The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions from readers. First, should someone homozygous for the FADS variant that increases PUFA conversion eat less or more PUFA? Next, what’s the deal with all the mushroom coffees out on the market? Are they actually beneficial? Third, when looking for a healthy decaf coffee, what should you watch for? And finally, how should a breakfast skipper/intermittent faster deal with increased morning hunger caused by morning workouts?
Let’s find out:
For years, the ancestral health community has shunned the humble peanut. I did so myself in fact. “Why can’t I have peanuts?”a person would ask. “Because they’re legumes,” would be the standard answer. And that was that. The status of legumes was sacrosanct in paleo world. Case closed. In recent years, however, our stance on legumes has softened.
The lectins and phytic acid we worry about, it turns out, are mostly deactivated by heat and proper preparation. A bit of phytic acid can even be a good thing, provided you have the gut bacteria necessary to convert it into beneficial micronutrients. All in all, legumes turn out to be a relatively nutrient-dense source of resistant starch and other prebiotic fibers. If you can swing the carbs and you feel fine eating them, legumes are on the table.
My friend, former co-competitor, business partner, and writing buddy Brad Kearns had been on a “Quantified Self” kick, tracking biomarkers, testing blood sugar and ketone levels, and staying abreast of all the various ways we can quantitatively check our progress. He’s months into a ketogenic experiment and had hoped to marry his subjective impressions to objective measurements to strengthen his intuition and improve his results.
Conventional wisdom has decreed that “detox” is a myth. They’re not even sure if toxins even exist, as far as I can tell. On the other side, you’ve got detox gurus prescribing cayenne-maple-lemon tea and glasses full of charcoal water as cures for essentially everything. Where’s the truth lie?
First, detoxification does exist. It’s an established concept, after all, with its very own spot in the dictionary. When we come into contact with toxins—compounds that pose a threat to our healthy homeostasis—we must remove or nullify them. That’s detoxification.
I get a lot of industry news. I eat out a fair bit. I talk to people whose job it is to spot and track health trends. I’m privy to some of the greatest, most innovative minds in the alternative health community—my readers. And you guys are always sending me interesting links. Today, I’m going to discuss some trends of Primal interest. I might poke fun at some of them, and others might be relatively small-scale, but even the silly or minor ones point to interesting movements in the health and fitness zeitgeist.
So, what are the 9 I’m highlighting today?
Intermittent fasting, schmittermittent schmasting. The hot new trend is the extended fast—eating nothing and drinking only non-caloric beverages for no less than three days and often as many as 30-40 days. A mere compressed eating window this isn’t.
If fasting for more than three days sounds riskier than just skipping breakfast, you’re right. Long fasts can get you into trouble. They’re a big commitment. You shouldn’t just stumble into one because it sounds interesting or some guy on your Twitter feed wrote about it.
Every year, it’s the same thing: U.S. News and World Report ranks 38 of the most popular diets from best to worst. And every single time, the paleo diet—or some variant, in this case the Whole30 plan—comes in dead last. I’ve written about this before. You know my stance. You know how silly the whole thing is, and why you shouldn’t care about a ranking, especially when you’ve transformed your health eating the “worst diet in the world.”
Frankly, I’m skeptical these reports have much impact anymore.
The growth of the Primal movement has not gone unnoticed. Food producers have latched on because, as much as we emphasize foraging the perimeter of the grocery store—the produce, the meats, the bulk goods—and eschewing processed foods, we remain creatures of convenience. Not everyone has the time or inclination to personally prepare every single morsel that enters their mouths. Sometimes we just need something quick and easy to snack on. And the food industry has risen to the occasion, offering ostensibly healthy Primal-friendly snack foods.
But are they really healthy?
Technology has improved our lives, whether through the creation of new tools or by upgrading existing ones. Taxis were okay, but Uber and similar car service apps make them better (and self-driving cars will improve upon car service further). Craigslist makes classified ads free and easier to access. E-readers save trees and let people store entire libraries in the palm of their hands. Whereas world travelers used to have to wait a month for their postcard to reach a recipient (with another month for the reply), emails sent from Bangalore to Boston arrive in milliseconds. And perhaps most importantly of all, knowledge has been democratized. You can read anything from almost any time period using a device that fits in your pocket. You can talk to people halfway across the world in real time. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do on a daily basis. Using the tools created by tech enthusiasts, I can reach millions of people every day and millions of entrepreneurs are creating new lives for themselves and new services and tools for others.
But are there limits to technological progress? Can technology improve everything?
If you spend a day or two on social media sites, you get the idea that essential oils are a panacea that can replace every modern medicine, both over the counter and prescription. Kid got a fever? Rub a little of this oil on his feet. Big job interview coming up in a few minutes? Inhale a little of this to relax. Fungal infection? Splash some of this on. It’s gotten particularly out of hand on Pinterest, where multi-level marketing schemers attempt to convince everyone they absolutely need to become essential oil wholesalers. Conversely, if you hang around in the online skeptic communities (Science Based Medicine, Quackwatch, etc.), you come away with the impression that essential oils are at best pleasant-smelling placebos and at worst expensive poisons. So – who’s right? Who’s wrong? Are essential oils simply glorified air fresheners without any evidence of efficacy, or does the truth lie somewhere between the two extremes?
Let’s first dig into the common claims and the evidence for some of the most popular essential oils.