Is It Primal? – Spirulina, Chlorella, Amaranth, and Other Foods
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: So,
Is Organic a Scam?
There are many
thousands of foods out there at our beck and all, and you want to
know which ones are Primal-approved and which ones are not. I know
this because I get a lot of emails from you guys asking me about
this food or that food. I’m happy to give my perspective,
but I also want to iterate (or reiterate, in case I’ve already
said this) that eating or not eating any of the aforementioned and
heretofore-mentioned foods will neither ratify nor revoke your Primal
Cred card. Heck, such a card doesn’t even really exist! These
are just my opinions based on the evidence available to me.
ado, let’s dig in to the foods in question. We’ve got
spirulina, chlorella, amaranth, Mycryo, and freeze-dried produce
on the docket for today.
a type of microalga – tiny algae, seaweed that you can’t
see (“can’t-seeweed”? No, that’s terrible)
– found in tropical and subtropical lakes (so I guess it’s
not actually even seaweed, but rather lakeweed). In certain areas
of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, where it grows naturally, spriulina
has long been prized as a food source rich in protein, vitamins,
and minerals. How rich?
By dry weight,
spirulina is around 60% protein, and because it contains all the
essential amino acids, spirulina has been called the finest source
of non-animal protein around. That may be true, but I’d wager
it’d be less expensive (and tastier) just to eat some eggs.
enthusiasts often claim that spirulina contains vitamin B12, but
that’s not really true. It contains something called pseudovitamin
B12, which sounds interesting but is “not
suitable for use as vitamin B12 sources, especially in vegans,”
because it is inactive in humans. Nice try.
a lot of gamma linolenic acid, or GLA, a polyunsaturated omega-6
fatty acid that’s pretty rare in average diets. Contrary to
how we usually conceive of omega-6 fats, dietary GLA
is actually more anti-inflammatory than inflammatory in practice.
filthy with iron and vitamin K and, being a vibrant blue-green,
contains tons of pigments with antioxidant
passed extensive toxicological safety tests (PDF)
and has been shown to exert hypocholesterolemic
effects, which sound uniformly beneficial until you realize that
a “boosted” immune system could also exacerbate
autoimmune conditions, like autoimmune
see any real glaring issues with spirulina, but it seems more suitable
as a supplement than a straight-up food source. Most studies use,
at most, 7 grams per day; when you look at the impressive nutritional
content of spirulina on some sites, it’s often for a 100 gram
dose, which is far beyond what you’d be willing to eat.
another freshwater microalga favored by conventional and vegetarian
health nuts, albeit without the longstanding legacy of spirulina.
It is high in protein, fatty acids (including EPA) (PDF),
magnesium, zinc, iron, and chlorophyll, plus plenty of phytonutrients.
Of course, chlorella is hard to digest because it has a tougher
cell wall than spirulina, which is easy to digest, but “broken
cell wall” chlorella is more digestible and widely available
in supplement form.
Much has been
made of chlorella’s ability to remove heavy metals, dioxins,
and other toxic materials from the body. Is it true? Kinda. One
in pregnant women found that chlorella supplementation reduced the
maternal-fetal transfer of dioxins; it also reduces
the transfer of dioxins through breastmilk. Another
– this time in rats – found that chlorella helped reduce
cadmium absorption in the liver when the two were co-administered.
Still, this doesn’t tell us much about chlorella’s ability
to remove stored lead, mercury, and cadmium once they’ve already
been absorbed or swallowed. I suppose we could just take a shot
of chlorella every time we consumed anything that might be contaminated
with metals (or breathed air contaminated with heavy metal particulates),
but that would get annoying fast.
just another “superfood” in a long line. It’s
got some interesting nutrient content, like EPA and complete protein
(especially for vegans). It’s proved beneficial in several
human studies, improving
the antioxidant status of Korean smokers, improving
metabolic parameters of at-risk patients, reducing
mild to moderate hypertension (in some subjects), and increasing
immune function. But it’s not going to cure whatever ails
you. No one thing will.
an herbaceous plant, but when most people say “amaranth”
they refer to its grain-like seed, or pseudograin. Amaranth grain
has been used for thousands of years, particularly in South and
Central America, where the Aztecs, the Inca, and the Maya all cultivated
extensive amounts of amaranth. In fact, when the conquistadors arrived
to find the Aztecs using the pseudograin in delicious-sounding yet
completely heretical religious ceremonies where sculptures of the
gods would be fashioned out of amaranth and honey and then broken
apart and eaten, they banned its cultivation. I suppose the symbolic
consumption of the body of a deity hit a little too close to home.
Besides, amaranth and honey
taste way better than bland bread, so they had to eliminate the
Being a seed
that acts like a grain,
amaranth is fairly carb-dense – about 65 grams per 3.5 ounce
serving of dry grain. It’s also rich in iron, magnesium, protein,
going to eat amaranth grain, particularly as a “safe starch”
source, a little traditional
prep work is advised to make it as safe as possible. “Steeping
and germinating” – also known as soaking and sprouting
– amaranth grain for 5 and 24 hours (PDF),
respectively, eliminated phytic
acid and tannin content while minimizing loss of dry matter
and making the protein more digestible. Soaking and sprouting for
longer periods were unnecessary and in some cases even diminished
the nutritional content.
What I like
about amaranth, at least relative to other grains and grain-like
seeds, is that it also produces edible, nutritious leaves. Amaranth
leaves taste a bit like spinach
and can be eaten raw, though they’re substantial enough for
sautéeing and stir-frying. Legend has it that a clove or two of
chopped garlic goes well with sautéed amaranth leaves. Heck, even
the root and stems are edible and employed in various cuisines.
Not Primal, but if you already do rice and quinoa, it’s worth
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October 31, 2012
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