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?

Yerba Mate: Miracle Tea or Just Another Caffeine Kick?

Yerba mate (YERB-ah mah-TAY). Ever heard of it? It is an herb with a storied history as an alternative to traditional teas for the inhabitants of its native South America. I’ve received numerous emails recently asking about its properties and its role in the Primal Blueprint eating plan. Let’s dive straight in.

Yerba mate tea is prepared by steeping the dried leaves and twigs of the mate plant in hot water (not boiling water, which can make the tea bitter). It has an herbal, almost grassy, taste, with some varieties somewhat reminiscent of certain types of green tea. Traditionally, yerba mate is drunk communally from a hollow gourd with a metal straw, but a coffee mug works just as well (you know, for when your gourd is in the dishwasher). Like many teas and coffees, yerba mate is imbued with an impressive amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and vitamin C. Minerals include manganese, potassium, and zinc, and the antioxidants include quercetin, theobromine, and theophylline.

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Dear Mark: Carob, Psyllium, Chia Seeds, and Vanilla

I enjoyed answering your questions last week, so let’s do it again today. We’ve got another triad this time, including another question from Hilde. There’s going to be a lot of fiber talk, some fecal discussion, and even a few bits regarding multi-level marketing schemes. I’m also going to discuss the virulent menace that is the vanilla bean.

(Looking back at the title I just wrote, it sounds like the ingredients for a disgusting raw vegan dessert. Some lukewarm thing with the consistency of paste sloppily shoved into the shape of a brownie and sold for six bucks at the farmers’ market. Yum.)

Okay, on to the questions:

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Meat Musings: Are Cold Cuts Primal?

I’m going to say it outright: I’m not a fan of what most people mean when they say “cold cuts.” The water-laden, gummy, super salty, uniformly shaped, barely recognizable sheets of condensed animal parts just don’t whet my appetite. Yeah, it’s technically meat, but it’s really pushing it. That’s the cheap stuff, though. Those are the cold cuts that come pre-wrapped in the refrigerated section next to the American cheese sliced singles. They run a couple bucks for maybe half a pound but a quarter of it is water. Think bologna, cheap ham, slimy chicken, shiny turkey. I’ll pass, thank you.

But are all cold cuts created equal? I often get the question of whether deli meats are healthy Primal fare. Let’s take a closer look.

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Dear Mark: Rancid Fat, Store-Bought Mayo and Rice Bran Oil

It’s been a while since I published a Dear Mark post and it’s been a fairly anemic news week, so I thought I’d address a trio of (related) reader questions.

If you’ve ever wondered what it means for a fat to be rancid (both for the fat and your body if you consume it), whether eating just a little store-bought every once in a while is all that bad, or where rice bran oil falls in the spectrum of Primal fats read on.

The first comes from reader Timre –
I am a newcomer to the blog and I have been reading up on oils and fats in here and there is a lot of great information but I am having trouble understanding what fats going rancid and oxidizing under heat means to my health. Can you elaborate on this for me?

Timre

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Sugar Alcohols: Everything You Need to Know

I’ve been on a bit of an alternative sweetener kick these past few weeks, for good reason: people want and need to know about this stuff. While a purist shudders at the prospect of any non- or hypo-caloric sugar substitute gracing his or her tongue, I’m a realist. People are going to partake and it’s important to understand what’s entering your body and what, if any, effects it will have. Whether it’s diet soda, artificial sweeteners, stevia, or the mysterious sugar alcohols, people want the sweet without worrying about a big physiological effect – an insulin surge, a blood glucose dip, even a migraine. So I’ve been covering the various types and have tried to be comprehensive about it. As a whole, it all seems fairly safe. Alternative sweeteners might mess with some folks’ adherence to a low-sugar diet, and they might induce or fortify cravings, but the research doesn’t suggest that they’re going to give you cancer or diabetes. The potentially negative effects are all fairly subjective, so it’s safe to play around with them and determine their role in your life based on how they affect your appetite, state-of-mind, and any other subjective health markers.

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A Primal Primer: Stevia

After last week’s article many of you asked about a natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners: stevia. It is widely used in the low carb community to satisfy sugar cravings or simply add a touch of sweetness to a hot beverage or dessert, but should it be? What is stevia? Is it safe? What is its effect on insulin, if any, and does it have a place in a Primal Blueprint eating strategy? Let’s investigate.

Stevia is an herbaceous family of plants, 240 species strong, that grows in sub-tropical and tropical America (mostly South and Central, but some North). Stevia the sweetener refers to stevia rebaudiana, the plant and its leaves, which you can grow and use as or with tea (it was traditionally paired with yerba mate in South America) or, dried and powdered, as a sugar substitute that you sprinkle on. It’s apparently quite easy to grow (according to the stevia seller who tries to get me to buy a plant or two whenever I’m at the Santa Monica farmers’ market), and the raw leaf is very sweet.

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A Visual Guide to Yams and Sweet Potatoes (plus How They Fit Into a Primal Eating Plan)

Quick. What’s a suitable, Primal source of post-workout carbohydrates? If the title of this post and the picture to the right didn’t give you a hint then ask your nearest Primal enthusiast and they’ll tell you without batting an eye, “yams and sweet potatoes”. If, for whatever reason, you need some extra carbs “yams and sweet potatoes” is the answer. Everyone knows this, but is it true?

That’s what I’ll be exploring in today’s post. But first, what are yams and how do they differ from sweet potatoes?

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Potatoes: Part Deux

Last week, I made the case that potatoes aren’t nearly as bad as some people make them out to be. They’re carby, sure, but lean, active people who can tolerate carbs are way better off eating potatoes than grains, and even for low-carbers, a potato makes for a good, gluten-free cheat meal. Their place in your diet depends on the metabolic context. In my so-called “final word,” I said there isn’t one, at least not ordained from above. You have to figure out for yourself whether or not they fit into your diet. You might even say you have to go with your gut on this one (in more ways than one, as you’ll see).

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Is Samwise Gamgee Right About Potatoes?

Potatoes are controversial in the Primal and paleo world. They represent a bolus of dietary starch, which can wreak havoc on the insulin resistant, but they are undeniably whole, real foods that don’t require much processing beyond simple heating. Grains and legumes, on the other hand, are tiny, disparate sources of calories that need soaking, fermenting, and extensive heating to be palatable (and they’ll still mess you up), but potatoes are big, dense, and obviously food. Chimps have been known to use sticks to dig up and eat wild tubers, and they’ve got even less salivary amylase to break down starch than we do. Evidence exists for human consumption of roots and tubers from multiple sites spanning multiple time periods: Northern Europe (specifically Poland), in the terminal Paleolithic and early Mesolithic. Clearly, we have the physiology (amylase production, glucose metabolism), the tools (fire, hearths, digging implements), and the motivation (attraction to dense caloric sources with negligible or easily neutralized anti-nutrients) to consume starchy tubers.

So what’s the hold up? Why do I generally recommend limiting their intake?

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How Bad is Rice, Really?

The cereal grain family prides itself on its powerful, expansive arsenal of lectins, phytates, gluten, and other antinutrients. A single seed of its patriarch, wheat, can punch holes in gut linings with ease, and cousin oat has managed to obtain official recognition as being good for the heart even as it doses you with gluten. As healthy whole grains, they hide their armaments in plain sight; they cloak their puny bodies in the very poisons for which they are lauded and applauded. We Primals have got a heated feud going with the family as a whole, but should we paint all its members with the same brush?

Let me draw your attention to rice – diminutive member of the cereal grain family, frequent component of anti-low-carb advocates’ arguments, and the source of much consternation among grain abstainers. Is white rice the proverbial black sheep of the grain family? Does it deserve our full and unwavering opposition? Or, perhaps, can we treat rice like that crazy uncle who drinks a bit too much at family gatherings – occasional visits of short duration are fine and mostly harmless so long as you keep the hard stuff (scotch/soybean oil) locked up?

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