Is it Primal? – Balsamic Vinegar, Chestnuts, Apricot Kernels, and Other Foods Scrutinized

Balsamic VinegarIt’s time for yet another edition of “Is It Primal?” where I determine and decree the worthiness of various foods. First up, I discuss balsamic vinegar – both types – and explain whether or not it belongs in a Primal eating plan. After that, chestnuts get roasted over the open fire of my analysis. Apricot kernels, those weird little almond lookalikes, are next, followed by chitosan. Finally, I cover the safety and healthfulness of Korean nori snacks. Keep in mind, readers: once my edict on a particular food has been handed down, once it has been deemed Primal or not Primal, the word is sacrosanct. It must be hewed to, or else you will suffer the consequences, which can include such horrors as revocation of your Primal Cred card or banishment to Vegan Island.

Take heed.

Balsamic Vinegar

There are essentially two primary types of balsamic vinegar. The first, made according to traditional practices and standards, involves reducing grape juice (from grapes grown in specific regions of Italy) down to 30% of volume to form a must, followed by a 12-year fermentation of the must in a variety of wood barrels during which time the flavors and various other bioactive compounds form and develop. This stuff is expensive, going for as much as several hundred dollars a bottle. It’s called traditional balsamic vinegar, or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. 

The second is balsamic vinegar of Modena, which is made using wine vinegar, caramel, and grape must. Basic balsamic vinegars are technically aged, but very rarely for as long as twelve years. A couple months appears to be the minimum.

Vinegar itself, regardless of the origin, lowers the blood sugar response to a meal, improves the glucose tolerance, and even increases the satiety of a meal when taken before or during the meal. Acetic acid is the key here, so rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and even white vinegar will work just as well as the best balsamic vinegar. But some benefits are unique to balsamic vinegar:

  • Balsamic vinegar inhibited LDL oxidation and macrophage accumulation to a greater extent than rice wine vinegar. In other words, balsamic vinegar – regular old stuff purchased at a Japanese supermarket – may inhibit atherosclerosis.
  • During simulated digestion of meat, melanoidins that arise during traditional balsamic vinegar fermentation reduced lipid peroxidation and heme iron absorption.

All this data is beginning to make that pre-dinner salad with olive oil and balsamic look pretty appetizing, eh? I imagine marinating one’s meat in a balsamic vinegar solution would also have beneficial effects on lipid oxidation.

Verdict: Primal (so long as you don’t eat it with bread!).


Unlike most other nuts, chestnuts are relatively low in fat and high in starch. They’re also quite low in phytic acid, so the whole mineral absorption issue won’t affect your enjoyment of chestnuts. Chestnuts are high in carbs, so treat them more like sweet potatoes or white potatoes than almonds or macadamia nuts – as an ideal post-workout snack, perfect for replenishing depleted glycogen stores. Also, because chestnuts are, well, nuts, they offer a pleasantly nutty taste. Some folks are even making chestnut protein powder pudding. I gotta say, it looks pretty delicious.

As far as micronutrients go, chestnuts are notable for their vitamin C, copper, and manganese content. If you’re low on any of these nutrients, chestnuts may be a useful addition.

Roasted on an open fire, cracked and eaten raw off the tree, or whipped into a Neolithic protein powder slurry, chestnuts are solid choices.

Verdict: Primal.

Apricot Kernels

There was an episode of GI Joe (yes, I’ve seen a few episodes in my day) from way back where a giant blob was ravaging the countryside. Bullets weren’t stopping it and bombs were ineffective, so the Joes make one last-ditch effort to beat the thing: they bombard the blob with apples. You see, apple seeds – and all seeds from the rose family, which includes apples, plums, cherries, apricots, peaches, and almonds – contain cyanogenetic glycosides, which degrade to hydrogen cyanide upon digestion. In ample enough doses, apple seeds can kill a murderous, otherwise invincible blob. Apricot kernels are among the richest sources of cyanogenetic glycosides, and cases of acute apricot kernel poisoning have been reported. The average apricot kernel contains 0.5 mg of cyanide (PDF), and the average fatal dose for cyanide in humans is around 1.5 mg/kg bodyweight.

Of course, some people claim that certain cyanogenetic glycosides, such as amygdalin, are actually potent cancer fighters. Apricot kernels also have high ORAC values and lots of phenolic content, but they aren’t alone in that respect. Most plant food has some study or other showing high antioxidant activity. It doesn’t make the food essential or even necessarily worthwhile, particularly if it also comes with cyanide. Eat some blueberries, which are cyanide-free and have far less linoleic acid.

Avoid making apricot kernel meal baked goods. Don’t make apricot kernel meal pancakes, however much coconut butter you incorporate. If a few kernels find their way into your mouth, go ahead and chew and swallow. Just don’t make it a staple, and don’t rely on it to beat cancer.

Verdict: Not Primal (avoid poisonous things).


Chitosan comes from the deacetylation of chitin, the substance that makes up exoskeletons. The structural cohesion of insects, crustaceans, and even fungi depend on chitin; that’s the stuff that gets stuck in between your teeth after a meal of shrimp with the shells on (or crickets). It’s unclear whether humans fully (or even partially) digest chitin, as chitinase – the enzyme that digests chitin – isn’t found in all human gastric juice samples. Researchers have found that gastric juices from Westerners (who eat fewer insects and are exposed to fewer chitinous parasites) are less likely to have chitinase, while gastric juices from non-Westerners tend to have more chitinase. The point, though, is that people can produce chitinase that degrades chitin, and if they don’t, eating more chitin-containing foods should stimulate chitinase production.

  • Chitosan supplementation may reduce cartilage destruction in autoimmune arthritis.
  • In healthy men, pre-breakfast supplementation with 3 grams of chitosan increased fecal excretion of dioxins and PCBs, two prominent types of xenoestrogenic compounds found in most modern diets.
  • A chitin-glucan supplement (extracted from fungi) lowered oxidized LDL in humans. Oxidized LDL is likely causally related to atherosclerosis (as opposed to just plain ol’ LDL), so this could be a helpful supplement for people at risk.

When I’m presented with a shell-on shrimp, I do one of two things. If it’s a massive jumbo shrimp, I’ll usually remove the shell. If it’s a smaller, more manageable shrimp, I’ll eat the entire thing without blinking. The legs are my personal favorite, particularly if they’ve been crisped up in a bit of butter. So yeah, I eat a fair amount of chitosan/chitin. Our ancestors (and every other current culture that utilizes the insect kingdom for food) did too. If you don’t believe me, try removing the shells from a few hundred crickets. It’s far easier – and more nutritious – to simply eat the entire thing. Thus, I think it likely that chitosan is an ancestral soluble “fiber” source, one that we should probably incorporate. I’m not so sure we need to take chitosan tablets, but you might consider hoofing it down to the local Oaxacan restaurant for some chapulines (lime and chile crickets) every now and then, or at least nibbling the shrimp shells and legs when no one else is watching.

Verdict: Primal.

Korean Nori

I feel like I’ve been writing about seaweed a lot lately. Is it just me? Am I crazy?

Anyway, several readers have asked about Korean nori, worried about radiation, contamination, and ingredients used.

I wouldn’t worry about radiation from the Fukushima incident. If you look at a map, Fukushima is on the north east coast of Japan, while Korea lies to the west. Preliminary research indicates that ocean currents have directed any contaminated water out across the Pacific Ocean, rather than back toward the Asian mainland. SeaSnax, who sources their nori from Korean waters, recently had their products tested for radiation and heavy metals and got a clean bill of health.

The ingredients are usually okay. Avoid anything roasted in soybean or other vegetable oils, obviously, but I wouldn’t fret too much over a little sesame oil. True, sesame oil is high in fragile linoleic acid. True, linoleic acid has the tendency to oxidize. However, sesame oil is also imbued with natural antioxidants, like vitamin E, and it appears to be more resistant to thermal and light oxidation than soybean oil. The amounts used in most nori snacks are also so low that they shouldn’t cause much trouble. Just avoid products with excessive sugar and any questionable ingredients. In my experience, it’s no trouble finding a relatively pure Korean nori.

The safest bet is to get your own dry roasted nori sheets and add your own seasonings. Brush with bit of olive oil or butter, sprinkle some sea salt, pop in the oven for a few minutes, and you’ve got yourself a solid snack. Use it as a wrap, shred it for salads, or eat it as-is. Add other seasonings, like chili powder or curry powder.

The nutrition facts on the Wiki page (which draws from the USDA database) look incredible until you realize that they’re talking about 100 grams of nori. A single large sheet is about 3 grams. So, if you want to obtain (in percentages of RDA) 78% of niacin, 60% of thiamine, 194% of riboflavin, 475% of folate, 253% of vitamin C, 371% of vitamin K, 28% of calcium, 88% of iron, 85% of magnesium, 100% of phosphorus, 50% of potassium, 35% of sodium, 38% of zinc, and several thousand percent of iodine, along with 41 grams of protein, you’ll have to eat about 33 large sheets of nori. They’re still impressive, and nori is still nutritious, just not the savior you might have assumed.

Verdict: Primal.

That’s all I’ve got this time, folks. If you have any questions about any other foods, supplements, drinks, or condiments, be sure to send them along. 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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116 thoughts on “Is it Primal? – Balsamic Vinegar, Chestnuts, Apricot Kernels, and Other Foods Scrutinized”

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  1. Awesome about the balsamic, I wasn’t aware of those health benefits. I’m gonna have to up my big ass salad intake!

    1. I’m pleased too because I eat a lot of it! I put balsamic on my salads, add it to my minced (ground) meat sauces and I pour it onto canned tuna along with olive oil (I call it tuna a la can).

  2. I have mostly only seen chitosan in fat burner supplements, I guess next time my husband gives me a hard time for my “gross” habit of eating the whole shrimp, tail and all, I can refer him to your website.

  3. You have been talking about seaweed a lot lately. It makes me want to find some sort of primal sushi recipe. Maybe cauliflower instead of rice, but how would you get it to be sticky?

    1. I do miss me some sushi. Obviously there’s sashimi (sans rice), but things can get expensive quickly if you want to walk away satisfied.

    2. I was considering “ricing” eggplant, fully or partially reconstituting it in some type of fat or stock maybe, and then… i dunno gelatin is probably the stickiest thing available to me but I don’t eat fruit. Those of you who eat fruit can probably use some date to get things sticky somehow, sushi rice is usually sweetened anyway with mirin sugar and rice vin.

    3. Cauliflower grated down, fried until cooked in olive oil then mix in coconut milk to make it sticky. I’ve done it and it’s glorious! Makes a great sushi rice.

    4. You can change a thing only so much before it ceases to be what it was. If it doesn’t have sushi meshi (vinegared rice), it isn’t sushi, merely cauliflower wrapped in seaweed!

    5. While it would be fun to play around with, I don’t think sushi is really that bad of a “cheat” meal. We go out for sushi several times a year and just pack our own bottle of coconut aminos to use in place of soy sauce. A little white rice wont kill ya 😉

  4. I used to eat shrimp whole, and my son adopted the habit without (I think) my ever doing it in front of him. Interesting.

    I gave it up a while back due to some intestinal issues that were probably unrelated. I may have to let myself have the legs and soft parts again.

    I was amazed that Balsamic vinegar needed to be questioned, but thanks for the clarity.

  5. I just want to point out that Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is FROM Modena. (I live in Modena…) and the distinction between the two is that the first is like a fine aged wine and the second is like buying it from a carton or plastic jug. The caramel is added to cover up the cheapness and make is darker and sweeter since they need to “fake” age it.

      1. If it doesn’t say ” Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale,” it’s not necessarily “da good stuff,” even if it’s from Modena.

    1. Doesn’t most of cheap balsamic have various sugar and sweeteners in it? This would make sense with Julia’s comment about sweetening plain vinegar to “age” it. If so, I’d think is a “Read Label Carefully” caveat to the “Primal” verdict.

    2. Thank you for that clarification. I would be very suspicious of anything that listed caramel as an ingredient…

  6. As a matter of fact I was at the local Oaxacan restaurant a couple of weeks ago. And as it turns out my friend ordered up a chapuline taco. I wanted to try it, really, but I just couldn’t do it. Next time maybe.

  7. These “Is it Primal?” posts are quite entertaining Mark, pls do keep em coming. …And thank goodness on the balsamic vinegar verdict — I love that stuff!

  8. I TOTALLY remember that GI Joe episode! I was watching it with friends, who responded to the apple poisoning with staunch incredulity. I, being the science nerd, dutifully set them straight. Knowing is half the battle!

  9. I’m still a bit confused on the balsamic vinegar. I never really questioned it before, but if it has caramel in it, isn’t that not Primal? Or is the caramel sort of ‘fermented out’?

    1. I would avoid balsamic with caramel flavor added. They are mass-producing balsamic vinegar in 2 years instead of the minimum 12-18 years. The caramel is added to thicken the otherwise runny vinegar and give it a darker color and sweetness. All of those properties come naturally in real traditional balsamic vinegar from the original families.

      Granted, you can’t always avoid cheap balsamic while on the road and a salad with restaurant balsamic is probably better than the other soy-bean oil dressing options.

      1. It’s not caramel flavor, it’s caramel color. There’s not enough added to affect the flavor, just the color. And if the flavor were detectable, it would be bitter not sweet, as it’s made by burning carbohydrates. Not to be confused with actual caramel, which is lightly caramelized sugar. No, it’s not something Grok would use, but it’s not a dangerous, industrial, or sugary substance. Grok might have roasted a sweet potato on coals and then eaten the whole thing, charred bits and all. Then he’d be getting a much larger dose of the main ingredient used to make caramel color.

  10. Thanks so much for the tongue-in-cheek intro! I think we all can be a little less rigid and strident in our primal lifestyle… Is there a possibility of creating a “Is it Primal” searchable database? Might be a fun tab to add to the website….

    1. For an “Is it Primal?” search, try this Google search: “Is it Primal?”

  11. Mark,
    I use COLAVITA Organic Balsamic Vineger (Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP). The ingredients are : Organic Wine Vinegar & Organic Graper Must. The cost is less than $10, in Ohio. Is this better to use than those that have caramel?
    Thanks for all the great info you provide!

    1. Whenever you buy any vinegar, check the ingredients. Check the bottom for sediment (this is good) infact try to find raw, unfiltered, with mother, organic etc.. for maximum health benefeits.

      avoid balsamics that add sweeteners.

      1. Eden Organics makes an apple cider vinegar just like that. It’s really good, too. I like to take a spoonful occasionally.

  12. I would stress the importance of getting real balsamic vinegar, typically only found in specialty shops. It’s about $12-15 for 175ML. However, it’s REALLY worth it. It’s so much stronger in flavor that you use a lot less, just 5-10 drops per salad for me!

  13. So glad you determined Balsamic primal, especially since I just bought a big ass bottle from Costco to use on my big ass salads!! 🙂

  14. Hmm, what to do with the apricot kernel oil I just bought … I knew I’d regret it, but the grocery was out of refined coconut oil

  15. Are you not worried about exoskeletons resulting in diverticulitis. I can’t imagine those litle shards are terribly friendly to the colon lining.

    1. They are hard to digest, eat Chinese salt-and-pepper shrimp sparingly, and never give the shells to your pets!

  16. I never bothered with the tail, as I figured it wouldn’t come out well. Now I know, and I’ll probably enjoy the whole shrimp next time!

  17. Banishment to Vegan Island!!!

    Interesting post…personally i much prefer red wine or apple cider vinegar myself.
    Will def munch on some spot prawn shells when they are back in season up here in the summer! Can’t wait!

  18. I love the “Is it Primal?” posts. Glad we can all strive to keep our Primal Cred Cards up to date.

  19. Is it wise to disregard the possible cancer fighting properties of apricot (and other kernels) kernels? Are you doing so because there isn’t any scientific proof, not enough proof or proof to the contrary? you say it is poisonous but the fatal dose as you described would mean that you have to eat 210 apricot kernels if you’re a 70kg human, which is ridiculous amount to eat. Is there any reason you say “don’t rely on it to beat cancer” or you’re just skeptical. I myself am unsure but I’m prone to believe that the so-called vitamin B17 is in fact something to be reckoned with. However, I’m just asking further questions in hope of clarification as I’m not that well versed on the subject

    1. Ask Mark about his take on homeopathy. He’s worthy of respect most high, but not everything Mark says is gospel, although he says this himself, so the humbling of our god-like fellow makes him nearer…
      but he ain’t god. He’s a smart, predominantly altruistic dude.

    2. He probably also doesn’t want someone to take his words verbatim and end up with some sort of involuntary manslaughter charges.

    3. In the case of amygdalin, there have been studies showing no significant efficacy against cancer and plenty of reports of cyanide poisoning in people who have tried to use it as a cancer treatment. In a cost-benefit analysis, it fails by a pretty big margin – little to no benefit, significant risk of cyanide poisoning.

      There’s also how it is completely non-essential to humans, making the term ‘vitamin B17’ extremely misleading (especially after you take the toxicity into account).

      The Wikipedia page on amygdalin has a pretty good general coverage of studies on its efficacy against cancer.

      It is possible that low levels might have a hormetic effect, but I don’t know of any studies on the matter.

  20. What about the lead levels in Balsamic Vinegar? They are high enough to warrant a warning on the bottle, so wouldn’t the toxicity mean you should stay away from it?

  21. Costco Kirkland brand Balsamic Vinegar of Modena…concentrated cooked grape must and red wine vinegar are the only things in it. Cheap and cheerful! Enjoy with confidence.

    1. The Kirkland Balsamic at my Costco says “sulfites added.” 🙁

  22. Vinegar is definitely number one reason why I’m primal and not paleo

  23. Feeling really good about my daily balsamic and EVO salad! I’ve also marinated steak with balsamic vinegar and love it.

  24. Mark,

    There does seem to be a good amount of positive research on apricot kernels.

    Cancer studies date back to the late 1970’s but I’m skeptical of most…

    But newer studies show promise for cardio protective benefits.

    I saw this one a while back on pubmed. Study is on apricot kernel oil.

    I’m not sure the almighty kernels as the have been hyped……should be disregarded just yet.


    Best to you and your family.


    1. Just want to point out that apricot kernels (xing ren) have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Properly prescribed by a licensed TCM professional, for the right pattern and in the dosage, it’s an excellent herb for stopping coughs, wheezing, and asthma.

      1. (should read: for the right pattern and in the PROPER dosage, it’s an excellent herb for stopping coughs, wheezing, and asthma.)

  25. Thank you Mark! I too will show this to my family.I am not a “garbage disposal” after all.Love shrims and every part of it.

  26. Speaking of “is it primal”, I found out today that Jack Dorsey, the celebrity entrepreneur behind Twitter, went Primal/paleo earlier this month and tweeted about it.

  27. It seems like every post I come across has a “comment” by Wayne Atwell. This kind of always-on, passive-aggressive marketing is tiresome and phony.

    1. So it’s OK that a guy named Mark Sisson posts something about primal living and eating every day, and you come here and read it every day, even though you know that Mark isn’t doing this for free? Mark has products to sell and this website helps sell those products. It’s also a great source of information.

      Wayne Atwell is also a guy who’s interested in sharing information on primal living. I don’t know if he’s selling anything or if he just wants more people to read his website (I don’t know because I haven’t been to his site yet).

      The point is, it’s not just one guy. If you’re really interested in a “primal community,” you’d probably support Wayne or at least support his attempts to spread information that’s probably in keeping with your own beliefs.

      Alternately, you could just scroll past his posts when you see his name.

      I also post here most days, because I like to exchange information, ideas, and opinions. You can also scroll past my name if you prefer.

  28. Just to clarify, it’s cool if you have a site, and something to offer that a reasonable person would recognize as being directly related to the topic of the post on which you are commenting. But making up something to say, every day, just to be able to paste that link to your site…that’s double plus ungood. Not primal. Time to clear the tribe of these goofballs.

    Nothing personal.

    1. Yeah, I’m with Hale on this. It’s kind of ironic how some of the replies, like Madame Butterfly, are so superficial and silly, intentionally ignoring the point you’re trying to make. The anononymity of the internet encourages people who have a bunch of pent up frustrations from modern living. I feel it myself sometimes. This is one sign of the need for a return to ancestral values.

      Hale is right. I like to read genuine comments from people, share experiences and ideas, but you can see some people just plastering up some empty chatter in the comments for self-promotion.

      1. How is hacking on Atwell a genuine comment? The irritation you read in to it is yours, why publicise it.
        If you’re balanced up it’s irrelevant what another does unless it’s whacking you in the head or something.
        Sorry I bit Wane X. Didn’t mean to make you flinch.
        One does love giving as good as one gets, esp. on behalf of the underdog. I read hundreds of emptyish comments daily, I don’t pick out the ones with links and ‘commit hate crimes..’ upon said emptinesses. Lighten up. It’s okay.

      2. I’m with Madama Butterfry. This is a public forum, not a Primal Survior. No one is being voted off.

        Do you click on every ad you see on a webpage? Probably not. If it bothers you, ignore it.

        Let us all share a group hug and quit hating.

  29. You guys don’t sound local or primal to me. No offence.

    1. Well “you” should know, since you have the authority of an internet connection.

        1. Absolutely accepted Hale, thanks! I hope the vegan slap didn’t smart.
          Shame the comments are all out of sync.
          On ya Bon. : )

        2. I understand your reaction, and sincerely appreciate your acceptance.

  30. Too Funny! I remember that G.I. Joe episode. As they said, knowing IS half the battle!

  31. My dietician says that my way of eating primal is too strict, and claims the fact that I avoid foods like grains and even junk food shows that I have an eating disorder.

    She claims its a disorder, because I have fear of eating certain foods, and I avoid them altogether.

    She says that it’s okay to have a soda or a ice cream once in a while because it is not going to kill you.

    If I drink a can of soda and eat a small bowl of ice cream once a month, or even once every six months, will it really do any harm?

    1. Read Mark’s 80/20 rule in the Primal Blueprint. Everything is a choice.

      For me, I just do the best I can in the situation I am in. For example, I have at least 2 pieces of cake per year, because I have 2 children, and that is part of the celebration that they want to have. I am not *afraid* of cake. I just don’t choose to make that a regular part of my lifestyle, and I am not about to choose cake to celebrate my own birthday.

      Anything taken to extremes can be (or can appear to be) a disorder. Cleanliness is generally a good thing. I like the fact that the people I interact with wash their hands. Monk (from the TV show) was compulsive about it, and it interfered with life. Where are you?

      If you really are afraid to have a piece of cake, like your dietitian says, then maybe there is a problem. Want to get her off your case? Try this.

      Option 1:
      Have a small piece of cake, a small soda, and whatever else she thinks you are afraid of. Journal your experience. Chances are, you won’t particularly enjoy it after having been primal for a while.

      Next time you see your dietitian, thank her. Admit that maybe you were afraid, but explain how you worked past it, and that now you can have those things whenever you want them, which will probably still be rarely.

      And then you can go on to talking about the real reason you are there talking to your dietitian, which is about nutrition.

      Option 2:
      Ditch the dietitian who is feeding you psycho-babble and find someone who has a similar understanding of nutrition. After all, why do you want to talk about nutrition to someone who thinks that you need to eat Twinkies to have a balanced diet?

    2. Personally I avoid these foods because it induces carbohydrate cravings i.e. if i eat a candy bandy, i’ll just want another one, and another one, and another one until it hurts. plus i notice the harmful effects of these foods immediately. my stomach hurts, begins to make weird noises, and pooping the next day is… well interesting. ALso, I would consider myself a sugar addict. So I just stay away. Would you recommend to a heroin junkie to just only use a couple times a year as it’s not going to kill them? I would consider most of the genereal population to be sugar addicts based on the fact that they accidentally eat sugar at EVERY MEAL!!!!

    3. Why are you going to a dietician? Why not just stop going. Unless you have a specific need, it sounds like you have a better grasp of what to eat and what not to eat than the dietician you are seeing.

    4. It’s like your dietitian said:

      “Have a cigarette once in a while, come on, it’s not gonna kill you” …

      or, for some pseudo-foods:

      “Have a fix of heroin once in a while, come on, it’s not gonna kill you” …

      “Don’t be afraid of poisoning yourself, you know, it’s not that bad once in a while … it makes you feel like shit but hey, life is hard …”

      mmmm, what would this person say to a kid ? …

      “Hey, just light up these matches once in a while, it’s not that bad to burn yourself or the neighborhood once in a while …”

      Utterly grotesque …

  32. Interesting; one of my favorite homemade treats as a child was my mom’s apricot jam with apricot kernels in it. She just put in the kernels from the apricots she had used, nothing extra added, so there were maybe 15-20 kernels per pint of jam. I thought those were the best part! I’ve been thinking about making some of that jam, and was unaware of any side effects of eating the kernels. I guess there aren’t that many per serving, so this won’t stop me from making some!

  33. Balsamic, even if it doesn’t have added sugar, has more sugar than some other vinegars, like apple cider, I think. That might be one reason not to eat it in copious amounts. There’s quite a lot of it in the balsamic glazed drumsticks, but I can’t give those up. 🙂

  34. Thanks for posting about chestnuts! I’ve been trying to find a reliable primal opinion about them for a while.

  35. I’m new to Primal/Paleo eating…only about 8 weeks in. Comment by Anders Emil ‘Vinegar is definitely number one reason why I’m primal and not paleo’ has confused me…what is the difference?

    1. Paleo, as I understand, literally doesn’t eat anything a caveman wouldn’t have had access too… They probably didn’t know how to make vinegar, most of them probably didn’t have reliable access to salt (depending on locality) and i’m sure a plethora of other things (cheese and alcohol) where as primal is just more of a loosely understood idea of what our bodies can handle digesting optimally, for health… in reality, everyones body is different, and just cause mark says balsamic is “primal” doesn’t mean you should eat it. I eat good quality vinegars because they are good for my body, and because it doesn’t cause a negative reaction in my body, or give me carb cravings, which is the determining factor for all foods I eat. It’s like a cost benefeit analysis for your body, determined by you, based on how you feel. We are the best at fooling our own selves. But that is part of the journey.

      1. Thanks Kevin. I obviously have more reading to do! Am enjoying reading Primal Blueprint, and based on these responses, am now learning there is a difference 🙂 I thought it was all one and the same! so its good to get the clarification.

  36. I love the verdict on balsamic….I have to admit I was worried there. I use balsamic a lot….not with bread though 🙂

  37. Dear Mark, I’ve just become aware of and interested in your website and am currently reading the Primal Blueprint book with great interest. BUT…today’s post saying “Keep in mind, readers: once my edict on a particular food has been handed down, once it has been deemed Primal or not Primal, the word is sacrosanct. It must be hewed to, or else you will suffer the consequences”….you are entering control freak territory, SEVERELY diminishing your credibility. Be careful there Mark. Leave things open please. I want to stay interested in this.

    Read more:

      1. I got the sarcastic part and derived mirth but the plain words read as quite the heavy-handed ministration. That was some powerful literature operating.

  38. Does this apply to water chestnuts as well, or are those different?

    1. Horse chestnuts are apparently poisonous and overly bitter to boot, no matter what you do to them. Sadly, all of the chestnut trees near me are horse chestnuts.

    1. Thanks for your response John, I’ll definitely have a look. I’m reading the Primal Blueprint atm.

  39. Balsamic vinegar (at least the cheap stuff), can sometimes have quite a bit of sugar in it to mimic the flavor found in the best quality stuff. I’d read the label before you buy.

    Some are fine, just be aware.

  40. My wife and I each ate 8-10 organic apricot kernels twice a day for years. I never got sick. Now we have gone a few years without them. We have experienced no noticeable difference in our health.

  41. Strongly disagree on the apricot kernels. I have a friend that fought cancer for 2 years via traditional methods, got sick of it and went on just B17. Cancer is completely gone.

    Did you know that if you give an ape (or most animals in captivity) a peach or apricot, they will discard the flesh and go straight for the kernel?

    One more anecdote: I have one grandma who has always thought apple seeds are poisonous… she has tons of health issues including cancer. My other grandma has eaten the entire apple her whole life (likes the taste) and is healthy as a horse.

    Check out this video:

    Basically when people say there is no evidence that amygdalin cures cancer it’s because there is no money in it like there is in cancer drugs/treatments.

    1. Three things:
      – Anecdotes tend to be of little worth as evidence. Cancer is something that incorporates many factors – oxidative stress, vitamin, mineral, pesticide, toxin intake, normal kind of stress… your anecdotes give far too little information to rule out ALL of those factors (as well as combinations of those factors) in favor of amygdalin.

      – Some evidence is needed for the
      animals in captivity claim.

      – There is plenty of money to be made in selling amygdalin. Just like there is plenty of money to be made selling herbs and other supplements. These products can’t be patented the way drugs can, but the potential profit margins are still huge.

      P.S. I used to think the way you do, I really did. But eventually I realized that these sort of statements make little sense. They’re convenient, but meaningless once you stop and think a bit more critically.

  42. Does anyone know if chitin can be broken down the same way as animal connective tissue in hot water?

  43. Hello, I would like to subscribe for this website to obtain most up-to-date updates, thus where can i do it please assist.

  44. Hi Mark – Great post. One quick question, given that Balsamic Vinegar contains sugars, doesn’t that make it non-Primal, or at least something you should eat in limited quantities?

  45. Since I have moved to South Korea I eat more seaweed than is natural for any one person. Instead of “sushi” (or kimbap for Koreans) I use it like my friends here -take a small sheet in your chopsticks and lay it on top of some food (rice, mashed sweet potato, etc), wrap it with the chopsticks and shove it in your mouth. DELICIOUSSSSS.

  46. Hi! Great post, I’ve been having doubts about vinegar for so long. But my questios is, what about calcium? I heard and read that vinegar makes your body loose calcium :/

    Cavegirl hug!

  47. You mention eating chestnuts cracked and raw off of the tree, but I thought raw chestnuts were poisonous. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  48. Re the balsamic: what do you all think about flavored white balsamic vinegars? I enjoy drizzling a peach one over full fat Greek yogurt. Per the company that sells it, it contains no sugar, but since it’s sort of sweet and tastes like peach it clearly has peach juice in it. I say a little is ok, but what do you think?

  49. This article should say ‘there has been one report’ of apricot kernel toxicity, not reports, since the pubmed report of toxicity that is linked to is the only one in the database.

    Only the beta-glucosidase enzyme can break down the bonds of amygdalin, releasing its constituent molecules :glucose and the toxic cyanide and benzaldehyde. However, the body contains only trace beta-glucosidase, so most amygdalin is excreted intact in the urine, the cyanide unreleased and inert. Cancer cells, on the other hand, contain 100 to 3000x more beta-glucosidase than normal cells. Studies by Kanematsu Sigiura at Sloan Kettering and other studies have proved that it works. A handful of highly questionable studies casted doubt on the successes and the treatment was marginalized as inconclusive.

    The reason no one has ever died from seed consumption is that cyanide metabolizes immediately. The only people who have ever experienced significant toxicity are fools who did no research on the subject and consume many times more seeds than are needed, and all at once. Only pure, lab-extracted cyanide has ever been used as a poison. Again, no cyanide-containing compounds like amygdalin have ever killed anyone, only extracted cyanide.

    Then you refer to the lethal oral dose, which would require 180 kernels eaten in one second (impossible), and assumes all kernels would be unlocked by beta-glucosidase (impossible). Cyanide plummets in potential lethality when exposure is spread over a matter of seconds and minutes, let alone hours. The reality of the treatment is 5-7 kernels eaten a few times a day across many hours. It is completely harmless.

    I love this blog, but this a really poor treatment of the subject.

  50. I was worried about the sugar content. My bottle of balsamic goes for about $20 but is sooooo worth it. However, it does have 5 grams of sugar per serving. Some have more or less and I think I should stay away from balsamic glaze. It goes great with everything from salad to just dipping broccoli and cauliflower florets in it.

  51. Well, if you have to eat an ass salad, make it a big one. Because a small ass salad definitely won’t satisfy. However, you might actually mean a “big-ass salad” instead of a “big ass salad.” Because I don’t know what the hell an ass salad is, but I do know what a compound adjective is.