Meet Mark

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...

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Tag: is it primal?

Is Monk Fruit Sweetener a Healthy Choice?

Primal eating for many people means prioritizing whole foods but not entirely eschewing natural sweeteners in the occasional recipe. We’ve covered the likes of stevia, yacon syrup, and Swerve recently, but what about another popular choice in the growing selection of natural sweetners—monk fruit? What is it, and where does it come from? What are the benefits (not to mention risks) that studies point out? And how do we compare the various formulations next to each other in the supermarket aisle? Let’s break this down. What Is Monk Fruit? Known as luo han guo in its native southern China, monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) first found acclaim in the records of 13th century Luo Han Buddhist monks. The monks valued the inherent sweetness of the fruit and made it their mission to cultivate the vines through the centuries. Today, most monk fruit cultivation still takes place in the misty mountains of China’s Guangxi province and a few surrounding areas, where the conditions are just right to grow and harvest the small, orange-sized fruits. Monk fruit belongs to the cucurbit family, alongside the likes of squash, cucumber and watermelon. Fresh off the vine, the mini melons have a bitter outer rind encasing a sweet edible pulp and seeds. But unless you know someone who’s managed to cultivate monk fruit in their garden, you’re unlikely to ever eat a fresh monk fruit. The flesh degrades quickly, meaning most exported monk fruit has been dried and/or processed to ensure longevity. Thus, most monk fruit finds its way to American shelves as a concentrated natural sweetener. As always, the nature of that sweetener can vary markedly depending on the way in which it was processed. An average serving of pure monk fruit extract contains virtually no carbs, calories or sugars, deriving almost all of its sweetness from a group of antioxidants called mogrosides, with mogroside V having a sweetness 250 times that of sucrose (table sugar). To put that sweetness in perspective, most people consider just 1/64 of a teaspoon of monk fruit extract to taste as sweet as a full teaspoon of table sugar. But in order to get this natural “zero calorie” sweetener, much of the inherent compounds in the fruit are lost. Prior to arriving on supermarket shelves, most “pure” monk fruit sweeteners are treated with a solvent to remove off-flavors, evaporated to remove other sulfurous volatiles, homogenized, and pasteurized. The resulting extract is very different to its original state, slightly undermining its purported status as a natural sweetener. Other less processed natural monk fruit sweeteners provide a more wholesome version of the original fruit, but with the arguable downside of containing a small amount of glucose and fructose. More carbs also tend to mean fewer mogrosides, and hence a lower relative sweetness. Monk Fruit’s Nutritional Profile Contrary to what people might claim, fresh, unprocessed monk fruit is not sugar free – figures vary between cultivar and growing region, but fresh monk fruit is typically one third carbohydrate, composed of a mix of fructose … Continue reading “Is Monk Fruit Sweetener a Healthy Choice?”

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Yacon Syrup: A Healthy Sweetener Option?

As the research continues to pile up against artificial sweeteners, it’s a race to take the lion’s share of the growing alternative sweetener market. While natural sweeteners like stevia and erythritol have become more popular in recent years, it’s still a wide field. One lesser known option is yacon syrup—a natural sweetener with a low calorie count and prebiotic abilities.

Yacon syrup is derived from the large tuberous roots of Smallanthus sonchifolius, a species of daisy that is cultivated in the Andes at altitudes of between 880 and 3500 metres. According to archaeological evidence, yacon was an important cultivated crop in Andean societies even before the rise of the Incas. The roots themselves can be eaten just like any other tuber. They look something like a a sweet potato, with a taste somewhere between that of an apple, a watermelon and a pear…and with a texture likened to that of a water chestnut. But it’s when the liquid is extracted from the flesh and evaporated, similar to the process used to make maple syrup, that things start to get really interesting. It’s at this point that yacon becomes a true natural sweetener, taking on a flavor similar to that of molasses or caramel. Delicious to most, slightly off-putting to others.

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Ultimate Guide to Allulose Sweetener

A few months back, I put Swerve under the proverbial microscope. This time I’m looking at a relative newcomer in the alternative sweetener field. Allulose is quickly growing in popularity, since it’s both naturally occurring and virtually identical to table sugar in taste and texture. Then there’s the claim of sidestepping many of the ill-health effects associated with many other sweeteners.

I know many of you are with me when I bring a sizable dose of skepticism to these kinds of bold proclamations. So, I did my own research, asking whether it’s truly the full-flavor, guilt-free choice many suggest it is. And, if it is (or if it comes close), I wondered, what are its best uses in the kitchen?

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Paleo Food List (with Printable PDF)

Because humans were hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved to use and favor the diverse plant and rich meat intake of our hunting and foraging history. Farming and its core crops (e.g. grains), by contrast, only came on the scene approximately 10,000 years ago and took at least 8000 of those years to spread across the world. Our evolutionary roots—and residual genetic expectations—favor the nutritional practices of our hunter-gatherer legacy. (For more on the history of the paleo diet, click here.)

The “paleo diet” today looks to the dietary model of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and translates those eating practices to the modern age for the purpose of optimum health.

The paleo diet favors nutrient-dense whole foods and eschews processed food products. Let’s look at the wide variety of flavorful (and healthy) choices within a paleo protocol as well as some basic principles for what to eat and what to avoid. For a PDF print-out of this list, click here.

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What Is Paleo?

While the paleo diet has grown in popularity the last several years, there’s still confusion about what paleo does and doesn’t promote. Does “being paleo” mean living as close to our hunter-gatherer forebears as possible? Is it simply casting off processed food? Or is it somewhere in between? 
These are questions worth asking, as paleo holds very similar principles to the Primal Blueprint, the model for healthy living I’ve dedicated this blog to for over a decade. Today let’s explore the modern development of the paleo movement, the key principles guiding it these days, and where it’s likely to go in the future. 

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A Look At Swerve Sweetener

As we move into a new era of health awareness, there’s more variety than ever available to us. Overall, this is a very good thing—the average Primal consumer now has far greater access to a wider range of organic, free range, pastured, GMO-free, wholesome foods and products.
But this presents something of a dilemma when it comes to gray areas like sweeteners. While I don’t have much of a sweet tooth myself, I’m not a anti-sweetener purist either. While I lean toward stevia or monkfruit, I get a lot of questions about sugar alcohols, in particular a product called Swerve Sweetener, particularly from the keto crowd. 

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Dear Mark: Peanut Edition

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a bunch of questions from last week’s post about peanuts. You guys had quite the reaction to it, and today I’m digging into some of your questions and comments. Does roasting create carcinogens in the fat? Should (and can) you sprout peanuts? Are peanuts used to soak up toxins from the soil? How do I know if my peanut butter comes from Valencia peanuts?

And many more.

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How Bad Are Peanuts, Really?

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.

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Stevia vs. Truvia

In a perfect world, there wouldn’t exist such an absurd notion as a “sweet tooth.” Primal diehards, usually so commendable in their clean eating and healthy living, wouldn’t find their resolve crumbling in the face of a cafe counter overflowing with baked goods. A hearty meat and vegetable dinner or big ass salad lunch would fulfill all dietary and sensory requirements, rather than needing to be rounded off by something called dessert. Beyond the detriments of sugar and fructose and the toxins of artificial sweeteners stevia and an increasingly popular trademarked product called Truvia. How do they compare?

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Top 10 Paleo Apps

“Apps aren’t paleo, Sisson. Grok waited for days for aurochs to wander within spear-chucking range, not overnight for the release of the iPhone X.” True. But this is the world we live in. These are the tools we have.

If you’re going to lug around an addictive piece of tech in your pocket all day, it might as well contain some apps that make living healthy and living Primal easier, rather than harder. What follows are some of the best paleo/Primal apps I’ve found. Some I use, some I don’t. They’re not all explicitly “paleo,” but they’re all at least tangentially related to this thing we call the pursuit of optimal health and happiness.

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