Dear Mark: Paralysis by Overanalysis, Beer, and Liquid Coconut Oil

BeerFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got three questions to cover. First up is a question from a reader who feels paralyzed by too much health information. Whereas before the basics might have made sense to him, digging further into the literature and the blogs is only making it harder and harder to make the right choice, or any choice at all. I totally understand and can relate. Next, I discuss the possible negative health effects of beer. Is it just the gluten that’s a problem, or are there other issues as well? Finally, I explore liquid coconut oil, or coconut oil that’s been altered to remain liquid at any temperature. Is it safe? Is it Primal? Is it actually worth using? Find out the answers to all these questions in today’s Dear Mark.

Let’s go:

Your link to the Bulletproof coffee guy in your article about Primal Coffee lead me to his article about the downsides of raw kale. After I read that, now I’m worried about oxalates and goitrogens. More broadly, the more I read on sites like MDA and others, the less I feel like I know about how to live healthfully. Between Omega 3:6 ratios, calcium:magnesium ratios, mycotoxins in coffee and chocolate, and all the other “if you eat this, it should be paired with this otherwise you’re screwed”, it really is hard to know how to live.
Any thoughts?

Thanks very much!


Don’t sweat the small stuff, dude. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. It’s usually far more trouble than it’s worth.

Some people actually enjoy sweating the small stuff, and that’s cool, too. They like geeking out on nutrition. I’m that way to a certain extent, but once I feel like it’s impeding on my life, once it’s worming its way into my brain and getting in the way of just being, I back off and tell myself not to sweat it. Since significant numbers of the Mark’s Daily Apple readership do qualify as nutrition geeks, I tip my hat to them (you!) quite often, but I try to maintain an undercurrent of relaxation. It can be hard to do, I’ll admit, which is probably why you sometimes feel you’re paralyzed by over analysis.

The key is to figure out what the “small stuff” actually is. That way, you can discard it and focus on the information that actually deserves your time.

Look: the bulk of your body comp comes from what you eat, and you get by far the most bang for your dietary buck by tailoring carbs to your activity levels and avoiding grains, seed oils, and refined sugar. Seriously, that’s the big takeaway from all this and for most people, it’s probably enough to get you most of the way to your goal.

I employ the 80/20 system for just this reason: eating Primal 80% of the time is good enough for most people. Heck, unless you’re celiac or highly sensitive to gluten, you can probably get away with eating bread at a restaurant or having a slice of pizza every now and then. I’m not saying it’s “healthy,” per se, but I am saying it’s not going to make you “unhealthy.” Obviously, if you have a bad reaction to that slice of bread, it’s probably “unhealthy,” but it’s self-correcting; you’re not going to do something that makes you feel bad. That’s kinda why we feel bad in the first place, to dissuade us from the pursuit of unsafe behaviors. Is there a chance that every slice of bread takes ten days off your life? Maybe. I highly, highly doubt it, though. Personally, it always makes me pay for it the next morning, so I avoid it. That’s me, though.

(Please don’t construe the preceding paragraph as “Mark Sisson says we can eat pizza!” It’s just a built-in anti-stress mechanism.)

He who tries to be perfect (based on someone else’s analysis of what exactly constitutes “perfect”) runs the risk of incurring massive amounts of stress, all for a few potential upticks in health/performance/body comp/whatever-metric-you’re-shooting-for. To me, it’s just not worth the effort.

Some examples of small stuff, as I see it?

Most people can sauté some kale without pre-steaming and squeezing all the oxalate-laden water from it and be okay. If you suspect you have oxalate issues, and taking steps to minimize oxalates seems to make you healthier, then go for it! If you’re doing fine, don’t stress about it.

Most people can just have a cup of regular coffee. Sure, if you drink coffee brewed from wash-processed, single-origin microlot beans grown at the perfect altitude, handpicked by canopy-raised howler monkeys, and roasted at the local 3rd wave roasters who have a time machine that lets them roast beans in the future and therefore ensure the freshest coffee possible, it’s going to be really good and probably healthier and more antioxidant-rich, but I don’t think everyone needs to drink it to enjoy coffee. After all, the preponderance of the evidence for the health benefits of coffee is based on regular people drinking “regular” mainstream coffee like Starbucks, Peet’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts, not standing in line for pour-over coffee served up by bearded guys in flannel. Same goes for dark chocolate.

Not everything is small stuff, of course. The omega-3:omega-6 issue really does matter (perhaps the biggest change to people’s diets in recent years has been the astronomical rise in the amount of omega-6-rich seed oil we eat), as that affects our inflammatory response to stressors and injuries and illness – it basically changes the available substrate for the various inflammatory cytokines, biasing an exaggerated inflammatory (O6) over an anti-inflammatory (O3) response. Since low-level, chronic inflammation characterizes many, if not most, of the degenerative diseases afflicting us today, I’d say we should heed our omega-6 intake as it relates to our omega-3 intake. But shooting for a specific ratio? I don’t know that it matters all that much. Avoiding seed oils and eating oily fish (or take fish oil supplements when good oily fish is unavailable) is good enough and will likely get you close to the “optimal ratio.”

Same for calcium-magnesium. While people generally need to eat more magnesium, they don’t need to obsess over the specific ratio of calcium to magnesium. Just eat more leafy greens, incorporate some nuts and seeds now and then, take epsom salt baths, make (and rub onto your body) magnesium oil, swim in the ocean, and drink mineral water, preferably not all at once. Take a good magnesium supplement, even.

I always suggest that people in your predicament take a step back, revisit the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, and get a handle on what really matters. Is there fine-tuning to be done? Sure. But if you stick to the basics – you know, the stuff that initially attracted you here – and view the nitty-gritty details as interesting data to think about and experiment with, you’ll probably do okay.

If it’s any consolation, what my years of research into all the nitty-gritty details have taught me is that the basics will get you most of the way there.


I have scoured your site for info on how bad beer is. I have found it doesn’t effect me negatively after a period of removal and reintroduction, but I am concerned there might be more to it than feeling the effects. The only info I found is from your section on alcohol that states the carb count isn’t worth it. Are carbs the only real concern when drinking a craft beer since most beers I could find info on were in the range of 5-25ppm of gluten (excluding wheat beers)? Or is the gluten a concern as well at such a low ppm. As a homebrewer I have options for final carb count and final gluten levels, but just wanted to see a more in depth look at beer and its effects since I believe it is a common vice among your primal followers. Thanks!


There are a few potential concerns with beer.

The alcohol, first and foremost. Alcohol is a toxin (with some potential dose-dependent benefits), after all. Beer usually isn’t very high in alcohol by volume (although even that’s changing with the influx of higher ABV craft beers), but folks tend to drink enough volume to reach harmful levels. Having a meal in your belly before cracking the first beer can help here, as can following best practices for harm reduction/hangover prevention.

The phytoestrogens. Hops, an almost universal beer ingredient, are an incredibly rich source of phytoestrogens, or phytochemicals which interact with our estrogen receptors. Soy is often maligned and avoided for its phytoestrogen content, but the hop phytoestrogen has “an activity greater than other established plant estrogens.” Is this a problem? Potentially, depending on how much beer you drink and how hoppy you like it. Ultra-hoppy IPAs, for example, should have more estrogenic activity than milder lagers. And, depending on where you look, phytoestrogens are both good and bad for us. Claimed benefits include relief from menopause (due to the estrogenic activity, phytoestrogens may act a bit like hormone replacement therapy), protection from osteoporosis (though RCTs have been mostly inconclusive), and a reduction in LDL levels (an effect that may be attributed to the soy protein, rather than the phytoestrogens). Claimed detriments, which I find to be both more persuasive and worrisome, include disrupted neuroendocrine development and ovulation, increased breast cancer for predisposed women, and abnormal sexual development. All that said, beer isn’t consumed like soy-eaters consume soy – as a staple food. The occasional beer – even an IPA – should be okay. Just be careful with the dosage.

The gluten, as you alluded to. Though most beer is made from barley, a gluten-containing grain, current testing does indicate minimal levels of gluten present in the finished product. One problem with this? Depending on the method used to test the beer, you get different results. For example, using ELISA, the standard method, a beer might show up as gluten-free. Using mass spectrometry, that same beer could test positive for moderate levels of gluten. Heck, according to Aurochs Brewing, a gluten-free beer maker, “no test effectively (and definitively) determines gluten content in beer.”

Beers are somewhat carb-dense when compared to other alcohols, but at between 10-20 grams per 12 ounce serving (and less for light “beer”), they’re not exactly in the realm of sodas, candy bars, and cupcakes. It’s only when you start drinking two, three, six beers, along with the wings and the pizza and the breadsticks, that beer-related carbs become an issue.

Overall, beers are pretty unPrimal. But if you can drink them without ill effect, I don’t think the occasional glass or bottle will do you much harm. Celiacs and gluten-sensitives should definitely steer clear, or opt for wine, cider, or other choices.

Hi Mark,

What’s your take on liquid coconut oil (such as NuCo)? What do they do to the coconut oil so that it remains a liquid at room temperature?

Thanks for any insights you may provide.


Coconut oils are liquidized by removing the long chain fatty acids and leaving the medium chain triglycerides. The removal process is entirely physical and uses no chemicals or solvents. No mutant fats are created, and the medium chain triglycerides remain intact and unaffected. This is similar to MCT oil, which is usually made from a combination of coconut and palm kernel oils. MCTs have a number of benefits:

If there’s anything to worry about here, it’d be that since MCTs always naturally occur in the presence of other, longer-chained fatty acids and never in isolation, the doses found in these refined oils may be supraphysiological with undesirable or untoward metabolic effects. There’s the oft-reported intestinal upset and subsequent diarrhea that comes with large doses of medium chain triglycerides, but that’s also been reported with straight coconut oil and usually clears up after several days of eating it. While I doubt there’s anything else serious enough to worry about, especially with the proven benefits, it’s something to keep in mind. Myself, I prefer coconut oil to MCT oil.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and be sure to sound off below!

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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79 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Paralysis by Overanalysis, Beer, and Liquid Coconut Oil”

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  1. >>”“if you eat this, it should be paired with this otherwise you’re screwed””

    I read somewhere (can’t remember if it was PB or somewhere else) that many old fashioned food combinations actually accomplish most of what you want. Like cooking veggies in fat makes the nutrients more accessible. Nixtramilized corn. etc. If you thing about the classic pairings people have been using for a very long time, they very well may be designed that way for health as well as taste.

  2. Don’t feel bad about the information overload, Jason–that’s why I let Mark do my news-scouring for me. He’s had training in medical science-type classes, and can decipher all those medical research-ese articles, plus throw in a sprinkling of de-bunking whenever necessary.

    1. You’re right, Wenchypoo. Sometimes, there is just too much information or studies out there, that information-overload and analysis-paralysis just happens.

      I’m with you by letting go on the overly-complicated stuff, and just let bloggers like Mark make sense of it.

      We always tend to want to overdo-it, with “researching” or trying new stuff out, but I wrote before that “less is usually more”.

    2. That is a sound approach, you should leave the reading up to Mark.

  3. I have felt that paralysis. It seems like no matter what food you choose, you can find a well-researched article on the web that advises against it. I thought I couldn’t go wrong with broccoli until I found out it’s goitrogenic. That’s when I formulated my own theory that variety is the key. Mix up your poisons….broccoli one day, kale the next, rather than just choosing the same one every day and potentially building up whatever bad stuff that particular food has.

    1. On top of that, simply the act of eating is a stress on the body. Then again, so is fasting.

      1. Continual homeostasis will result in atrophy. Moderate stressors are good for the body.

      2. I’m not a sciencey person, I also get overwhelmed by all the studies. I just focus on eating real food; veg, meat, fruit, nuts.

        1. Thoughts from a science geek: The best science controls *everything* but one variable to test it out. That worldview works beautifully in labs and physics types experiments where that’s possible.

          For real world biological systems that are highly complex…not so much. Western medicine is rooted in the scientific viewpoint. Therefore it does an *awesome* job with issues that have 1 knowable cause or fix. I don’t think we’ve ever known an equal for advancements in either surgery or public health (immunizations). Obviously, however, it struggles with chronic issues like cancer and the modern medical system falls flat on it’s face for something like general nutrition.

          Add to that, food has an emotional and social status, too, which often leads to a religious status. In the modern era, unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to say “I’m eating this because this is what God told me to eat” (to paraphrase the dietary restrictions of most religions).

          Nope, “science” has to agree with what I’m eating because it’s “objective” and “rational”. Therefore the endless proliferation of studies that say what the sponsors wanted to hear. It’s a serious bummer because it muddies the picture considerably.

          In my mind, most of the best nutrition research happened right before WWII, when it was still okay to do things for religious (rather than strictly scientific/rational) reasons. The researchers then, I think, tended to be more open to the answers.

  4. Thanks for addressing this, Mark. I, too, have found that habitually haunting health/nutrition websites can make you paranoid about everything you put in your mouth. For one thing, there’s so much conflicting or erroneous information floating around that it’s hard to know what to believe.

    Best bet, IMO, is to learn the basics (and MDA is an excellent place to do that) and then temper all of it with moderation. As the article says, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’ll mess up your mind if you let it. Just believe in what works for you personally, and don’t worry about the rest. I go for days on end being almost 100 percent primal, which suits me just fine, but if I decide to have a baked potato with my steak, or even a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream once in a while, I don’t opt for a replacement. I just have a little of the real thing and, no, I don’t feel guilty about it. Moderation is key with just about everything in life.

    1. Well said Shary. “Moderation is the key”. In my experience, its hard to find ANYTHING that this doesn’t apply to. A great life philosophy.

  5. MCT oil is some great stuff. It cuts appetite and boosts keytones. It also helps many Alzheimer’s patients. Google it if you are taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s.

    1. I agree Groktimus, with Co being great stuff. Since I have no gallbladder, MCT oil is great for relieving the digestive track.
      The Alzheimer’s, I did not know, but it makes it a double win I guess.

  6. From the first question: “After I read that, now I’m worried about oxalates and goitrogens.”

    I’m pretty sure that this was Grok’s primary concern when formulating a meal.

    1. The ancestors who felt the urge to crazily over-consume any one food probably didn’t live to raise any baby Groks, so by then, Grok would have seen his parents and elders thriving on eating whatever was in season and wide varieties, instead of the weird superfood-ideology mono-culture we’re exposed to right now where people will source the exact same food, e.g., avocadoes and broccoli, 365 days a year and treat is as a staple.

      Compare that to a health nut who has whey or coconut oil or almonds every single day, or the SAD consumer who eats the same corn/potato/processed meat staples… eating primal is surely about more than the same things, day in, day out, because nothing in nature supports that model.

  7. Regarding beer: there are some pretty good gluten free beers out there nowadays that are made from grains like sorghum, buckwheat, rice, etc. that don’t contain gluten. My favorite is Harvester Brewing, which is a 100% gluten free brewery out of Oregon, but other good options are Green’s (a Belgian import) and New Planet, from Colorado. Still not ideal, but if you need to be gluten free due to an intolerance or celiac, these are good options.

    1. Have you tried Bard’s gluten-free beer? I recently tried it and it’s really, really good. Bard’s is apparently the only gf beer that is malted (malted sorghum). It’s an extra step that may give it a more authentic taste. All I know is that it is good, gf or not.

  8. **raises a Beer** Cheers!!! lol

    Before changing to a primal lifestyle, beer was a part of my almost daily dietary intake. Since then, I have had very little beer in the last 7+ months and with each one I experience cramping in my lower gut now, almost immediately too. I stay away from it now, only having a beer on rare occasions.

    On the topic of perfection, I strive for 100% primal knowing that I feel best when I do. But, there are times that I tell myself that I’m going to apply the 80/20 rule. Yesterday was a perfect example of that. Friends from out of town were visiting and we all met for breakfast at a local restaurant. I ordered a veggie omelet and a side order of cottage cheese. When the omelet showed up the cheese that was used was processed cheese slices. I ate it telling myself that I’m going to apply the 80/20 rule today regarding the processed cheese and the cottage cheese (I’ve removed dairy from my diet too).

    IMHO, striving for perfection would take the enjoyment out of this. I’ve found something that works really well for me. It’s not broke, there’s nothing to fix here. Are there things that some would do differently, maybe, but I’m succeeding in my health goals, and most importantly, I’m happy and feeling excellent.


  9. On the subject of beer and alcoholic beverages in general, I’ve read (somewhere) that one’s body will burn alcohol before it burns carbs or, I assume, fat. That leaves the carbs and fat circulating in the blood stream and the body would want to get rid of them (store them as fat, I assume). That’s why I only drink beer on an empty stomach. It only takes two beers to get a buzz. 🙂 And If you say you only drink alcoholic beverages for the taste… . Well, without getting nasty, I’ll just say I don’t believe you.

    1. Plenty of people limit alcoholic drinks so they feel no effects from it. Just because you like to get drunk, doesn’t mean every one else does

    2. I won’t get nasty either, but since I have never gotten intoxicated, and drink a beer on a regular basis, the taste is the only reason left. It all depends on the brew you choose

      1. You are a rare person indeed. But the alcohol in even one beer will have a mild, possibly consciously undetectable, mind-altering affect upon you. Let me ask you, the first time you drank beer, or any other alcoholic beverage (that wasn’t a sweet, sugary drink) did you immediately like the taste, or did you have to get use to it? As to the mind-altering affects: humans, by and large, like mind-altering affects. If they didn’t the alcoholic beverage industry would be non-existent, among other drugs. Alcohol is, by the way, a true narcotic drug by definition.

        1. Just because you have to develop a taste for it doesn’t mean that you don’t truly like it. I think that sweet is the only taste we have a natural affinity for, the rest are developed over time. Coffee and beer may be acquired tastes but so are kale and liver.

    3. I don’t really drink at all – just an accidental habit of family and being bookworm. If I do, it’s a glass of wine and it better taste good. 🙂

    1. *Sees a lot of text. Has little time and thinks: let’s see what the comments have to say
      *Scrolls down and sees your comment
      Really, he said that? It doesn’t sound like Mark but… OK let’s order some pizza and beers!
      P.S. On a more serious note, great article as usual

  10. Ah, brother, now I have to worry about oxalates? I have had kidney stones in the past (like twenty years ago). I cannot fathom a successful way of life without dark chocolate. Apparently sweet potatoes are high oxalate too. And beets! My beloved beets. I guess I get to eat squash every day of my life?

    It’s one thing to remove processed crap and gluten from your life but I really want t throw up my hands when it comes to stuff like beets and broccoli. I mean, really?

    1. I don’t see any solid evidence that foods high in oxalates cause kidney stones. Anyway, not enough evidence to make me give up chocolate, sweet potatoes, greens or other healthy foods on the list.

      I had had mild kidney stone problems years ago. When I read about vitamin D3, I started taking a lot without making sure I got enough K, A and magnesium. Lots of painful kidney stones. Cut back on D3 some and started taking K and more magnesium and getting lots of A. No stones (per ultrasound). New doc wanted my D level up. She prescribed very high D3 dose. Suddenly, more kidney stones. Not a coincidence so far as I am concerned.

      1. This is very interesting to me because I just had a 7mm stone two months ago, and I stopped taking D supplements at once.

      2. Interesting. I take 2000IUs of Vitamin D per day. I haven’t had a stone in twenty years (well, I don’t think I have….haven’t had an ultrasound lately) but I always have oxalate in my pee. Granted, the last test I had done was when I was having a miscarriage and I was chowing down on raw spinach and kale salads at the time so that might have something to do with it.

        I feel like going primal/paleo cuts down on oxalate sources quite a bit as long as you don’t start going crazy with almond flour or something. I pretty much avoid all nuts as I feel like I am sensitive to them so that’s a whole oxalate food group removed. Where I start to get super frustrated is when I run into conflicting information. You know, I’m autoimmune hypothyroid so I see I should eat an autoimmune protocol which removes dairy and eggs (and also chocolate but again, NOT DOING IT). Then you hear that you are supposed to remove oxalates if you have an autoimmune condition. What’s low oxalate? Dairy and eggs! Oh, and some of those leafy greens taht are supposed to be good for you are really bad because they are either goitrigenic or high in oxalates or radioactive, or blah, blah, blah. Then Low Oxalate dieters are like, there’s still tons of options, you can have a delicious diet! But those “options” rely heavily on things like dairy and eggs which you are also supposed to eliminate on some other diet. And don’t get me started on where I’m supposed to get carbs! Since I avoid nightshades, I was eating sweet potatoes but now they are high oxalate and bad! It is VERY frustrating and I COMPLETELY see why some people just throw their hands up and don’t listen to any of it.

        Oh, I also read that you should be avoiding things like VItamin D and fish oil on a low oxalate diet. Things that Mark says are great! I just want to bang my head against a wall.

    2. I just won’t give up broccoli and sweet potatoes. There has to be a better way to prevent stones. I also don’t buy that I have to drink so much water that I am always uncomfortable, either.

  11. I have been 80/20 since January 🙂 At any rate I have determined that I have a reaction/ allergy to beer. It makes my eye lids swell up, and after 1-2 days I develop sty’s. It took my 5 years to figure out what was causing the sty’s. I have seen dermatologists, eye specialists, 3 different primary care DR’s and none of them can give me any sort of answer as to what or why. I began asking beer masters and brewers… no answers. No one has ever seen or heard of such a reaction. Anyone else out there look like Sloth from The Goonies after having a brew or two??!!?! (Even gluten free beer…)

  12. Good timing. Just this weekend I realized that if I’m not careful, I will become “afraid of food”. Seems almost everything is loaded with carbs or has high levels of *something* I should be avoiding. It doesn’t help that I need to lose around 20 pounds, so I’m ultra-aware of whatever I eat. Problem is, that approach doesn’t seem to help with the weight loss.

    Thanks for the attitude adjustment!

  13. Thanks! If we pay attention the things we need will come to us and I NEEDED this post. As the queen of overthinking, overanalyzing and trying to do too much at one time my 3rd week into PB led me to a crash, burn and meltdown. I wanted to do everything “right”. I didn’t dare eat something I wasn’t “supposed” to eat and after some reflection realize I’ve not been eating much at all. You have too much body fat so don’t you dare eat that fruit. GAHHHH the stress level peaked and I flung myself off the cliff. I’m regrouping my thoughts and hopefully getting on a path that will not only be physically better but mentally/emotionally as well.

  14. “roasted at the local 3rd wave roasters who have a time machine that lets them roast beans in the future and therefore ensure the freshest coffee possible”

    Whoa…do these guys deliver???

    Seriously, I love this description!

  15. I couldn’t agree more.The past six months eating primal is the first time my blood results for iron, b12, hormones, everything came back in the normal range, first time ever. Just knowing that and knowing how great I feel and look is enough for me. We do 90/10, I have the occasional slice of gf pizza. I once spent a week obsessing over natural occurring salicylates and felt paralysed with fear of vegetables (and everything else). The stress probably took ten years off my life.

  16. Jason, it’s why I returned to Mark’s site after a couple of years. Too many rabbit holes and depending on the person, you can get really lost. I saw some pretty bad cases and I won’t name them. Suffice it to say, 2 years later, some of these people are still struggling, can’t find their way…clearly what they’re doing is not working, but they see the light of day from way down that hole.

    My life is very enjoyable and simple these days, and I’m lovin’ it. I have not felt this good in years!! (Not all related to nutrition/health).

    Glad you at least asked on this site. 🙂

    A side note: I don’t believe I categorize myself as ‘primal is my way of life’. Karate is my life style. From there everything is affected. It’s probably why I’m so happy again. 🙂

  17. Hello everyone, I’ve been mostly Primal/Paleo (90/10 rule?) for about 6 months now and I’m healthier and happier because of it (Thank you very much Mark!), though I do miss my pizza. However, as most of us in this community are ones not to buy into the mainstream advice on food I’m going to go non-mainstream Primal here. As an avid home brewer and craft beer consumer I want to give you something very different than the usual anti-beer message here. Turns out beer has many health benefits. This may surprise you, but I think after you read this you’ll see my point. Lastly, as in all things, moderation is the key ( I think this is a key to a lot of Mark’s advice)

    To start with I want to address Mark’s comments above:
    -Gluten: yes, 100% barley beer contains gluten (if you want to call hordein and glutilin “gluten”), but much less than bread. The best estimates are that 50% or less of the grain proteins make it into the beer. So pound for pound beer has much less protein than bread. BTW…gluten is comprised of gliadin and glutenin, neither of which is in barley, but the barley proteins noted above are analogs to these wheat proteins, so I’m not going to quibble here.

    – Alcohol: Yes, in massive quantities alcohol is a poison. But, as been noted here, in moderation, alcohol lowers blood pressure. Our bodies make an enzyme that has one function, to create the precursors to an energy source from alcohol. Our bodies are made to digest alcohol, albeit at a slow pace. Key word here, moderation. You wine drinkers can easily consume more alcohol per sitting than a moderate beer drinker.

    -Hops: I was surprised and a bit concerned to see the comment regarding phytoestrogens (I’ve avoided soy because of this for a very long time!). However, when I opened the link the last sentence of the 1st paragraph says this: “This phytoestrogen can also be detected in beer, but the levels are low and should not pose any cause for concern”. Additionally, hops are a known bittering agent that aid digestion and hops are a good source of antioxidants. You can do the cost/benefit analysis yourself. Anyone thinking moderation here?

    -Carbs: Yes, beer has carbs. Not all the polysaccharides from the grains get consumed by the yeast in the fermentation process. All the monosaccharides are though (yeast love their monosaccharides!) Note, there’s no fructose in beer, grain doesn’t contain fructose. All that said, beer’s glycemic index is so low that modern methods can’t measure it. You don’t get a sugar rush from beer.

    Now for the good stuff:
    – yeast: yum! Brewer’s yeast is a great source of zinc, chromium, and B vitamins. All of us here are very familiar with these nutrients and their value. As long as your beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized it’ll have live yeast in it.

    – lactobacillus: Mark frequently talks about the benefit of naturally fermented foods. Beer is indeed a naturally fermented food. One of the latest (something old that’s become new again) trends in craft beer is sour beer. It’s our friend lactobacillus that give beer that sour flavor. If you’ve not tried a sour beer and you like naturally fermented food I highly recommend it!

    – pH: Beer’s pH (~5.0) is significantly lower than water’s. Drinking beer dilutes your stomach acid less than water does. Sour beer’s pH (3.5 – 5) is lower than non-soured beer.

    – probiotics: This is a bit redundant as I’ve already mentioned a couple of my favorite “bugs” as us home brewers call them, brewer’s yeast and lactobacillus.

    One last thing. Grains notoriously have what Mark calls “anti-nutrients”. I’ve already discussed gluten above, but what about lectins, phytic acid, and enzyme inhibitors? All 3 of these last anti-nutrients are completely destroyed in the beer making process. Between malting, mashing, boiling, and fermenting none of these bad aspect of grain remain in your beer.

    So, yeah, beer may not be totally paleo, but there are many worse things out there and many paleo foods don’t offer the nutritional bounty a good craft beer offers. All the above is easily confirmed with simple google searches, but I’ll be happy to post the links to the info if you can’t find it yourself. Feel like freeing your mind a bit?

    Lastly, moderation is key. I do admit I follow the 90/10 rule for moderation too 😉

    1. People have a tendency to think wion;e healtheir and yet you’re bang on target there, many modern wines contain up to 14% abv and that’s almost a third the amnount of straight gin or whisky, yet people, especially women in Britain, knock it back by the bottleful in restaurants, clubs and bars.

      I think manufactuirers could save a lot of people a nasty wakeup in the future by dropping wines back down to the 9% region, because it’s way too easy to finish a bottle before the full effects have even hit home.

    2. Very well laid out. Can you please provide some of the links you mentioned?
      I’d appreciate it.

        1. Well, OK thanks but I was hoping they’d be some links to lab analysis of the toxin content of a beer, barley or wheat.

  18. There are major health drawbacks to beer. That’s why I only drink grain alcohol and rainwater. One must protect one’s precious bodily fluids.

  19. These were great and all relevant to my personal journey! I have been ingesting MCT oil but had no idea what the real gist of it was. One of the best daily posts I’ve read. Beer, fats, and over analysis (something early primal warriors like myself go through) it’s all neat and tidy today.

    Keep it up!

  20. This is great information. Just goes to show, if you keep it real, all is good. Over analysis is boring and not sweating the small stuff is a great thing to remember. Great post

  21. As Voltaire said; “Common sense is not common”. There are some rare individuals out there that is full of the uncommon common sense. Mark Sisson is one of these rare people. They always seem to be good hearted and generous too. Buddha people? I don¨t know, but I think so, and I admire them. My non-biological grandfather was one of them. Former military guy, hard as hell, but with the softest heart, If that makes sense? He is the number one love in my life. So much for blood is thicker than water 🙂 Back to Mark; thanks for existing and helping us to live better lives, and in that journey, becoming better people. Almost like the people with common sense.

  22. Good post.
    I actually tend to skim over these Dear Mark posts most of the time now, simply because they often seem to be addressing those small issues that the overanalysing question brought up, and talking about problems that people start worrying about after they have the basics down.

    It’s important to recognise what it’s important to worry about at each stage of your progress towards better health, in my opinion. If I find myself reading some in-depth analysis of ‘the small stuff’ then I remind myself I still need to simply start eating more vegetables consistently!
    This month I have the simple goal of making sure that at least one meal a day is cooked at home. This is an achieveable goal that seemed almost too easy at first… but that’s exactly the point. I have even been worrying less about the sweet stuff I still eat too much of, because that’s not my main focus this month. It’s the ‘not letting the perfect be the enemy of good’ approach.

    It has felt good to recognise that my habits and behaviours aren’t at the level my head thinks they are at, and adjust my goals accordingly. I can feel that this is a more sustainable and gradual adjustment that is going to stick more easily.

    MDA is a great place to get the basics, but it also has lots of extra details that people could get bogged down in if they don’t apply their own filter to decide what’s useful to them at that time.

    I’m in China, so if I was too much of a purist I think I’d go crazy!

  23. I think Mark brings up an excellent point in that sweating the small stuff is just not worth it. Once you start to get obsessive, it’s a slippery slope. Progress not perfection is how I roll.

  24. The problems are only likely to happen if someone gets it in their head kale or broccoli are somehow miracle foods that fight all ills, and out of that misguided fanaticism eats huge amounts daily, maybe juiced or in a smoothie.

    Before we had freezers and global food imports, things came into season and out of season, and depending on your beliefs, whether by evolutionary happenstance or benevolent design, that was a damned good thing because it shows us no food is essential 365 days a year, and it’s safe and beneficial to have a glut, then do without.

  25. Yes, calling anything a “superfood” seems to lead to trouble. Everyone’s always after the latest fad. Ironically, the newest one is coconut oil.

  26. I’m not sold on MCT oil for the following reason: when the general public were urged to consume a diet that mimicked what’s prescribed to some diabetics, in which frequent small carb-based meals are consumed regularly, and blood sugar is therefore kept at a constant level, we saw levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and the ongoing mass battle to keep fat off, begin to rise to their current epidemic levels.

    So while MCT oil is probably a godsend for people with some health conditions, especially where they need a ketogenic diet, I prefer to avoid something with known active effects on many of the body’s systems, that’s comprised of fractions of a food’s natural state that don’t occur in nature, and which hasn’t been tested on human subjects for the past several millenia.

    Maybe it’s not “scientific” reasoning but the splitting of dairy for example into “good” and “bad” parts, where the protein and sugars were greenlighted and the fat virtually damned, hasn’t done our world any favours in terms of reducing body-fat or chronic low-level illnesses, and skimmed milk is solidly linked to various problems in pregnant women and their children.

    Whole foods for me all the way, I’ll take the chance on missing out on a possible benefit in order to avoid potential blunders brought on by eating unbalanced and fractioned micro-nutrients.

    My 2¢. 🙂

  27. Anybody know if liquid coconut oil is the same as Fractionated coconut oil?

    1. Have you heard of Google? Or Bing (not Crosby), or Yahoo? 🙂

      Just teasing – search “fractionated coconut oil” and one of the first results is Wikipedia on the topic. It will explain the issue.

      1. Google and I are best friends! I had looked up fractionated coconut oil, but when I looked up liquid coconut oil, there was nothing that tied the two together…e.g. no link that had the words liquid and fractionated together, so I just wondered if anyone else had an opinion.

        1. Liquid oil is only one possible type of fraction (seperated part) of whole coconut oil, whereas fractionated could be any part, for any use – this is from Wikipedia:


          Fractionated coconut oil is a fraction of the whole oil, in which the different medium-chain fatty acids are separated for specific uses. Lauric acid, a 12-carbon chain fatty acid, is often removed because of its high value for industrial and medical purposes. The fractionation of coconut oil may be used to make caprylic/capric triglyceride oil. Medium-chain triglycerides such as caprylic/capric triglyceride oil are most frequently used for medical applications, special diets, and cosmetics, sometimes also being used as a carrier oil for fragrances.”

          So you can fractionate coconut oil to make different kinds of end products, but they’re not all high-MCT coconut oil. Sorry if I sounded sarcastic! 😉

        2. Thanks for the Clarification! Sorry I didn’t make my question more clear.

  28. I live a 90/10 primal life and sometimes a beer completes a meal. There is a new microbrewery in my town and the chef is fantastic. So once a month my family has dinner on a patio overlooking the Great Salt Lake. And yes we have a beer or two. And last Friday when we ate there, I ate a lamb burger with the bun! Oh the horrors! Yes, my stomach was bloated that evening, but Saturday I burned it off and went right back to 100% primal.
    I tried that with pizza and couldn’t get through the two slices without being sick. Of course it was chain pizza. Pick your poisons! And live life to the fullest without feeling guilty that it isn’t “right”. Your body will tell you what is right, if you listen.

  29. My father, an ultra healthy ex doc at 92 years old, sweats the small stuff and enjoys it. Suddenly, beer is good for you – he drinks it. Chocolate is good, same thing. If suddenly one medical report says olive oil is bad, he’ll stop using it.

    Can’t argue with his longevity and health, but I’m not going to sweat the small stuff either

  30. We were just talking about the liquid coconut oil I saw at a big wholesale store. Thanks for reading my mind.

  31. “…..Sure, if you drink coffee brewed from wash-processed, single-origin microlot beans grown at the perfect altitude, handpicked by canopy-raised howler monkeys, and roasted at the local 3rd wave roasters who have a time machine that lets them roast beans in the future and therefore ensure the freshest coffee possible….”

    LOVE it! Thanks for the healthy laugh! Don’t forget the importance of laughing…
    I appreciate all of that. We can only do the best we can with all of this information – and it seems there is always something new that someone is pointing out has some negative aspect that we need to avoid (if that makes sense).

  32. There are some tasty gluten-free beers out there. I just tried Bard’s and a couple others (Bard’s is the one that stuck in my mind). I think New Grist is supposed to be good too, and these are pretty available. I tried Bard’s in a restaurant. Still there is the carb issue with gf beer, but I feel better having gluten-free beer – very occasionally.

  33. Fantastic advice:

    “People ask us about the lectins in tree nuts, the fructose content of half a pear, or whether it’s okay to eat the deer they shot if the deer may have been feeding on GMO corn. (True story.) And in many of these instances, what we want to say is, “It really doesn’t matter, since you’re only sleeping 5 hours a night and I can smell the cortisol on you from across the street.” So we encourage you to pull back a bit, do a little introspection, and try to see beyond any one factor (specifically, nutrition) to view the reality of your big-picture health and fitness situation.”

  34. Out of this whole post, Patrick’s comments made the most sense to me! I was guilty for a while of having coconut oil, avocados and eggs EVERY day, but I totally agree with eating seasonally. Have been having plaice a couple of times a week at the moment, as it’s seasonal, and will move on to game birds and venison in a few weeks. It’s wild blackberry season in the UK soon, and I usually eat those every day for a couple of months and then not again for the rest of the year. I don’t eat salad, not even a Big Ass one, in the winter months, I’ll eat seasonal winter veg instead. As for whole foods, this interests me a lot, there are a lot of foods which when split become unstable or the vitamins in them are unobtainable by the body. Hence now why most of my coconut comes from the whole nut and I am not having olive oil every day, preferring to eat the whole olive. Could the question be raised as to whether cheese and butter fall into the “split” food category, should we really be eating mainly the fat part.

    1. I’m blushing!!

      I’m also not an expert, so these are just my opinions & deductions based on reading etc. 😉

      It seems that butter & cheese were developed/discovered and perpetuated mainly as a way to preserve the nutrition in milk, especially its valuable fat content, not out of a crazy desire to do away with the “bad” stuff in it, and the buttermilk left over wasn’t thrown away, so I personally think they get a pass based on the idea we only run into problems when we try to do away with safe and edible constituents of a whole food that current science has deemed undesirable.

      Ancestral wisdom, versus “better health through chemistry” is how I see butter, and cream, both of which I use.

      Anything in the past like tapioca/cassava, kidney beans and so on where ancestral wisdom realised they need processing to remove toxins are not strictly primal anyway (as I understand the definitions), and removing toxins from a slaughtered animal (fish guts, carnivore livers) still isn’t the same as removing perfectly edible nutrients like dairy fat or parts of coconut oil, which is only done recently and is based on incorrect science.

      That’s my take on it, fwiw. 😉

      1. * incorrect science *in my opinion* that is.

        I don’t think sat fats in dairy are bad, nor that coconut oil needs to be split except where being used as a medical treatment, for people who have existing and real problems that mean they need a higher level of only one part of the oil. The same way a glucose drip can be totally legit as a treatment to save someone’s life, but not a great thing for everyone else… etc. 😉

  35. “Sure, if you drink coffee brewed from wash-processed, single-origin microlot beans grown at the perfect altitude, handpicked by canopy-raised howler monkeys, and roasted at the local 3rd wave roasters who have a time machine that lets them roast beans in the future and therefore ensure the freshest coffee possible, it’s going to be really good and probably healthier and more antioxidant-rich”

    This had me laughing!! LOL