. Then they run around like frantic headless chickens writing articles telling everyone to avoid omega-6 cause it’s BAD! & to take massive amounts of omega-3’s that do not support skin & arterial health.

        It’s no wonder skin cancer & heart disease are at almost epidemic levels.

        1. I think the authors get it wrong with regards to omega-3 requirements. They want to claim that ALA is all you need because you can make your own DHA and EPA. Yes, we do a lousy job of it! Folks deprived in DHA and EPA actually see an increase in this conversion. Really suggests to me that the ALA to DHA/EPA conversion is a safeguard to prevent dietary deficiency problems.

        2. Right on! Rah! Rah! read Dr. Johanna Budwig. People of zee wurld…relax!

        3. Well, what about the muscles? Wy do you parrot Peskin and talk about the skin only? Muscles have a ratio of 4 to 1 and they make up 50 percent of our bodymass. Peskin’s got a few very flawed arguments in his articles. He might be on to something but sounds a bit half baked to me. Why would I need to take his 2.5:1 ratio pills when I already have a lot of healthy omega 6 in my diet from meat and nuts, but what I have not enough is the parent omega 3. He advertises his pills but does not explain how is it that those will bring a body like mine back into balance. How come he did not get the nobel prize yet, if he is so smart as he claims? Anybody who finds the cure for cancer would get the Nobel prize pronto. The guy is too god to be true, and that is suspicious. And he is mixing heart health/cancer/diabetes all together and says his pills will improve all those things! Whow! I mean, get real man! Doesn’t that sound suspicious to you?

    2. The O-6/3 ratio in macadamia nuts is upside down & does not provide enough organic CIS omega 6 for synthesis of the complete suite of eicosanoids for optimum health. For more do a Google search for the article “Scientific calculation of The Optimum PEO Ratio” by Brian Peskin.

  8. Marcona almonds are considered the best almond variety, and you are right, Spain is the only source of Marcona almonds in the world. Crunchy Marcona almonds are smooth and juicy with an incomparably sweet delicate taste that has nothing to do with U.S. almonds. Unlike the California almonds with their light brown porous shells, Marcona almonds have a protective hard shell that resists insects; ffor this reason, they may be grown naturally with no need for herbicides.
    Most Marcona almonds imported into the U.S. are indeed lightly sautéed in oil and lightly salted. It is quite likely that the oil used is olive oil, but you may need to double check…

    1. I love marcona almonds, I find that their lighter texture reminds me of macadamia nuts far more than regular almonds. I never thought to look up the differences in their biology, though. This has been educational!

  9. The answer on grass-fed Whey protein left something to be desired. How can cheap industrial whey be just as good as high-end, unpasteurized, cold processed whey?

    Personally I stay away from isolates because you take so much of the good stuff out. Besides, most of the regular whey protein I see people using is full of aspartame, weird oils and other unhealthy fillers and additives. Many of them don’t even mix well and tastes bad. Who needs that? Stay away, you’re better off sticking to real food if you can’t get some good whey.

  10. whey concentrate is superior to isolate because it has all the alkalizing minerals in it. isolated whey has lost all its minerals and therefore will be acidifying.

    whey minerals are very beneficial. search it up

      1. Grok or our great grandmothers wouldn’t have access to these “protein” powders that everyone these days is so fond of. They are processed food product which doesn’t occur naturally. You’re honestly better off with some ground beef, pastured egg yolks and real salmon for protein.

        1. You can only eat so much ground beef, pastured egg yolks and real salmon a day before it gets to be a job.

        2. @rob, if you’re not hungry enough to eat real food, why are you eating?

        3. @Uncephalized: I am eating because doing so moves me closer to my goals … I don’t give a fig about “real food,” what I care about is results, if drinking dog urine gave me the results I want then I would drink dog urine.

          Eating animal flesh and avoiding grains gets me the results I want … but I can only eat so much animal flesh each day without getting sick of it … hence the whey protein.

          I experienced the 70’s, no interest in being “natural,” interested in what produces good results.

        4. A job? I know they say variety is the spice of life… but sometimes spice is the spice of life. Mix it up a little. I’m really enjoying some garam masala, red chili pepper flakes, curry, or throw together some italian, mexican, or any other nationalities spice blends. Mix it up with some creme fraiche or guac or cottage cheese or almond oil. There really is so much more we can do with food when we stop limiting our paradigms.

  11. Damian, have you ever tried coconut flour? This site has excellent coconut flour pancake and pizza crust recipes. Good luck!
    Great post, Mark. I’ve never heard of marcona almonds-I’m intrigued!

    1. I concur on the coconut flour. I just made a batch of brownies with coconut flour and they were delicious. I am going to try a few more recipes using coconut flour and see how they come but from my immediate impression it should be tasty.

  12. Mark,

    I believe that Grass Fed protein is better in ONE way, the toxins that often accumulate in grain fed cows will definitely be present and highly concentrated in whey protein isolate (toxic metals for one)

    Grass fed whey leaves the toxins out of the equation.


    1. There was also a study done (can’t remember the source) that found toxic metals in many of the mainstream powders and drinks. For example, Muscle Milk was found to have significant amounts of mercury. Does this have anything to do with grain fed versus grass fed? not sure but food for thought….

      1. Here’s one from Consumer Reports:

        Also Dr. Mercola has a post related to toxins in protein drinks. Just wearch for “protein drinks” in the search box on his site and you’ll get a bunch of related links. That’s where I found the Consumer Reports study.

  13. You forgot to mention that Carbquik tastes disgusting and will render any meal it is included in unpalatable. (Former LC dieter, I know of what I speak.)

    1. Flax has very unstable fatty acids which are extremely prone to becoming rancid. (Remember why flax oil should be kept in the fridge and never heated?) Because of this, flax and other forms of flaxseed should never be cooked with.

    2. Agreed! And I’ve also become a big coconut flour fan as well as the almond flour and flax meal.

  14. i dont see why mark would use crappy ingredients in his own protein powder. i mean the guy uses it too. makes no sense. besides that, the PB isn’t about uber-strict definitions. ok, so if all of a sudden the government outlaws grass fed, pastured, everything are you supposed to just give up meat and become a vegan? i think not. stressing over every little aspect of what you consume totally counteracts all the grass fed benefits. like chronic cardio of the mind.

  15. I agree that grass-fed is more of a concern with beef and tallow than with whey isolate, but is it possible that feeding cows grain would lead to a different, perhaps less optimal, amino acid profile than if the cows ate their natural diet?

    1. You can feed a cow only urea and cellulose and they survive just fine. Because they really just digest microbes in their gut. The amino acid profile shouldn’t change.

  16. Wow, after reading the ingredients on Carbquik, I’d rather just eat white flour. If I’m eating wheat to begin with, I may as well at least skip the canola oil, sucralose, dextrose and added gluten.

    1. I agree. At least whole whear flour only has 3 ingredients. Carbquik sounds too much like Bisquik.

  17. That makes sense as far the grass-fed whey concentrate goes.I was wondering what people know about the difference between cold processed and heat processed whey?

  18. Eating this way has freed me from a constant state of hunger never quite sated only delayed hunger.

    If I really want bread I just eat some bread and move on I don’t try to make primal/paleo bread , but it rarely happens and only while eating socially, and even then it’s more curiosity than craving.

  19. Hmmm… I’m thinking of all those ancient gnarled olive trees growing along sea cliffs nearly everywhere in the Mediterranean. I bet the first time Grok found a floating branch or tree full of ripe and nicely brined fruit he was hooked. And it probably didn’t take her long to figure out hoe to reproduce the process.

  20. I’ve found low-carb yeast bread recipes that taste ok, but they all require added gluten, plus my family won’t eat them, so I’m still looking for one that’s good-tasting & bread-machine friendly.

    In non-yeast, quickbread/cookie/cake etc recipes, coconut flour is good but cannot be subbed 1-for-1 for flour. The best substitute for all-purpose flour I’ve found so far is Jen Eloff’s baking mix. I tried it in our former favorite muffin recipe & the family actually liked it.

    I’ve never used Carbquik, & with wheat in the ingredients list, never will. There are lots of healthy recipes on the numerous online low-carb & paleo blogs – takes a bit of searching & testing but it’s worth it.

    1. Always on the look-out for low carb stuff, I checked out your recommended baking mix and found that it contains adding a recommended 75 – 80% wheat gluten. How is that different from Carbquik? (which I choose not to use either).

      Did I link to the wrong recipe?

    2. Why not just throw the bread machine behind a Salvation Army and tell the family bread sucks? I only missed bread for about a month after I found the primal/paleo lifestyle and since have never looked back. I’ll eat it here and there when it’s “whats on the table” at family functions and dinner at the girlfriend’s parents place but beyond that don’t care for it at all… what’s the necessity of eating bread?

  21. I LURVE Marcona almonds. I hate to say this…but I especially love them fried in oil and rarely does it stipulate what oil is used on the label.

    There are Marconas grown in the US, and they’re called something else that starts with an M, but I can’t remember it. So yes, Marcona is a region-specific name.

  22. On olives: Years ago I spent some time in the Greek Islands and one of my delightful memories was eating black olives that had fallen to the ground, “ripened” in the sun. They were soft and delicious. I remember being so surprised that they were edible in their unprocessed state.

  23. Thanks Mark on the Marcona almond confirmation. They seemed too good to be true, but now I can snack on them without reservation.

  24. I love Olives….love love love love love them!! 🙂

    Also, always new that Carbquik was not good stuff! I much prefer to substitute wheat flour with coconut flour and almond flour, still makes for tasty baked goods!!

  25. Mark,
    Loved your presentation on Play at the AHS. It goes along so well with Erwan’s MovNat, and came at a perfect time for me. I just turned 40 and am in a phase where having fun with my workouts is the most important thing! Thanks for everything.


  26. To the letter writer:

    Hunter-gatherers were actually highly proficient at processing foods. In fact, many of our diseases of civilization, as well as the epidemic of nutritional deficiency worldwide which started in the latter half of the 19th century, can be traced to changes in food processing from traditional, hand methods, to industrial methods with their origins in the chemist’s lab.

    This is not to say that the traditional methods were not chemical processes, simply that they were the result of thousands of years of trial and error, where as the industrial processes were geared towards transforming raw food into a product that met certain aesthetic criteria, with little notion of the ultimate impact on health.

    Please don’t project onto Grok your own ignorance and biases. It is not ridiculous to imagine any primitive person brine-treating their food… In fact, seawater treatment is still practiced in many places.

    Olives are native to the region known as the ‘cradle of civilization.’ They have been cultivated for 7000 years, with evidence of commercial olive-growing operations going back at least 5000 years. (Btw, the oil was used for many other uses than food.) I know of no evidence that consumption of olives is associated with poor health outcomes.

  27. Can someone tell me if Agave nector can be used? I want to make this dressing and it calls for “splenda” and I don’t use those poisons!

  28. I just care about my abs and keeping my body fat low. I think the lack of carbs in carb quick should fit my diet. Am I right?