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?

Reader Response: Alternatives to Grains? What about Quinoa?

The Definitive Guide to Grains post last month got people talking about alternatives to the traditional rice, potato, and breads that load up the typical American dinner plate. For some, gluten is the major consideration. For others, it’s the glycemic load itself. While the Primal Blueprint recommends avoiding grains and higher glycemic foods altogether, at some point or another most of us partake in the context of occasional compromise. Additionally, some of us consciously choose to include grain alternatives in our diets more regularly for varied reasons surrounding personal taste, economical savings, environmental commitments, or alternative nutrient sources (particularly for vegetarians).

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Nightshades

As you (our gracious company of Apples) know, we unequivocally love our vegetables. Powerhouses of nutrients and antioxidant action, they’re the backbone of a good Primal Blueprint diet. But the issue of nightshades has come up a few times recently. Nightshades, those vegetables that find their roots in the Solanaceae family of plants, include a host of reputable veggies and spices: eggplant, potatoes (yes, we know, not so reputable), peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, et al. (Black pepper isn’t included in this list.)

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Top 10 Fast Foods in Disguise

Some make no qualms about it. Others (and this may be worse) market their food under the guise of health while continuing to sell the same old garbage. Sure. They may provide healthier options than the junk they typically shill. But beware. Just like the food manufacturers that made it onto our Top 10 Junk Foods in Disguise list last week these fast food joints understand that it is the pretense of health that sells – not health itself. And it’s not just individual food items marketed as the “healthy option” that we take issue with. Now we have entire restaurants that the innocent public just assumes are healthy, either because they bill themselves as such or because, hello, smoothies are health food, right…anyone…Bueller?

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Dear Mark: Beans/Legumes

Dear Mark,

I’m a former vegetarian who still enjoys cooking with all kinds of beans. I don’t see them in any of the MDA recipes. What’s your take on them?

Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, etc.) aren’t, by any means, the worst thing you can eat, but they don’t make the ideal meal either. In my estimation, legumes fall into the “O.K.” category with wine, chocolate, cheese and other dairy, etc.

On the upside, legumes offer protein, and they tend to be good sources of several minerals like potassium and magnesium. On the downside, they offer only a moderate at best amount of protein (generally 4-9 grams per ½ cup serving). As the How to Eat Enough Protein post showed, legumes’ protein content is dwarfed by the 28 grams you’d get from a cup of cottage cheese or the 50+ grams you’d get from six ounces of several meats. And this relatively small amount of protein comes with a hefty carb content: as high as 28 grams for that same ½ cup serving!

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Processed Soy and Meat Alternatives

What can we say? We’re on a soy kick this week. And this time we’ve been wading through the likes of no-meat loaf and veggie riblets. It has led us to this realization. What’s worse than not getting your protein from meat? Getting it from soy. What’s worse than getting it from soy? Getting it from highly processed soy products – especially those freaky riblet things.

You’ve seen the stuff – tofurky, et al. We realize we speak only for ourselves, but we scratch our heads at the cultish enchantment with these products. We’re going to go out on a limb here and declare the following: not only is tofurky not meat, it’s not a healthy, let alone attractive, alternative to meat. Oh what the hey? None of it – not tofurky, not riblets, not smoked BBQ veggie patties, Love Burger (now there’s a boxed wonder), tofu hot dogs, veggie loaf, Morning Star links, Morning Star patties, Chik’N wings, Boca burger, Boca anything. There it is. We’ve said it.

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Mystery Meat: Imitation Crab

While it is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, when it comes to imitation crab meat, that’s actually far from the case! But to understand why imitation crab is not the way to go, we must first understand exactly what it is…

To create imitation crab meat, manufacturers typically start with a base of Alaska Pollock (also known as Walleye Pollock, Whiting or Snow Cod). This fish is chosen primarily because it has a mild flavor that allows it to easily take on the flavor and texture of traditional crab meat, but also because it is readily available and is cheap to buy and process. To create the crab meat, manufacturers skin and de-bone the fish, mince it and then leach it of water to create a thick paste known as surimi. But we all know a fish paste isn’t going to cut it, so manufacturers add some combination of starch – usually wheat or tapioca – to stiffen up the mixture, sugars to preserve the surimi for storage and freezing, and egg whites to again stabilize the mixture and add gloss and shine. Vegetable oil can also be added to improve the texture of the mix.

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Raw Foodism with Chef Dan

We at Mark’s Daily Apple believe raw, fresh, whole foods are best, but we do not endorse everything purported in the following interview, and are not recommending a raw food diet. Rather we present this interesting information for critical discussion, to pique your curiosity, and to encourage exploration of different health approaches. We do not believe foods are “living” and do not advocate “enzyme therapy,” but of course fresh, unprocessed foods are ideal for anyone.

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Are There Any Good Carbs?

Fruits Are Not the Devil, and Other Carb Concerns Although I espouse a fairly “low-carb” lifestyle for optimal health and a lean physique, this certainly means different things to different people. For some it means a strict Atkins-style diet of virtually no carbs, save for green vegetables. For others it means the inclusion of fruits, starchy vegetables such as yams, and legumes. For others it means any and all carbs – grains, rice, beans, pasta – that are complex or “whole grain” rather than refined and processed (pastries, crackers, breads, white pasta). My “low-carb” philosophy is essentially grounded in my belief in fresh, whole, natural foods. In other words, a lot of plants. Organic, grass-fed or wild animal products (eggs, beef, salmon) are also included in my “natural” categorization. I’m not at all opposed to carbs that are from vegetables; the American diet is sorely lacking in adequate vegetable intake and it’s lunacy to avoid vegetables in the hopes of losing weight, as many low-carb dieters do. Since I believe fiber is king when it comes to health, I’m all for eating 6 servings of veggies daily – at a minimum. I recommend fresh or frozen vegetables and a small amount of starchy vegetables and legumes for your daily diet. This is Svanes’ Flickr Photo But, I personally don’t encourage the consumption of grains, even whole grains. I think an occasional slice of sprouted-grain bread is fine, particularly if you’re an avid exerciser (and I hope you are). Additionally, I think the lectin fears about grains are rather overblown (another one of those marginal nutrition areas like wine, coffee, and dark chocolate). But a combination of vegetables and lean proteins offer more antioxidants, vitamins, protein, fat and even fiber (surprise!) than do grains. This type of diet is easier for most humans to digest, as wheat gluten in particular is not friendly to the G.I. tract. Grains stimulate improper liver, thyroid, and pancreas responses in many people, and grains can also foster reduced immunity, fungal infections, skin problems, anxiety, depression and weight gain. Vegetables and lean proteins are more readily handled by your liver and pancreas, among other organs. Coupled with some much-needed beneficial fats such as organic butter, olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish oil supplements, a vegetable-and-protein based diet is the most respectful to the human design. Consuming crackers, pasta and breads – even those manufactured with whole grains – is simply not ideal for the human body. That said, other carbohydrates beside vegetables are, in fact, quite healthy – even some starchy ones such as yams, brown rice, and legumes. My concern is that many people rely on mostly refined and/or whole grains for their fiber intake and tend to “add in” some vegetables, when it ought to be the other way around. When it comes to vegetable sources of carbohydrates, we Americans favor starchy barely-vegetables like potatoes and corn. (Corn, by the way, is actually a grain, and a very low-protein, high-sugar grain at that.) Vegetables … Continue reading “Are There Any Good Carbs?”

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Low-Cal, High-Fiber Pasta: It Exists! And It Is Edible!

Very, very edible. The folks at Fiber Gourmet recently plied me with a selection of their one-of-a-kind “light” pastas. Hey, I’m not one to turn away free food, so I gave their spinach, tomato and standard pasta noodles a taste try. The Fiber Gourmet folks say “since fiber has 0 calories, as the fiber goes up the calories go down” – hence the “light” labeling. As you all know, I’m cautious about the types of carbohydrates I consume. I rely on vegetables for the majority of my carbohydrate intake. I do eat some starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, legumes, yams, quinoa and sprouted grain bread. But typically I don’t eat more than one starchy serving per day. Pasta, in particular, is hardly one of my favorites because it is refined wheat, making it high in empty carbohydrates that have a rapid, deleterious impact upon blood sugar. This is stressful to the body for a number of reasons, and the scientific evidence is compelling: excessive intake of refined carbohydrates is linked to our skyrocketing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes. And while I understand that “low-carb” pastas like Shirataki can be helpful for jump-starting weight loss, I don’t personally recommend carb substitutes. (Although I am all for the jump start – start somewhere!) My preference against substitutes is not only because I favor whole, unprocessed, fresh foods for both weight loss and health maintenance. I also refuse to eat anything that tastes like cardboard, which seems to be a prevailing problem with light, low-carb and other assorted diet food products. Food will always taste better than a food product. If you can sustain a food product weight loss plan for more than a few months, you’re made of some tough stuff! But seriously, in my opinion, substitutes don’t successfully address the underlying problem with eating unhealthy foods: rather than shifting your cravings to healthier foods, they merely serve as a temporary fix to sate existing unhealthy preferences. All right, Mark, we get it. What about this pasta? Fiber Gourmet pasta is made just like regular pasta, but contains 40% fewer calories (roughly 130 per 2-ounce serving). Of course, I don’t know anyone who can stop after just 2 ounces of pasta – and that’s the problem with carbs. Refined carbohydrates – sugars – are incredibly addictive. The total carbohydrates of this product are not low by any stretch – about 43 grams (18 from fiber and 25 from starch). I recommend ruthlessly aiming for fewer than 20 grams of refined carbohydrates in a given day. In fact, I think we’d all be better off if we avoided refined carbohydrates entirely. Now to the taste factor: The Fiber Gourmet pastas tasted good – exactly like “real” pasta. Texture was not gritty, gummy or weak. The exception was the spinach pasta, which didn’t hold up well with the olive oil and sea salt I doused it with. The flavor was pleasant enough, but an actual spinach salad would have had better … Continue reading “Low-Cal, High-Fiber Pasta: It Exists! And It Is Edible!”

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3 Fast Foods That Are (Sorta) Healthy!

All right, I’ve had my ranting fun. Fortunately, there are lots of positive things going on in the world of convenience food, and I want to highlight a few of them now. Here are three convenience foods you can order when you’re busy and starving that are (in a pinch) healthy for you! Keep in mind, these aren’t winning any big health awards, but they are signs of progress. I wouldn’t make fast food a habit, but there are reasonable choices available if you are willing to look. And please share with us what healthy to-go items you’ve found.

1. McDonald’s:

Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken

A tad high in sodium, but on the plus side, a good amount of protein, fiber and only 300 calories. Leave off the sugary dressing! Jack’s Asian salad has more sodium, 100 more calories and several more grams of sugar, so…

2. Jack in the Box:

Chicken Fajita Pita

Only 200 calories, this light veggie-filled pita isn’t as full of whole-grain fiber as I’d like, but it’s a pretty decent choice. Con: this is very high in sodium, so don’t make it a frequent habit. (High sodium is the major problem with even the lighter, greener fast food fare.) Tip: Ask for extra veggies and hot sauce.

3. Taco Bell:

Taco Salad Express

Yes, I pick on these guys for having a “Fourth Meal” campaign, but their salads are all right if you leave off the fried stuff. Not winning any health awards, mind you, but a darn sight better than most fast food. Upgrade this salad to grilled chicken and don’t eat the chips.

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[tags]Fast food, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, asian salad, chicken fajita pita, taco salad express, fourth meal[/tags]

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