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 It Primal? – Coconut Water, Chocolate Milk, Glycomaize and Other Foods Scrutinized

Perhaps the most common question I get from readers is some variation on the classic “Is X Primal?”  Probably a half dozen times a day, “Is this Primal?” or “Is that Primal?” pop up in my inbox, often attached to some ridiculous food or product. My personal favorite was “Is whole wheat bread Primal?” (it’s not), closely followed by “What’s more Primal, red or black licorice?” But that’s not to suggest that all I get is nonsense. Some – most, even – are actually quite reasonable queries about foods that either seem to reside in Primal limbo, get talked up by people who you’d think would “know better,” or just taste really good and have people hoping that somehow, someway they’re compatible with Primal living.

Today, I’ll be scrutinizing ten commonly asked-about foods. Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: Do Perfect Foods Exist?

Today’s Dear Mark post touches on a concept that many of us have pondered: the perfect food. That is, does such a thing even exist? What with phytates, lectins, easily-absorbed fat-soluble vitamins, allergenic proteins, and all the rest, it sometimes seems like every good food has a crippling downside. If you read too many health and nutrition blogs that delve into these relatively arcane topics (my own not necessarily excluded!), it often feels like you can’t eat anything at all without risking some horrible illness, deficiency, or excess.

The following is an excerpt from a longer email in which a reader expressed concern over the apparent scarcity of “perfect foods.”:

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Is Honey a Safe(r) Sweetener?

I pride myself on making the Primal Blueprint an easy lifestyle to follow. If you were just starting out, you could easily read a few articles, do a couple hours of research, and start making positive changes to your diet, exercise routine, sleep schedule, or daily life immediately. You could ditch grains or replace some chronic cardio with weights or switch to grass-fed meat, and even if you did nothing else, you’d have made a significant improvement to your life and eventually your health. I often receive thank you emails for putting together a program that Internet-illiterate grandmas and grandpas can get into and actually understand. That said, sometimes things get a little confusing.

Like with honey.

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Dear Mark: Are Peas and Green Beans Healthy?

For today’s Dear Mark post, I’m going to hold off on doing a big roundup and instead focus on a single question that keeps appearing in my inbox: the suitability of green beans and peas in a Primal Blueprint eating plan. I regret not getting to it sooner, for I can imagine the Vibram-clad pausing in produce aisles across the world, looming over the bright green beans and agonizing over the antinutrient content of the admittedly tasty legumes, dipping their callused hands heavy with barbell stink into the display case full of sweet peas, letting the tiny green pearls cascade through their fingers like Maximus Decimus Meridius caressing the stalks of wheat in Gladiator and thinking of casseroles from days long past. Well, wonder no more. Today we dig in.

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Dear Mark: Are Roasted Nuts and Nut-Based Baked Goods Healthy?

I type these words with cranberry stickiness under my fingernails and the faint but unmistakable scent of turkey lingering about my person (I don’t think Buddha, my white lab, has stopped following me around all weekend, sneaking in the odd lick to an elbow still glistening with turkey grease; and, yep, he just got me again). The massive poultry carcass just finished three days of simmering for stock, odd bits of breast meat and yam and solidified gravy popping up on every shelf in the fridge, empty wine bottles holding an Occupy Kitchen Counter. Ah, Thanksgiving, how I love you.

A staple of Thanksgiving seems to be fretting over holiday treats, only it’s a little different in the Primal community. Instead of freaking out over the saturated fat content of a dollop of whipped cream on a slice of pumpkin pie, we agonize over the gluten content, wonder if baking truly deactivated all the wheat germ agglutinin present in the crust, and speculate about how our gut flora will react to the fiber in the pumpkin filling. And when we make our own versions of holiday baked goods, like almond meal this or walnut flour that, we worry about the potential oxidation of the heated omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in the nuts. In fact, in the past week, I have received several questions on this very topic:

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Dear Mark: Vitamin K2, Washing Eggs, Tapioca Flour, Short Term Grain Feeding, and a Raw-Fed Pack

I both love and hate the time change that just happened. Those first few days are magical. You wake up on Sunday at around 5:30, and you’re raring to go. Full of energy with a whole day ahead of you, plus an hour. It’s like time slows down and you’re ahead of schedule on everything. It’s always an hour before you thought it was, no matter what time it is. But then you get used to the time change, and you notice it’s getting dark out at like four in the afternoon. The afternoon ceases to feel like the afternoon. You get sleepy earlier, which is a good thing in some ways, but I also like to get in something outdoorsy later in the day. Maybe a hike, maybe some paddling. I can’t do that anymore.

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Dear Mark: Calcium Supplements, Goitrogenic Foods, High-MUFA Seed Oils, and Jogging

Today’s edition of “Dear Mark” covers a variety of topics. We’ve got calcium supplementation – does it make sense and is it safe? Then, I briefly discuss cruciferous vegetables, which are said to have negative effects on thyroid health. Some studies support this, but are they an issue for healthy people? I also look at seed oils high in monounsaturated fats (yes, they exist) and low in the much-maligned polyunsaturated fats, and I discuss their suitability in a Primal eating plan. And finally, a reader asks if jogging is ever okay and, if so, how to do it the right way.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the questions.

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Are Traditionally Prepared Grains Healthy?

“People from Africa, Asia, and Latin America eat lots of grains and manage to stay skinny, so what’s the deal?”

You know this line of questioning. We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all pondered it. It may have even stumped a few of you, left you stuttering and stammering for a quick explanation. But by the time you think of a reply (if you even have one), the moment has passed and they have “won” the argument. A briefly open mind was now closed.

But let’s be honest: it’s a valid question, and a tough one at that. We can’t just avoid the tough questions. So let’s take this head on.

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Dear Mark: Fat Triggers Marijuana-Like Chemicals, Another Anti-Meat Report, and Teff

How was the weekend for you? Mine was kinda tough. Great weather beckoned all weekend, and my paddleboard and I shared mournful glances full of longing, but I was stuck inside working on my talk for the upcoming Ancestral Health Symposium at UCLA. I think it’s going to be a good one, though, so hopefully the work pays off. Okay, enough complaining. It’s Monday, which means another round of questions and answers. This week, we’ve got a pair of scary studies that seem to condemn fat and red meat as the nutritional factors ultimately responsible for all that ails us as a society (what else is new?). I also field a question on teff, a grain used in traditional Ethiopian cooking, from a reader who plans on moving there.

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Dear Mark: MCT Oil, Camelina Oil, and Fancy Canola Oil

Today’s Dear Mark roundup is a trio of oil-related questions. Learn about my adventures with MCT oil and whether it fits into a good eating plan. Hear about camelina, the “better flax.” And finally, we’ll go over whether fancy, cold-pressed canola oil is worth including or whether it’s still just canola oil.

I’m thinking I’ll stick with this format for awhile. The response has been mostly positive, so why mess with what works? If ever a question arrives that merits a devoted full-length post, I’ll do that, but for now this seems like a hit.

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