Is It Primal? – Popcorn, Corn Tortillas, Rye, and Other Foods Scrutinized

PopcornEvery so often, people ask about foods that are clearly not Primal. While the more diehard among you might expect me to ignore and lambast these fine folks, I think this is the wrong tactic. We can’t have any sacred cows (except, perhaps, grass-fed ones) in this business; we must always be willing to examine our beliefs and explore “forbidden” foods. If some of them turn out to be not so bad – or even beneficial – we end up with even more choices. And that’s generally a good thing to have. Plus, even though most of the questionable foods may not end up getting “Primal approval,” at least we’ll be more informed and better prepared to make good choices when we decide to “stray” or cheat. Because cheating is going to happen. Because the 80/20 rule is a good rule to follow. Why not know what we’re getting into? Why not lean toward harm reduction, even as we eat something that isn’t exactly Primal?

That’s ultimately what this ongoing series is all about.


It’s an American tradition, isn’t it? You fork over thirty bucks for a pair of movie tickets, trundle into the theater, and head directly to the concession stand for a gallon of Icee, some nachos, a box of Junior Mints, and a large buttered popcorn (with free refills). For many people, moviegoing just isn’t the same without the feed. As Primal Blueprinters, I’m sure you can handle yourselves at the cinema. The Icees, the nachos, the candies don’t really interest or tempt you – you’ve snuck in a BPA-free container of roasted lamb leg, after all – but the popcorn calls to you. For one, sometimes they use real butter as a topper. For two, most places still pop it in actual coconut oil. For three, it’s salty and, let’s face it, delicious.

Popcorn has gotten some press as of late as a great source of polyphenols. Problem is, all those antioxidants are located in the hull of the kernel, that brown, flaky carapace that gets lodged between teeth and embedded in throats. The hull is also made up of insoluble fiber, which can add bulk to your stool, but it’s not the most digestible nutrient around. If you’re not digesting it, are you really getting the popcorn phytonutrients?

Corn has phytic acid, which can chelate certain minerals in the gut and prevent your absorption of them. However, heat treatment of dried corn reduces phytic acid by up to 52%. Since popping corn requires around 450 ºF of heat, you should be reducing at least a fair bit of phytic acid in the process. They do have a low-phytic acid “mutant corn” that could be a better alternative (PDF), but it’s mostly reserved for animal feed.

Microwaved popcorn is definitely bad. It’s flavored with diacetyl (fake butter flavor), an additive that may exacerbate amyloid plaque progression in Alzheimer’s disease. Then there are the microwaveable bags themselves, which impart a healthy dosage of PFOA to the popped corn. PFOA is a synthetic surfactant also used in Teflon products (and microwaveable popcorn bags). It’s carcinogenic and, upon introduction into the environment (or our bodies), it persists indefinitely.

Verdict: Not Primal, but it’s not the worst cheat snack you can have. If you’re buying at a movie theater, make sure they pop it in coconut oil and add real butter (not butter-flavored soy oil). If you’re doing it at home, use a good pot with ghee or coconut oil. And stay away from microwaved popcorn at all costs. But roasted lamb is unequivocally better for moviegoing.

Corn tortillas

I put grains on a spectrum of bad to better, with wheat occupying the former position and rice sitting at the latter spot. Corn’s somewhere near the middle, closer to rice than to wheat. It’s got zein, a prolamine that bears some similarity to gluten, but it’s not as reactive as gluten in most people (unless there’s a “zein-free” movement sweeping the nation of which I’m unaware). It’s not very nutritious, but then again, neither is rice. So, what’s the deal?

Corn tortillas are probably the best way to consume corn. By their very definition, corn tortillas are subjected to nixtamalization, an ancient form of corn processing that reduces antinutrients like phytic acid, unlocks B-vitamins like niacin, and fights back against mycotoxins. It also increases the available protein content of the corn while increasing the bioavailability of the calcium. In other words, it makes a fairly nutritionally-poor food a bit more nutritious – not all that important for those reading those, who likely have access to a wide range of nutrient-dense foods, but vital for populations who relied on corn for a large portion of their food intake. For us, it makes corn tortillas less problematic.

Even “better” are sprouted corn tortillas, which you’ll probably have to go out of your way to purchase. I don’t buy them, because I only eat corn tortillas when I’m out and my fancy is struck, and Tito’s Taqueria probably isn’t going to have sprouted tortillas. When I do tacos at home, I typically just use lettuce wraps or Primal Tex-Mex tortillas.

Here’s my basic take on the corn tortilla thing: when you’re walking off the mezcal sweats on a Puerto Vallarta night and you come upon a vendor serving up lengua and birria and cabeza tacos on corn tortillas, don’t ask the dude for a lettuce or cabbage wrap. Don’t probe your addled brain for the Spanish pronunciation of “GMO.” Just take the tacos, get extra hot sauce and cilantro, and put them in your mouth. Okay, fine – remove the second tortilla layer if you must.

Verdict: Not Primal, but sometimes you just have to do it.


Rye is another grain on the spectrum, just like corn. It’s closer to wheat, though, close enough that the two can enjoy illicit relations and produce viable gluteny offspring. Rye contains gluten, albeit a weaker form of it. It’s still gluten, though, and celiacs and the gluten-sensitive cannot and should not eat rye. If you’re trying to avoid gluten for general health, like I am, you’ll also want to avoid rye.

Another reason that many people avoid wheat, their gluten-sensitivity status notwithstanding, is a lectin called wheat germ agglutinin, or WGA. WGA can perforate the stomach lining and interact with insulin receptors, among other interesting effects (which I wrote about here). Sounds like another reason to choose rye over wheat, eh? Well, despite the fact that you don’t have to make that decision (hint: you can choose neither), rye (and barley, for that matter) has a lectin that strongly resembles WGA “with respect to [its] chemical, physical, biological and immunological properties.” In other words, rye has its own form of WGA that probably acts pretty similar on our bodies and our guts.

Some folks get test results showing that they’re “wheat-intolerant” without being intolerant of rye. That’s fine. Just be careful if you do decide to stray and snack on rye bread; most rye breads are cut with wheat flour, since making a pure rye loaf apparently takes some culinary knowhow, and the resultant product – being dense and heavy and dark – isn’t quite what most people expect from bread. I’d also be leery of considering rye harmless, as I suspect that the real reason people don’t seem to complain much about rye is that it’s a virtual rarity when compared to the ubiquitousness of wheat. Besides pumpernickel and the odd chance you have a Reuben sandwich, just how often do you come across rye?

Verdict: Not Primal.


Whenever a noxious, overly complex food or condiment that “takes some getting used to” arrives on my plate, I tend to assume that it must contain some incredible health benefit, or else why the heck would anyone ever think to start eating it? Wasabi is no different. Possessing a unique hotness that affects the nasal passageways more than the tongue, wasabi grows naturally in Japan, where it’s been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. Nowadays, it’s used in Japanese cuisine, particularly with sushi. A dollop of the green grated wasabi root atop a slice of mackerel sashimi with several drops of soy sauce is pretty much close to perfection, I gotta say.

So, I obviously approve of the stuff, but what’s so great about it? Since it was a traditional medicinal herb, what are the potential health benefits?

  • 6-MSITC, a major bioactive compound derived from wasabi root, possesses “anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-platelet, and anti-cancer” properties. Unlike common over the counter NSAIDs, which tend to inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 (major inflammatory enzyme pathways), it inhibits only COX-2.
  • A wasabi leaf extract was able to suppress oxidative stress and the resultant DNA damage in H. pylori-infected gerbils subjected to physical stress.
  • Grated wasabi used in a marinade can protect the food from bacterial contamination.

And it’s one those things that only a human could learn to love, which is what’s so great about it. You could give a dog wasabi twenty times and it would never learn to enjoy it. What is it about humans that we’re able to turn culinary misery into hedonistic bliss? Who was the first person to grate some wasabi root over a piece of raw fish, pop it into his mouth, and think it was a good idea? I don’t know, but I’m glad it happened.

Plus, wasabi is a great way to get a few good laughs at the expense of naive, avocado-loving children. “Oh, that? That’s guacamole. Try a spoonful!” It always works.

Verdict: Primal.

Sweetleaf Flavored Stevia

I’ve discussed stevia before and given my full approval. That hasn’t changed, but what about Sweetleaf flavored stevia, which includes “natural flavors”? Natural flavors have gotten a bad rap in some circles because they can sometimes refer to MSG, which some folks try to avoid. But the natural flavors that contain MSG are in foods where the umami unctuousness makes sense: your crispy chips, your ranch dressings, your processed salty snacky carby junk. It just doesn’t make sense to stick MSG in some lemon-flavored stevia. Unless you’re a fan of fish sauce in your lemonade, the two flavors would simply clash.

So I wouldn’t worry about natural flavors in Sweetleaf. They’ll likely be made up of essential oils, extracts, and other similar compounds.

Sweetleaf itself seems to be a legit product. It was founded by James May, who fell in love with the herb in 1982 after a Peace Corps volunteer brought some back from South America and let him try it. After 25 years of battling regulation and industry opposition, in 2008 he finally succeeded in getting the FDA to authorize stevia as GRAS – generally recognizable as safe. Before the GRAS decision, you had to buy stevia as a topical lotion or nutritional supplement, but now, it can be sold on store shelves as a healthy sweetener. And healthy it is.

In my previous stevia post (linked above), I showed that not only is stevia harmless as a non-caloric sweetener, it actually possesses significant health benefits. Well, the evidence in favor of stevia keeps coming in. Most recently, Suppversity went over the latest research suggesting the anti-diabetic, pro-anabolic, anti-autoimmune, and anti-obesity effects of stevia. Since Sweetleaf is pure stevia leaf extract with no other sweeteners added for bulk (like erythritol), you’re not getting diluted stevia. You get all the bioactive compounds that have the health benefits.

It’s a nice story, a good company, and a solid product made by a good man who was instrumental in making stevia widely available in this country (even going up against the likes of Donald Rumsfeld), so I think it’s a worthy addition to your sweetener arsenal.

Verdict: Primal.

That’s it for today, folks. If you’ve got any more foods you want scrutinized, please, send them along and I’ll do my best to address them. 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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144 thoughts on “Is It Primal? – Popcorn, Corn Tortillas, Rye, and Other Foods Scrutinized”

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  1. Instead of corn tortillas you can get flaxseed tortillas at Trader Joe’s. They are relatively primal except the oil they cook them in. I also have a recipe for paleo almond meal tortillas. I love guacamole so I make them pretty often. Only problem is they are high in fat due to the almond.

        1. I think Tara is referring to “Only problem is they are high in fat” – why is that a problem.

    1. Flaxseed is a laxative for some people. A teaspoon is enough for me. I shudder at the idea of an entire flax tortilla.

      1. I have the same sort of reaction. Also, nut-based primal foods give me the worst stomach aches (coconut flour included) so normally if I’m going to make tortillas, I make them with tapioca flour. Pretty high on the carb scale, but in moderation it’s a better choice for those who have stomach upset from high amounts of nuts and seeds :]

      2. I get unpleasant hormonal reactions due to the high phytoestrogen content. I feel great on nixtamal. For me, corn tortillas > flax tortills, any day.

    2. Couldn’t find flaxseed tortillas at Trader Joe’s — only flaxseed tortilla chips — and suggestions as to where to find them in the store??

      Also, checked your website for almond meal tortillas and no luck there either — links please??

    3. Hrm, if fat’s a problem for you, wouldn’t the highest source of fat be the avocado?

    4. Popcorn – “Verdict: Not Primal, but it’s not the worst cheat snack you can have.”

      Thank Jesus… hahaha

  2. Corn tortilla chips – “Not primal, but sometimes you just have to do it.” I may or may not have had a one-night stand with a (few) bowl(s) of chips last weekend. Sadly, like more one-night stands, it wasn’t worth it! lol

    1. Most* not more. Although I guess both are true? Agh why do I say these things on the internet?!

      1. In both cases its the heartburn the next day that kills ya lol

      2. Susie. You told me you had changed. I believed you!

        Zucchini Chips

    2. Susie,

      It was the best night of my life.

      Miss you,
      Corn tortilla chips

        1. Wish there were a primal guacamole scooper as good as corn tortilla chips at restaurants.

  3. Good info. Thanks Mark. I eat traditional organic tortillas several times a week. Glad to know they are ok as 20%. They are childhood comfort food for me so, yeah, I gotta do it.

    1. Where oh where can I buy organic corn tortillas? I’ve looked high and low…

      1. Where do you live? I live in Sacramento, California, and they are easy to find. I buy mine at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Bought some today as a matter of fact.

  4. If you want to make some better microwave popcorn, put a tablespoon of kernels in a brown paper bag (like a lunch bag), and microwave for about 2 minutes. Listen closely for when the popping becomes about once per second – that’s the key to take it out.


    1. I figured popcorn would be primal even if its not a great food. I was taught that Native North Americans made it. I also consider corn primal since the young cob sprouts can be eaten raw.

      1. Today’s corn bears little resemblance to what Native Americans used to eat.

        1. So does every other fruit and vegetable. (Bear very little resemblance to it’s “orginal” version, that is.) You do what can.

        2. Not my delicious wild apples, or, somewhat wild at least. I don’t know if they spread from bred and planted trees but they grow all around my preferred town.
          Foraging for them is much more rewarding than picking through those wax-covered pesticide laden ones in grocery stores.
          The wild berries usually taste better than store-bought as well.
          It’s dumbfounding seeing organic wild fruit all around and I’ve only ever heard of two other people in the town picking berries.
          I wouldn’t expect a lot of sales but I’ve considered picking a bunch and bringing them to the farmer’s market, underselling all the farmers (10 cents per apple probably, as they are small), though that’s just an idea and not a plan.

    2. As per Alton Brown, two staples on the brown paper bag is just fine, and in my experience it has been.

      Note – for me, popcorn is now solidly in the “not food” category, but if it’s in yours, enjoy.

    3. What, no mention of a Hot Air Popping Machine? Pop it up and then pour olive oil and ancho chili powder on it and then top it off with some sea salt. I only do this about once a year now and bring it in to the movies.

  5. Wasabi is great if it’s REAL wasabi. Much of what passes for wasabi in American sushi restaurants is actually a mixture of horseradish, mustard, starch and green food coloring.

    Always ask. Many of the sushi places that I visit keep a stash of the real thing on hand but you have to ask for it.

    1. I have to agree–wasabi here is NOTHING compared to the Silver Spring Gardens brand Beer-n-Brat Mustard. Talk about a sinus-opener!

    2. +1

      Pay attention folks….
      Commercial wasabi like you get in99% of Asian restaurants is garbage !!


      1. Similar situation with coffee. I like just about all coffee but got organic instant coffee a couple times and it was so much better. The taste was a little weird at first but I quickly got used to it and it made me feel better than the conventional stuff, plus seemed pretty good for energy levels.

      2. You’re absolutely right. Like anything, it’s important to do your due diligence. It’s always best to ask if the wasabi is real if out at a restaurant and if your buying wasabi from the grocery store, be sure to read the label. Real wasabi is sweet with a balanced spiciness, while fake wasabi is usually overly intense.

        Does anyone have a go-to wasabi they really like?

  6. Just for the record, my dog LOVES wasabi. I spilled some once and he couldn’t get enough of it. 😉

    1. I had a beastly tabby cat as a pet as a kid.. actually watched it eating trail mix from a bowl my brother left on the coffee table, and once his brother was munching on a piece of fried potato that someone dropped at breakfast. I didn’t think that was a good idea so I reached for it. The cat growled menacingly, I backed off. Must have been good butter on the potato.

      1. I don’t know… My husband is not primal, and eats oven baked tater tots and fries. Sometimes one will fall on the floor and rarely has to be cleaned up later. One of our cats usually takes care of it for us. No butter on them at all, but the cats still love them.

        1. One of our cats begs for fruits and vegetables. Occasionally we give him a bit of apple, broccoli, carrrot, or whatever non-dangerous thing we’re cutting. The vet says this is OK provided it’s not a lot.

          He once grabbed a whole loaf of homemade bread (pre-primal) off the counter and ate a huge chunk, resulting in a visit to the vet.

          FWIW, onions, garlic, other alliums, grapes, raisins and some other things are VERY bad for cats and dogs – we’re on guard when we handle any of those.

      1. Indeed. You should have seen the first-mentioned cat jump straight up in the air about six feet from a relaxed sitting position, catch a squirrel by the neck that was trying to leap from a bird feeder, and land with it dead in its mouth. Coolest thing I ever saw. I think it knew that I knew it was going to do it too. It gave me a mischievous and confident look first as I was watching from a doorway.

        1. I’ve seen our veggie-eating cat snatch a wasp mid-air and eat it, leaving the stinger behind. He contains multitudes.

  7. A spoonful of wasabi for your kid? How many times have you done this? I’m not sure if I’m impressed or terrified. It’s definitely now on my to-do list. 🙂

    1. Totally gonna do this!

      This could be considered a “primal” prank if you’re carrying your kid rather than pushing them around in a stroller!

        1. “Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid buy education.”
          -Bertrand Russel

  8. So what about the old school air popped popcorn? My daughter wanted one for Christmas (she thought it was hilarious that I got so excited about finding something still around from my childhood) and we’ve been air popping fools ever since. There’s even a little cup where it will melt the butter for you so you can pour it on top but I usually just eat it with some cayenne pepper or some Black & Red from Penzy’s.

  9. “Plus, wasabi is a great way to get a few good laughs at the expense of naive, avocado-loving children. “Oh, that? That’s guacamole. Try a spoonful!” It always works.”

    That’s horrible.

    That’s also how my daughter first encountered wasabi. She didn’t ask, she assumed… And it was hilarious.

    1. I once ate a generous spoonful of wasabi, thinking it was guacamole, at a party. It practically blew my head off! People kept telling me “spit it out!” but NO, that would be too crude.

      We all laugh about it now, but I would not wish it on anyone!

  10. My kids are gluten free, not yet primal. I make a corn muffin from Masa Harina (Bob’s Red Mill), sweet rice flour and tapioca starch. They eat it up. The Masa Harina has been traditionally treated with lime, so I’m fine with making it for them.

  11. There’s one reddish spice, cayenne I think, that when heated up enough makes a very excruciating smoke.
    My first boss got me with that when I worked washing dishes.
    Smell this, it smells really good! A little whiff of that smoke and my eyes were watering and irritated, plus I wheezed and coughed more than when I decided to try tobacco (don’t experiment with that if you haven’t!)

  12. Ah Mark, written like a true Californian! There’s just nothing like a delicious cabeza or lengua taco from my local taco truck. I ditch the second tortilla and lick the fat and salsa off my fingers!

    1. Your avatar reminds me of a book I’ve been reading recently, The Book of Days: Oddities and Curiosities in the 365 Days of the Calendar. It’s fascinating. It contains historical facts and excerpts from letters, journals etc., many from the middle ages with “charming line drawings” (true that!), plus Monday I found a golden-looking goblet from Medieval Times (from Tampa, Florida) I think.
      I have to wash it out properly before drinking from it but I look forward to the experience. I went to Medieval Times in Toronto or around there while a kid, it was a great experience, I didn’t want to miss any of the action and was very thirsty so I kept my bladder sphincters subdued, and upon pissing after, counted 70 seconds, which I think was fairly accurate.
      All that Pepsi is probably to blame. I think the chicken should have contained the organs. Plus some pastured eggs. Are you listening Medieval Times bosses? Incoorporate!

  13. For movie snacks, I sometimes bring a handful of almonds and an ounce of dark chocolate.

    I’m now thinking pork rinds might not be a bad idea either.

    Usually I skip movie snacks. Honestly, usually I skip movies – I just don’t have the butt-power to make it through one these days.

    1. Hubby still loves the movies – especially the epic bladder busters they make now. I would watch TV for hours during my high carb days. I get kinda restless now pretty quickly.

      Also the new movies overwhelm my senses to the point of discomfort. On the rare occasions when I watch, I tend to prefer the older movies just because they don’t have over 100 years of movie history to compete with. (And Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland is still amazing 90 years later.)

  14. Hi Mark, I was just wondering how you and other primals are doing with your bowel movements? I am a very constipated person so I wanted to know what would be the best foods to eat so I can go #2 without having to take laxatives? Thanks!

    1. Lots of fats, veggies, and some fruit and an emphasis on keeping a healthy gut biome keep things moving easily for people on the primal diet. Eating a tablespoon of straight virgin coconut oil a few times a day is a good way to prevent constipation, but it is something you’d have to balance because too much will give you diarrhea.

      1. Gorging on lots of protein can make constipation worse.
        I find that eating large amounts of just meat, especially for more than one meal, kind of makes me feel like I’m squeezing out concrete.
        I like a bit of sauerkraut with my meat. That does the trick.

    2. constipated my entire life since primary school until I went primal. The first few weeks were awful though. I did resort to an over the counter fibre supplement. But as soon as that dreadful first weeks passed (amongst the 42 yrs of grain that passed ha ha) Ive been regular and happy happy since. I no longer go as often, and the amount has changed, but it’s super awesome. I know I know gross right, but food goes in, poop comes out, It’s natural. For someone who has suffered ALL her life, this is such a wonderful relief. Praise be! Hugs Mark another benefit from Primal yippeeeee

    3. Drink lots of water, eat animal fat, green non-starchy veggies and a piece of fruit – in addition to meat/eggs.

  15. I pop corn occasionally in bacon fat. All it needs is a little salt and it’s delicious!

  16. I would like for Mark to have given an opinion of popcorn at home too. I assumed it was bad at the theater of the oils used. When I eat popcorn at home it is air popped and I use grass-fed butter with some salt.

    1. He does, actually. It’s not primal because it is still a grain, and the way you cook it won’t change that. The stuff they put in it at the theater (or in the microwave bag) is what changes it from being an ok indulgence to something you should never eat. Air popped is going to be about as good as cooked in coconut oil, so if you tolerate it and don’t need to lose weight it should be fine in your 20%.

  17. I can’t imagine that the coconut oil they use in movie theaters is very high quality…

  18. “Just how often do you come across rye” – here in Sweden, every single day! Knäckebröd with 100 % rye is one indulgence I have kept, preferable thin with lots of butter, bolied egg and pickled herring on top!

      1. No, grains are all out as far as Primal goes. That’s why popcorn and rye are nixed. But of course, if that’s your cheat food you eat maybe once a week or so, then so be it. Just make sure you enjoy the heck out of it :]

        1. I’m not going to argue that “rye is paleo” or primal


          there is HUGE difference between “rye” and “100% rye sourdough bread” (or Knäckebröd). When making that bread, your start with rye flour and water, end with a bunch of microorganism, heaps of new compounds and pre-digested starches.
          It’s the same difference as between “cabbage” and “Sauerkraut”.

          @Binki: same here in Austria – it’s not Knäckebrot, but that 100% rye sourdough wood-fired-oven bread. All bakers and almost every supermarket stocks it.
          Traditionally, rye sourdough bread was ALWAYS eaten with some fat.

  19. Didn’t Matt Lalonde say that WGA is destroyed by heat and cooking? So a lectin with similar physical and chemical properties would similarly degrade under common cooking practices, right? On the other hand, there are less conspicuous lectins in rye that likely are not degraded.

    Also, as far as I know MSG isn’t toxic to humans. The dosage in humans does not compare to the dosage in rats. Just my 2 cents

  20. Wasabi is the single most noxious food I can think of. Roasted, suckling baby goat head in Mexico: no problem. Wasabi: immediate and complete gag reflex engaged.

  21. I was actually wondering about popcorn and corn tortillas just last night. I guess the gist is: okay, but use sparingly.

  22. I take green seedless grapes into the theater. They provide a good crispy crunch/snap and satisfy the sweet tooth. (Note: I have to hide them, or they won’t let me in.)

    1. I’ve brought a backpack in a few times, never got stopped.
      Otherwise I just wear something with big pockets to sneak in my snacks and water bottles.

    2. really? At my local theater we take in pretty much anything we like. Not sure if it’s like this Australia wide, but pre primal days Id take in blocks of choc, bottles of coke, plastic tumblers, the works… movies are so expensive here, and the food prices, forget it.
      These days I take in a diet soft drink (bad bad) and a block of good quality dark chocolate of which I eat a few squares.

      1. If I were to indulge on some soda, I’d make it a high-quality one indeed. Reed’s ginger ale or Virgil’s root beer/cream soda. Both(same company) use high quality ingredients, all natural of course, and are microbrewed. You can actually taste real vanilla in the root beer!

  23. Not directly on-topic, but I have to share how I couldn’t believe my eyes yesterday when I saw that the olives in the fresh olive bar at the local ShopRite were sitting in CANOLA OIL. They’re OLIVES, for pity’s sake, use OLIVE OIL!!! Makes me so angry; they were looking so good (until I read the ingredients list)…

  24. I started making my own corn tortillas. I can’t find organic masa here (nor what I need to soak and process my own corn from scratch–I’d love to try), but they taste so much better. My husband is Mexican, and I think cutting tortillas out altogether would be grounds for divorce 😀

    Adore wasabi peas.

    1. Wasabi coated macadamia nuts, now there’s a treat I need to buy again.

  25. I have some Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina at home. Bought it during one of my “miss my cornbread and chili” days. It’s been soaked in lime, dried and then ground. I still can’t eat huge amounts (prediabetes) but a corn tortilla would go really nice with that chili. Could even add a little bit to paleo “bread” and possibly come close to cornbread.

  26. With all due respect who gives a crap if you think a food is paleo or primal?? Who elected you as judge??

    1. Hmmm, you question doesn’t sound particularly respectful to me. I know you’re probably just a troll, but to answer your question, lots of folks ask Mark whether he thinks a food is paleo or primal. It’s rather nice of him to answer, don’t you think? But yeah he’s not the boss of you, so just stick your fingers in your ears and go “Lalalalala” if you don’t want to listen to him.

    2. I elected him as judge. With all due respect, I’ll meet you behind the playground tomorrow after school if you want to make something of it. 🙂

    3. Mark is an opinion leader. Certain people respect his opinion. And he is gracious enough to provide us with is. You can agree with him or not. That’s it.

  27. A life without the occasional corn tortilla isn’t a life worth living.

  28. Instead of corn chips what about pork rinds? How about using lettuce to wrap your tacos in. I’ve found that a lot of places are willing to do that. I just think getting started on any grains again is a bad idea for me right now.

    Just like eating ice cream the sugar and the fact that I can’t digest doesn’t mean that i don’t miss it and if, offered often enough I am so tempted though I pay later.

    So, I make my own coconut ice cream and stay away from this stuff and others as much as possible. As for the stevia love the stuff and like getting my own loose leaf and making a concentrated syrup of it and adding as needed to drink and food. Wasibe is great but most places use green colored horse radish. Which I’m sure is great, but if you are looking for the real thing you should ask.

  29. i don’t do popcorn, corn, tortillas or rye(never liked rye anyway) and I don’t miss them. I would rather ‘cheat’ with a little extra fruit, or sweet potato, or rice. Any of the others would send me down the slippery slope 🙂

    1. Me too. Usually I’d only eat foods that aren’t primal if there’s not enough primal food available or I feel run down enough to splurge on carbs. Why commit to a dietary change and then purposefully be lax with it.
      Once in a while I do something that may be stupid, like having a couple energy drinks, or mindlessly zombie-munching a bunch of cookies, but I usually feel regretful after. I’m guessing I’ve spent, easily, over $1000 on energy drinks in the last 8 years. And it’s not I ever “needed” them until I started drinking them all the time. How pointless is that?

  30. I love Reubens more than any sandwich in the world, and will hit up the pubs in Boston a few times a year to grab one with a Guiness or three!

    However, the main reason I love Reubens is because corned beef is a magical meat, better than any other – no debate.. it’s a fact! So, instead of cheating all the time, I simply buy corned beef and braise it.. slice it thinly on to a plate, toss some shredded Swiss cheese on top and eat with mustard (in place of Russian dressing).

    It’s not perfect, but it honestly hits almost every spot in brain that a Reuben sandwich would.. but I do need that toasted marble Rye every so often!

  31. Hard to believe a few of those were even asked about–either because they are obviously not primal (popcorn, rye), or obviously are (wasabi)

  32. Really had to laugh about your wasabi dog comment, my labrador once at ~20g of wasabi which I left unguarded on the dining table 🙂

  33. “…when you’re walking off the mezcal sweats on a Puerto Vallarta night and you come upon a vendor serving up lengua and birria and cabeza tacos on corn tortillas, don’t ask the dude for a lettuce or cabbage wrap. Don’t probe your addled brain for the Spanish pronunciation of ‘GMO.'”


    1. “addled brain”.. is that phrase inspired by a line of Saruman’s in The Hobbit movie?

  34. I’ll be honest, as a non celiac person, indulging in corn seems to cause me more stomach distress than wheat. I’m not sure what it is (this zein business or something)… I still have an occasional street taco now and then, but for me corn is on my list of UNsafe starches.

      1. I get corn hangovers. Especially from chips. I doubt the oil they are made with is wonderful. A different effect than from wheat, but definitely on par.

  35. I’m thrilled that stevia is actually GOOD for you! I read your stevia post in the past, but for some reason I’ve still maintained the idea that stevia is decent, but not great and not something you should eat all the time. I think I’ll actually go buy some stevia now!

    1. We use stevia to stretch honey, etc on the rare occasions when we do Paleo baked goods. It lowers the calories/carbs and makes expensive ingredients last longer.

  36. “Plus, wasabi is a great way to get a few good laughs at the expense of naive, avocado-loving children. “Oh, that? That’s guacamole. Try a spoonful!” It always works.”

    LOL – I’ll have to get my kids to like guac first, then Pull the Ulitmate Prank. 😉

  37. Good to see we share the same general approach to the popcorn, corn tortillas, and stevia. 🙂

    We have used Sweetleaf Stevia for years – well before FDA lifted that crazy ban on it as a sweetener. It not “perfect” to bake with but nothing that concentrated is. It does a great job and 1 jar lasts forever. I’ve never had any problems with it.

  38. I keep the Sweetleaf packets in my purse so I have them if I’m out at a restaurant. I can’t stop drinking sweet tea!

  39. Wasabi is fairly expensive and doesn’t keep, so it has to be eaten freshly grated. The stuff you usually eat with sushi is most likely wasabi-flavored horseradish with green food coloring that comes out of a tube. Horseradish is still pretty healthy, so it’s not bad for you, it’s just not real wasabi.

  40. I save bacon grease and make my popcorn in that! My mom taught me that many, many years ago and to this day, it makes the best popcorn E.V.A.H!!!!

  41. Thanks for this post. I often wondered about popcorn popped in virgin coconut oil. I use a cast iron pan on the stove. Would you please comment on xylitol. I’ve used it in the past as it was promoted as a healthy alternative to sugar; however, recently I’ve been reading a lot of negatives regarding the processing. I no longer use it because I’m not sure. I would appreciate your comment.

  42. Mark, I read your posts every release and enjoy them immensely. I recommend them to friends and clients. And I’m finally getting around to saying thanks! Great work with your inspirational attitude and well researched posts. Today I was just so thrilled you gave Sweetleaf Stevia the thumbs up, as I have read conflicting information about stevia. Very happy to be able to continue to enjoy it.

    1. I’ve also read a lot of conflicting information. Does anyone have any good resources they could share?

  43. That was a GREAT article. I am celiac so totally gluten free and mostly corn free too because of reactions. I am curious about “grains” that are not really grains: quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat and teff, which I think is actually a grain but it’s protein profile is very high and apparently it is very healthful. I would LOVE to see a primal vs. not primal verdict on these grains. I am planning to do a major low carb overhaul based on the primal diet with some omissions for yoghurt (I know many do not agree with yoghurt but I am afraid to have no dairy calcium source). Anyway my research is stating that I could eat these grains in portion control once baby weight is off without it sparking cravings, but I would love the primal perspective on it as there are so many different approaches and opinions.

    1. i’m pretty sure he did quinoa and different varieties of rice before (white, brown, wild, etc…) Just use the handy search bar up top and you should find your answers.

  44. Rye whiskey, on the other hand, totally gluten-free. We have an awesome local one that actually tastes like grain, if you can imagine that in a good way. (That’s the white liquor straight from the still, too!)

  45. Wasabi is primal if you can get the actual vegetable itself and grind it yourself. And by the way, when you do that, it becomes much less of a sinus-clearing food.
    I would hesitate to call the stuff you get in tubes primal, as it contains added sugar and other nasties.

  46. Two words: wasabi powder. Add water a little at a time until desired consistency an let the tears flow. Just make sure it’s 100% pure.

    And I agree that when in Mexico, If you’re not eating fresh corn tortillas you’re insane. Tacos al pastor. Or even better, the stewed offal variety pot…

  47. I have one of the pickiest guts known to mankind. It tolerates very few carby foods, and it is very happy when I put popping corn in a brown paper lunch bag with a slab of coconut oil, on a (tough) plate, put it in the nuker, stand (way) back and let it rip. Then I add butter and popping salt. I think corn is closer to my roots than rice–at least that’s what my personal gut-ometer tells me. And, hey, since this site is about making our own health decisions…I vote for popcorn once in a while.

  48. Ingredients from a small pack of wasabi given to me with my sashimi in Sydney, Aus. Mind you, it was made in Japan:
    Hydrogenated corn syrup, water, horseradish, mustard, high fructose corn syrup, sunflower oil, soy finer product, salt, rapeseed oil, spice extract, emulsifier (sucrose eaters of fatty acids(e473)), beta- cyclodextrine(e459), aluminium potassium sulfate(e522), artificial colours (f.d.&c. Yellow #5(e102), blue #1(e133)).

    Seems like an overkill of ingredients to me!! Haha

  49. “Plus, wasabi is a great way to get a few good laughs at the expense of naive, avocado-loving children. “Oh, that? That’s guacamole. Try a spoonful!” It always works.”

    Why, just why would you do that to your child? 🙂

    1. + 1….I was wondering the exact same thing…and was amazed no one had mentioned the possible trust issues toward the reaction-seeking parents?..Could be a scary “fire-mouth” experience to a young one!

  50. “turn culinary misery into hedonistic bliss” As someone who periodically enjoys eating something that sets my mouth on fire, makes my eyes water and my nose run, that resonates with me. But, now I’m seriously craving something spicy! And don’t have anything readily available.

  51. Wow this happened to me!!!

    “Plus, wasabi is a great way to get a few good laughs at the expense of naive, avocado-loving children. “Oh, that? That’s guacamole. Try a spoonful!” It always works.”

    First time I was exposed to the sushi, I took a spoonful of wasabi:

    * My eyes glazed
    * My heart stopped
    * Tears flowed
    * I could not speak
    * I thought I was going to die right there

    Friends in the table got really scared. After a while (for me it was hours, real time it was less than one or two minutes) I could react and drink some water

    But now I am a proud wasabi master!

  52. I’m happy to report that I don’t use any stevia at all these days. Why is that a good thing, you ask? I think stevia is a great food, but not using it means I’ve almost completely weaned myself off of sweets.

    But for those of you still addicted, I highly recommend stevia as a substitute sweetener.

  53. Out of all the foods listed above tortilla chips have to be the hardest for me to give up. I try to buy organic whenever possible.

  54. Hi there,
    Great article, thanks. Now, I tend to stay far away from Stevia given the mixed information surrounding it, so I was wondering if you had an alternative to the same. Also, it would be great if you did a couple of YouTube cooking videos for both primal and paleo diets. Let me know what you think.

  55. Whole Foods sells organic, 100% sprouted corn tortillas made by Food for Life. Made with Lime…Can’t stop eating them. Hummus and bacon. Or uncured salami, gorgonzola, romaine and mustard…And for Wasabi, pure rhizomal powder from…..

  56. This is why I love Mark… He is so REASONABLE- It was b/c of Mark and his 80/20 suggestion that I have been able to follow primal living…otherwise, I would have fallen off the wagon and not done it at all. By staying 80/20 I have greatly improved mental and physical health- It’s hard to find people as intelligent as Mark to follow and I am grateful for finding this site (actually a friend found it and told me about it)

  57. are corn tortillas really gone through this process? would white wheat tortillas make more sense as they have the bran and phytic acid remove (at the taco stand) ?

    also the weston price foundation reccomends rye freshly ground to use as a starter for other grains to break down phytic acide. it seems to be the healthiest grain

  58. also i have heard that the wasabi generally served in sushi places is actually horseradish root colored green. can you confirm or deny this?

  59. Rye isn’t so bad if it’s prepared as a sourdough. I’ve had a very strong sensitivity to grains for a long time, but sourdough is totally different. I can eat it with no problems at all. It undergoes a change due to the fermentation. There is literature out there on the subject if you’re not already familiar. There is also sourdough pasta among other things besides the bread.

  60. LOL at the wasabi prank. The first time I had it as a kid I thought it was guacamole and ate a spoonful. I had a natural coughing reflex and some went out through my nose. I couldn’t see for like a minute.

    I also mistook the hot mustard for egg drop soup when I was about three. I didn’t like any Chinese food for a long time…

  61. Don’t listen to this guy he has no shame having animals murdered For his taste buds and appetite. Go vegan for the planet and especially animals he imparts violence upon.

  62. FYI, most of the “wasabi” you get in Sushi restaurants is not wasabi. It’s reconstituted horseradish with green food coloring.

  63. When I traveled to Finland (where I was born) I learned that they eat rye bread with large amounts of butter = 1/4″ thick!!!. I was told that the butterfat coats the stomach and prevents any absorption of the rye lectins during the digestion process. The rye passes through the stomach to the intestines but the carbs in rye do not pass through the intestinal wall so they do not comprise any part of the net carbs that spike insulin. If one only eats rye bread that contains the following ingredients: rye, water and salt (at all costs avoid added emulsifiers or other grains) the net carbs are zero. To repeat there are no carbs absorbed through the intestinal wall. I cannot tolerate any grains except rye and could not understand why until my visit to Finland.

  64. Forgot to mention that I was also told the gluten in rye is so weak that is killed during baking.