The Bulletproof Perspective on “Safe Starches”

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At the Ancestral Health Summit at Harvard University this week, one of the more interesting panels titled “Safe Starches: Are They Essential on an Ancestral Diet?” was moderated by Jimmy Moore, of low carb cruise fame. (I’m speaking on next year’s Low Carb Cruise.)

Sadly, as I write this, I’m not at AHS on the panel because I am in Singapore for the week speaking at two conferences about cloud security.  The panelists who could actually make it to AHS included Chris Kresser and Paul Jaminet, both guys I respect very much who argue that starch is an essential food, and Dr. Ron Rosedale and Dr. Cate Shanahan on the ” starch is evil” side. I also respect Dr.’s Rosedale and Shanahan’s research. None of these are experts whose advice I would outright disregard like I would Dr. Ornish’s, yet there is a considerable distance between their reasoned conclusions.

To make up for not being on the panel, here is the Bulletproof perspective on starch, compared and contrasted with the views of these other experts. Special thanks to Chris Kresser for his summary of the discussion at AHS.

To be  clear, My Bulletproof Diet, The Rosedale Diet, Jamine’s Perfect Health Diet, and Chris Kresser’s recommendations are all in the same general camp of high fat, low to moderate protein, and low starch, but starch is one of the big areas of disagreement. Mycotoxins and biogenic amines are another area that I believe needs more attention.

The Starch Controversy Players

From a starch perspective, one side of the argument is that glucose, the breakdown product of starch, is flat-out bad for you, so you shouldn’t eat any starch. The other side says it’s vital. Here is a summary of the arguments from some of the leaders in the field.

Dr. Rosedale

Dr. Rosedale believes that we all have at some degree of corruption in insulin and leptin signaling, and this causes chronic diseases of aging such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, obesity, and even many cancers. I am a fan of Rosedale because he thinks about epigenetics, the topic of my book that is coming out in only 4 months!

Dr. Rosedale believes that evolution is optimized for fertility, not longevity, and that eating starch decreases longevity. He also says “Post reproductive death is extremely natural. We can only rely on science, especially the science of the biology of aging, to show how to live a long, post-reproductive lifespan. “ So he’s not excessively focused on what our cavemen ancestors may have eaten, although he considers it.

Chris Kresser

Kresser is another epigenetics fan and I love his work. He argues that:

  • healthy people are different from sick people and healthy people can handle starch
  • there are populations that eat crazy amount of starch and appear to be healthy
  • the amount of starch you should eat depends on your activity level and your genetics
  • humans have a lot more copies of the gene AMY1 that lets us break down starch than other primates

Cate Shanahan

Shanahan is awesome because she pays so much attention to food quality, feed quality, and animal stresses in her Deep Nutrition program.  She arrived at the zero starch zero sugar conclusion.

 Paul Jaminet

Jaminet has been on my podcast and is an amazing guy. He believes that some forms of starches are helpful, especially white rice and potatoes. He says,

The concept of “safe starches” has nothing to do with their glucose content. “Safe starch” is a term of our invention and refers to any starchy food which, after normal cooking, lacks toxins, chiefly protein toxins. We do not consider glucose to be a toxin, though it may become toxic in hyperglycemia.”

This is some seriously bulletproof thinking! Every food on the bulletproof diet is ranked according to the amount of anti-nutrient and toxins as well as macronutrients and micronutrients. This is why, for instance, the rapid fat loss protocol includes sweet potatoes and white rice once or twice a week, but I never recommend starches like grains.

 Stephan Guyenet

And while he was not on the panel, Stephan Guyenet also deserves mention here for his work on starch, which his in alignment with Jaminet, but includes reference to the usefulness of glucose in forming polysaccharides that make mucus.

Enter biohacking

So given all this amazing brainpower working on the starch problem, and  the diametrically opposed opinions, what is a biohacker to do?

You probably already know the answer. You experiment on yourself.

Results of my extreme low carb experiments

I have been in the “starch is bad” camp but for years but found it unnatural to get below 50 g a day for longer periods of time. But as an experiment, I went for 90 days on a grass fed meat, butter, MCT oil, and egg version of the Bulletproof diet with very few vegetables, about 1-3 servings a day. I did get a little leaner but several (now) predictable things happened:

 Dry eyes

I got extremely dry eyes. Guyenet’s work explains why this happened; I didn’t have enough glucose to form mucus that is a part of the coding in my eyes. If I had continued the diet with near 0 carbs I would likely have suffered gut permeability issues when I ran out of mucus to protect the lining of my stomach from stomach acid.

Poor sleep

My quality of sleep declined. I found that I woke up feeling exhausted even if I got normal amount of sleep for me. My Zeo showed that I would wake up approximately 9 times per night but had no recollection of it. My amount of deep restorative sleep plummeted to near 0. My brain was literally starving for glucose and was waking me up to go find some.


My longstanding thyroid problem appeared to get worse, although I did not measure it at the time. I simply upped my dose of sustained release bioidentical T3 after a while which resolved the symptoms. Enter the work of Chris Masterjohn who has also been a guest on my show. He writes about the role of LDL receptors in cardiovascular disease in The Central Role of Thyroid Hormone in Governing LDL Receptor Activity and the Risk of Heart Disease. The basic story is that thyroid hormone stimulates expression of the LDL receptor in cells which causes LDL receptors to be generated on the cell membrane. So if your T3 is higher you will have more LDL receptors which means your cells will use LDL for energy better. If your T3 is lower, your cholesterol goes up by your cells have less energy.


My LDL went up by 30 points.  As I’m in Singapore, I don’t have the exact numbers with me to share. As Jaminet writes, high LDL with low carb may be a sign of:

  • A chronic state of glucose deficiency, leading to very low T3 levels and suppressed clearance of LDL particles by lipid transport pathways.
  • Absence of infections or oxidative stress which would clear LDL particles by immune pathways.

In my case, my other inflammatory markers were unchanged; my triglycerides were under 70 and my lpPLa-2 was very low, my CRP was low, etc. I do not worry about unoxidized LDL levels because your body will use LDL to bind to and eliminate environmental toxins. It’s not well known, but people with high cholesterol survive certain drug overdoses and toxin exposures better than people with low cholesterol. I believe unoxidized cholesterol is protective and not harmful. Yet, an extreme low-carb diet did raise my LDL.

Bulletproof Starch – It’s all about the timing

My starch recommendations are more fully explained in the upcoming Bulletproof Diet v 3.0 in the next few weeks, but my approach to starch and even fructose differs significantly from these other experts.

I believe that having starch constantly present on a daily basis is a bad idea because it will feed bacteria in your gut, and even if you take probiotics, your gut biome is almost hopelessly jacked compared to the way it should be. The things we’ve done to the planet’s bacterial ecosystem by using antibiotics and fungicides have come back to haunt our gut bacteria. I also fully comprehend the cognitive and biological benefits of ketosis and eating starch on a daily basis doesn’t lend itself to being in this important fat burning metabolic state.

That’s why I recommend you eat a moderate amount of starch, about 100-150 g, every 3 to 7 days. I recommend you eat it in the evening before bed because it will improve your sleep quality by creating glycogen which your brain will use. This will effectively cycle your body in and out of ketosis, avoid overfeeding gut bacteria you don’t want, and provide raw materials for forming tears and mucus.

I also recommend that, on zero starch days, you consume up to 1 tablespoon of raw honey before bed along with MCT oil. Raw honey forms liver glycogen preferentially compared to other forms of sugar, and liver glycogen fuels the brain better than muscle glycogen. Some people don’t need to do this, but if your sleep quality improves, it’s an easy biohack that doesn’t take you out of ketosis thanks to the wonderful powers of MCT oil.

The toxin connection

I also stand with Paul Jaminet when it comes to safe starches, namely sweet potatoes and white rice. These are lowest in protein toxins. However, there is more to the toxin story in starch then naturally occurring protein toxins. Starch is a preferential food for mycotoxin forming fungi like Aspergillus and Fusarium. The vast majority of starch-based foods get fungal contamination during processing or storage, and those toxins affect your gut, your brain, and your health.

 I do not believe white potatoes are a smart food to eat because as members of the nightshade family they contain lectins, proteins that bind to the sugars that coat the cells in your body and cause inflammation. Potatoes are also notorious for harboring mold and there are more than 20 things you need to do to store them properly to avoid introducing new toxins as they age, especially mycotoxins. They are simply a high-risk food. Fortunately, sweet potatoes are not the same.

So there you have it. Enjoy roasted sweet potatoes soaked in butter for dinner once or twice a week, or maybe have baked mochi (white rice) stuffed with grass fed butter and drizzled with raw honey for dessert. Just don’t do it every night. This is my primary way of achieving low-carb benefits without the established problems that come from long-term low-carb dieting. Proper timing of carbs is one way the Bulletproof diet works like it does. A long term, high-fat, moderate protein, low carb diet won’t do the same things by itself.

Special thanks to Paul Jaminet, , Stephan Guyenet, Chris Kresser, Dr. Ron Rosedale, Chris Masterjohn, Dr. Cate Shanahan, and Jimmy Moore for the focus they’ve paid on the safe starch issue.

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By Dave Asprey

  • Mia

    Cool! Thanks! 🙂
    How about timing of carbs in regards to exercise?
    Is it important to have carbs (without fats) immediately after exercise?
    Is there a difference for people with stress/insomnia/adrenal burnout? Do we need more carbs?

    • MT_Dreams

      Current thoughts on proper carb intake would be to try and avoid it for at least 4 hours after your workout unless you did a crazy long intense workout (possibly longer than 90 min & you’ve drenched your clothes in sweat) Get a decent amount of protein (whey) within the first hour or so after exercise. If you workout at night, this wont work well with Dave’s suggestion to eat safe-starches in the evening. If you feel that you need it the same night as your exercise, make sure to add things like fat,cinnamon,lemon juice, etc, to slow down the glucose spike which hampers the bodies ability to loose weight &/or repair muscles.

      as for adrenal burnout, I would suggest not exercising under these conditions, as you are probably releasing lots of cortisol into your body. Look at some of Dave’s posts regarding sleep to try and fix that before putting exercise stress onto the body.

      • Yes! Working out – especially long workouts – while adrenal fatigued is just wrong.

    • For insomnia, 1 Tbs of raw honey before bed can help. Carbs right after exercise doesn’t seem to be necessary, but some people swear by it.

  • Zack_Leman

    Should we still eat 100-150 grams of carbs every 3-7 days in the winter? I have been doing this reefed after a sprinting or lifting workout.

    • I am not sure on this one. Probably not, but doing it every now and then – maybe every 2 weeks – might be a good idea. Needs a biohacker study!

  • Alicerobertsmd

    I have to say I’ve only found benefits from raw fruits, eaten alone…good brain power, steady blood sugàr and excellent micronutrients…also very hydrating. That and the carbs in raw vegetables seem to do it. But who doesn’t enjoy a sweet potato now and then :). Very interested to see you book when it comes out!

    • One piece of fruit, alone, could stabilize blood glucose for several hours, true.

  • Anonymous

    “I do not worry about unoxidized LDL levels because your body will use LDL to bind to and eliminate environmental toxins. It’s not well known, but people with high cholesterol survive certain drug overdoses and toxin exposures better than people with low cholesterol. I believe unoxidized cholesterol is protective and not harmful.”

    Could you put in references to studies supporting this? You said the same thing in the ‘Paleolista’ podcast, but I couldn’t find any references in the shownotes.

    Are there cholesterollevels you would consider too high? Asking ’cause I just got mine; LDL: 270, HDL: 68; Triglycerides: 53. Indicative of unoxidised LDL, but still makes me a bit concerned…

    Great post as always, keep on the good work.

    • That came from the Fungalbionics series by Constantini, bu I don’t have the specific books with me. Would take a while to find. Forette, et al., 1989 found: “Mortality was
      lowest at serum cholesterol 7.0 mmol/l [=270.6 mg%], 5.2 times higher
      than the minimum at serum cholesterol 4.0 mmol/l, and only 1.8 times
      higher when cholesterol concentration was 8.8 mmol/l. This relation
      held true irrespective of age, even when blood pressure, body weight,
      history of myocardial infarction, creatinine clearance, and plasma proteins
      were taken into account.”

      I wouldn’t worry, esp if your LpPLA2 is low.

  • Daniel

    Are you aware of the work by Dr Phinney, showing that it takes weeks to adapt to ketosis? Furthermore, he’s shown that you lose muscle mass due to gluconeogenesis during the first week of the adaptation. Are you measuring your BOHB after your carb-feasts to make sure you stay in ketosis? Experiences from people who have, indicate that it is very easy to drop out of ketosis, and hard to get “back in”. Your “carb cycling” program seems like it would leave you in a constant state of (re-)adaptation, which is very sub-optimal.

    • That’s a good question. If you’re fully fat adapted, one meal of carbs won’t un-adapt you and it’s easy to get back in; it usually takes me a day based on keto-stix.

  • Patrick

    Biochemistry shows us that zero carbohydrates are needed by the human body. Carbohydrates in any form are not essential. A healthy functioning human body can and does optimize glucose levels on its own through a process called gluconeogenesis. There is no evidence that this process needs any intervention through consumption of glucose producing, non-fiber carbs. Excess protien (above about 20g per meal for most people) will also be converted to glucose in the body. I like sushi and sweet potatoes as much as anyone, but I have no illution that consuming them is optimal for my health and longevity. There is no scientific evidence that the liver needs us to introduce more glucose than what it already produces. I realize that you don’t recommend consuming much starch. On the other hand almost everyone on Earth is a sugar burner and there is much scientific evidence that this leads to disease and shortens lifespan. If a person decides to eat starch and other carbs I think it’s important to know that the non-fiber portion always turns to glucose, and that this raises insulin and leptin, and takes the body out of fat burning mode which is optimal for health and long life.

    • Andy H

      The low carb taliban will call them non-essential, but you may live your life in misery without them as low carbohydrate diets are associated with poor moods and cognition:

      Glucose is not an evil substance and insulin is not an evil hormone. Your body manufactures glucose for a reason when you don’t obtain it through diet. Please cite the scientific evidence that being a “sugar burner” shortens lifespan. Some of the longest lived people on the earth, the Okinawans’, eat large amounts of carbohydrate (80%+). The kitavans eat a diet of 70% carbohydrate and lack any sort of metabolic or disease states associated with the western diet.

      This is not to mentioned the poor athletic performance one gets out of a low carb diet (even if one is fat adapted).

      • Chad J.

        “The low carb taliban…”

        That was a completely unneccessary jab. We can discuss our differences of opinion without resorting to ugly name-calling, yes?

        • Sean

          AGREED! The CIA isn’t funding Glucose-insurgents with Bags Of Gold to help sustain heroin production in Afghanistan. YOU ARE SO RIGHT! 🙂

        • Good call Sean.

        • Andy H

          It was (mostly) intended as a joke. 🙂

          My point stands though, some of the longest living cultures on earth subsisted primarily on carbohydrate. How could someone rationally conclude that glucose or an insulin response causes disease?

        • Beeru Tsunami

          lol i thought you were actually talking about the taliban whose diet includes almost no carbs.

        • 6442

          Remeber that wheat for instance is genetically manipulated with some sort of bacterie to resist insects etc. Other plants i dont know but, the food we eat isnt necessarily anything we would recognize while evolving….

        • Firebird7478

          So you’re calling Eskimos, who eat only fats and proteins and zero carbs, terrorists?

        • Andre5001

          Yes, that is exactly what I am doing. You are so smart.

      • Patrick

        I try not to respond to ad hominem comments since the arguments are usually informed by emotions rather than by science.  In this case, citing epidemiological data proves the point and is not at all persuasive.  Observational studies can only assist in forming a hypothesis.  Causation can only be determined by experimentation, using the scientific method.  My position is that any basic biochemistry text book will show that carbohydrates are not essential.  By definition this means that they are not required for humans.   Fat and protein are essential to humans. 

        I never said that insulin was “evil”.  In fact, insulin is essential to life since it regulates energy storage and cellular reproduction.  Since there are too many variables to have a valid, controlled experiment showing that health and longevity is determined by the amount of fat vs. sugar a person burns over a lifetime, we have to look at cellular experiments.  We can also look at animal experiments.  Like most hypotheses, the one I stated began as an observation.  There are many differences between centenarians: region, habitat, social, diet, activity, habits.  One common observation is that all centenarians have very low serum leptin, low insulin, and low mTOR.  Does this mean that low leptin, insulin, and mTOR are the cause of their longevity?  We don’t know, but it is a hypothesis that looks promising since other common threads in this divergent population are elusive.  This “endocrine signalling” hypothesis has been tested and confirmed in many pieces.  For instance, the lifespan of mice has been more than doubled by keeping insulin, leptin, and mTOR low, and also by blocking the receptors for these molecules.  At a macro level, three of the body’s key nutrient sensing/regulating pathways are: insulin (carbohydrate-glucose), leptin (fat), and mTOR (protein).  Here is a small sample of experiments testing the impacts of insulin, leptin, and mTOR signaling for those who may be interested.  There are many experiments that confirm the longevity benefit of keeping leptin, insulin, and mTOR low as this simulates the well established benefits of calorie restriction.


        Dr. Rosedale’s website has a lot more information on this.  The endrocrine signaling impact on health and longevity has been confirmed in other species besides mice, and there are experiments being conducted on primates that will shape this hypothesis further. 

        – continued –

        • Patrick

          – continued –

          We are free to eat as much starch, grain, sugar, and other carbohydrates as we want.  In truth, it’s much more difficult to avoid doing so.  This does not mean that consuming carbohydrate is optimal to health and longevity.  A key consideration for me is that through evolution, the human body has created elegant processes for metabolizing food.  The body has chosen fat as the primary storage mechanism (glucose storage is very minimal by comparison).  This is a strong indication that the natural state for humans is ketogenic fat burning.  Most of the 20+ trillion cells in the body are designed to readily metabolize fat into ATP.  They can also use glucose.  The difference is that glucose raises insulin and leptin, wheras fat (and moderate protein) does not.  Chronically raising insulin and leptin leads to cellular resistance.  Insulin resistance is a fundamental aspect of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, but is not necessarily the only factor.  Another difference is that glucose is quickly stored in adipose tissue, which promotes obesity.  Perhaps the worse aspect of glucose is its role in glycation.  Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are easily formed when protein bonds to glucose.  The AGE acronym was established on purpose by scientists because the sticky glycation of cell membranes impedes endocrine signaling, reduces cellular oxidation, and hardens tissue lining.  These are all cellular aspects of aging

        • Patrick

          – continued –

          The important point is that a high fat (raw or minimal heat), adequate protein, low AGE diet naturally provides all of the benefits of calorie restriction, but without the hunger.  I emphasize raw fat because heat readily denatures fat, promotes inflammation, and reduces cell respiration.  It’s been shown that cancer always forms when there is a 35% reduction in cellular oxygen, so cell respiration is very important, and consuming raw fats (both omega 6 and omega 3 raw fats) is important for proper cell respiration.

        • Amen brother! This is at the core of the Bulletproof Diet.

        • SeanMagic

          I’d like to see a study on whole-body-vibration and cancer… I feel like every cell in my body is fully-loaded with oxygen after 15 to 25 minutes on my Vibe machine.

        • kristin

          What about fruit and vegetable carbs for the phyto-nutrients and vitamins? I understand your argument, but to eliminate all glucose, especially that which is obtained from plant sources, would mean severely limiting your intake of fruits and vegetables. Do you argue against eating these foods?

        • Phyto”nutrients” are generally anything but. They’re (intentionally?) not absorbed well, never been proven via experimental, in vivo studies to be of any benefit vs abstinence, and are plant toxins. (Eg: the much-ballyhooed sulphorophane is stored in broccoli inert until the plant receives some trauma like a cut, at which point it’s activated to harm the eater). Fruits & veg.s are only useful as regards vitamins for their C and folate.

        • fredhahn

          Agreed 100%. Too many people are argumentative. This gets us nowhere. One must refrain from logical fallacy talk and stick to scientific dialouge.

      • Bue

        Low carb taliban, I love it. LOL!

        • Firebird7478

          As opposed to the vegan taliban?

      • liver

        The studies you link to don’t show much. The first one went for only 3 weeks; probably not long enough for (presumably) previously high-carb metabolisms to adapt to a high fat switch. The second study compares a calorie-deficit, low-fat diet to an isocaloric (calories in = calories spent), high fat diet; the caloric differences confound the results. Also, this second study showed no difference in cognitive performance parameters between groups, a result at odds with the first study.

      • fredhahn

        Low carb diets in the short term may result in a bad mood as the switch to fat buring may take some people more time to adjust to.

        No one is saying glucose is evil. Too much however is toxic.

        Okinawans longevity hasn’t a thing to do with the carbs they eat. They also suffer from severe osteoperosis. Their loner life span (~4 more years than the typical Amercian) is more due to the way older people are cared for and revered in their culture.

        Your statment RE poor athletic performance in a LC diet is unfounded. Read The Art and Science of LC Performance by Volek and Phinney.

        • Dimas

          Name one professional high octane power athlete that is on a Ketosis diet with minimal or no carb intake in Olympic lifting, Power lifting, Sprinting or heck even cross-fit since I know Ketosis is popular in that crowd.

          Please! I am genuinely curious as I follow the major Olympic lifting and Power lifting world champions and not one of them is on a low to no carb diet – And I am talking about life time drug free athletes, as I only follow the drug free/natural pro federations.

          I understand very well that carbohydrates are not essential in the human diet, but I believe there is a massive difference in essential and optimal, especially when it comes to performance.

        • Dimas

          To add to my point – I would also say Olympic/power lifting is the epitome of having to be optimal in performance as a sport.

        • Steven
        • Aj Oliva

          An ultra marathoner requires significantly different nutrition than lets say a football player, martial artist, sprinter, power athlete, etc. You need some starch/fruit to fuel power athletes if you want them to be any good.

        • Markus

          Sami Khedira (German National football team& Real Madrid) is LC to VLC since 2012…

    • Patrick, biochemistry does not show us that zero carbs are needed. The formation of mucus in the eyes and gut is dependent on *some* carbs – certainly not 100g – in the diet. Cycling out of ketosis on occasion (1-2x/week as I recopmmend) is better than staying in ketosis all the time because of the hormetic response.

      • Philip J. Mauch

        Dave, how did the Inuits get carbs, especially in the winter?

        • Steven

          They not only ate the stomach contents of the elk/moose/caribou (psst… all vegitarian stuff in there) but they had berries certain times of the year. They were in ketosis for 4-6 months straight through the deep winters but in the summers they had forageable foods.

        • David Lewis
        • Rachael

          Quite late to the show, but: marine mammals store large amounts of glycogen in the tissue compared to ruminants, and the Inuits cleaned their kills quickly to ensure rapid freezing, thus preserving said glycogen. We often site the Inuits in the low carb sphere, but their diet is nigh impossible to replicate, and packed an average of 40+ grams of carbs by way of marine mammal consumption alone.

    • fredhahn

      I agree.

  • Dave, excellent post as always.

    Interesting responses as well. This issue is so complex that it certainly has to be taken at the individual view. Where is one metabolically, nutritionally etc. We can certainly use/look to the evidence in the literature to point us in a direction.

    I think the question is not “are starches safe” or “do we really need carbs”. It is a matter of how we use them (or not use them) to manipulate hormonal status to get us what we want out of nutrients, whether they protein, fat, or carbs.

  • Trolando

    Okay, so, what about fruit instead of starch?

    • MT_Dreams

      safe starches are broken down into glucose which the body uses for the above mentioned reasons. Fruit on the other hand has both fructose & glucose. There is currently many people in the health field (including many from this article) that don’t recommend fruits high in fructose b/c of all the havoc is causes on the body. do a search on fructose if you need more info on which fruits contain high amounts.

  • j_glines

    Awesome post Dave. I like how you’ve synthesized Paul Jaminet, Chris Kresser’s and your opinions.

    Personally I have had great results with a eating plan similar to Kiefer’s carb back loading where the morning is a bulletproof coffee “fast” with butter/cream/coconut oil.
    Lunch is low carb and Post Workout in the evening I’ll do some raw milk/kefir and bananas/sweet potatoes or mashed white potatoes with the skin removed.

    • I tried something similar too but didn’t write it up here. After a couple months I just didn’t feel as good. Went back to not having carbs every night.

  • Andrew Nakamura

    I still eat quite a bit of rice to be honest. (What? Don’t look at me like that, I’m half Okinawan >.>) My carb consumption tends to fluctuate pretty naturally though. Sometimes I feel no need and just forge on ahead with my meats and eggs and whatnot and other times I just really really want some rice dammit. I very, VERY rarely eat fruit of any kind except for frozen berries in smoothies (which I haven’t made in a while because I’m too lazy to clean the blender afterwards).

    Same with vegetables to be honest. I know they’re the holy grail of the healthy or whatever but I don’t really care all that much for most vegetables. A few times a month I’ll eat a mixed green salad w/ evoo or something. I eat a bit of frozen brocolli and cauliflower (I hate buying fresh vegetables because they usually end up rotting before I get around to eating them, and a lot of “fresh” vegetables are actually long past their prime by the time they reach our kitchens anyways). Some cucumbers here and there. Kimchi. That’s pretty much it.

    So yeah I’m all on board for toxin-free starches (assuming I’m right in not buying that glucose itself is a toxin, despite my burning need to identify with philosophical extremes.) Plus, now that I’m between jobs and lower on money than I have been in a long time, that 20 pound bag of short-grain Japanese rice in my pantry is looking more and more delicious by the day. 😀 haha.

    One of my super-cheap go-to starchy meals when I’m feeling hella lazy:
    Heat 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a pan
    Crack like 6-7 eggs in that, add copious amounts of sea salt, wait til whites are barely solidifed, flip, more salt, then cook for around 45 seconds to 1 minute (leave yolks completely liquid. the idea is to just baaaarely cook the eggs)
    Scoop a good bit o’ sticky rice into a bowl (of course you had some already prepared in your rice cooker, right?)
    Dump eggs on top of rice, drizzle excess coconut oil on top
    add a big ass slab of that garlic and herb butter from kerrygold on top and let it melt
    shake ungodly amounts of furikake on top (google it)
    drizzle even more coconut oil on top, or mct if you have it.
    optional: add bacon. I only do this if I have some already prepared.

    now grab a spoon and enjoy! and try and tell me after that, that rice is poison ;D you won’t be able to.

    ^ i eat this exact thing probably 2-3 times a week.

    • Sounds great! I’ve made something similar…but I wouldn’t do that much rice every day! 🙂

    • Erm…Doesn’t Furikake have MSG? And from what I’ve seen of the Bulletproof Diet, MSG isn’t really good for you. It sounds great (I’m south asian, and a rice lover too) but I’d skip out on the furikake, or at least, get an MSG free version

  • Pingback: The Paleo Rag | The Bulletproof Perspective on “Safe Starches”()

  • Fundi

    You know, things are really beginning to shift away from low carb to moderate carb and I predict high carb. For those wanting to be on the leading edge, check out Ray Peat who is already in the high-carb camp and kicking ass with optimized T3, Testosterone and Preg levels.

    • Ray Peat is an interesting guy, but I don’t buy all his carb stuff. The fructose data is just too strong.

      • Peter Martinez

        It’s really not as strong as you claim, Dave. Read the physiology and stop relying on mouse studies to draw conclusions.

  • Greg

    Are you suggesting an amount of rice or sweet potato that provides 100–150 grams of carbohydrate OR
    a sweet potato that weighs 100–150 grams? Also,
    how much MCT oil would you recommend taking with
    the honey on the starch free days?


    • carbs. Enough MCT to not give you the runs…highly variable.

  • Sean

    Dry Eyes… Mucin deficiency… Anyone have an idea on know how supplementing with Pregnenolone can accelerate this problem? Does for me, anyway…

    I’ve speculated potassium deficiency; but experiment has shown only eating more glucose and starch (e.g. honey + oatmeal) will provide the materials to create sufficient mucin.

  • Michelle

    Hi Dave, do we have to worry about insulin surges when consuming raw honey before bed time together with MCT oil? Assuming that I am consuming <50g of carbs most of the days mainly from vegetables and avocados. Also do you recommend the consumption of raw honey and MCT oil during the rapid fat loss protocol at night?

    • Dave Asprey

      A small amount of honey probably won’t take you out of ketosis; if it does you need less. Use a keto stick to see if you leave ketosis!

      • steve

        what level of ketosis on the keto stick is optimal? Is it preferential do have the cycle out of ketosis after working out?

      • Rdd TheStrong

        I tried using ketostix in the morning both before bulletproof coffee (with butter and mct) and after and the ketostix never changed color. Does that mean I’m not in ketosis?

  • d

    I’ve tried low carb for a few weeks (around 30% of calories) and have not had good really good success with it. Cognitive function was decreased, energy levels were lower, and I would generally feel exhausted by the time I got off of work. Once I upped my carb intake to roughly 40-60% of calories I felt much better. I had more energy, better cognitive function, and I even lost some weight which was surprising.

    I know epidemiological data cannot prove that carbs are good or bad but it’s still hard to ignore that some of longest lived populations on earth consume a lot of carbs in their regular diet.

    • Rick Pack

      Interesting. Your story supports that some people’s bodies are such that they need more carbohydrates than others. Possibly related: Were you like or unlike Dave with respect to his tendency to easily gain body fat on the standard American diet?

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  • Sean

    Dave, what are some things we can do to improve gluconeogenesis — to further our experimentation with ketosis?

    High-fat, Low-carb was a horrible experience for me. Stressed, can’t sleep, tight neck/shoulders…etc.

    Is hypo-thyroid function the problem for those who can’t tolerate ketosis?

  • paige

    Can’t find answer – i tried clicking the link to “sweet potatoes are not the same” but it just went to the podcast, which ive listened to twice. I’d like to know how to pick proper sweet potatoes for my RFLP re-feed days. htx Dave!

  • I’ve been paleo for almost 2 yrs and following the bulletproof diet for about 1 month. I ate some white rice with butter and a little raw honey (a recipe my husband found here), and almost immediately after consumption I felt my body reacting. I got a distended stomach, felt nauseous, tossed and turned when I tried to go to sleep and finally at 2am got up and got sick. I was able to go back to sleep, but then had a series of horrible nightmares one right after the other. This was such a strange and unusual experience for me and I was wondering if anyone else coming from a grain free, low carb diet has experienced anything like this when reintroducing white rice.

    • ReneeAnn

      I have experienced similar episodes, but not necessarily to carbs in general, but to various foods. When I’m feeling really well and have time to risk being sick, I try the food again. You may be reacting to the rice or the honey or even a new spice used in the recipe. I have several intolerances to random foods.

      • I should mention that I have a very sensitive digestive system. I’ve had similar reactions to MSG, wheat, and avocados in the past. I am going to try both honey and rice independent of each other at some point to see if I have the same reaction to either one, the other, or both. I was just curious to see if anyone else had experienced this with rice specifically.

        • ReneeAnn

          I have heard of people reacting to rice and I’m always surprised because I do have a fussy stomach, but tolerate rice quite well. I haven’t eaten it in about a year because it is just so tasteless, I prefer plantains as my safe starch. Sweet potatoes have too many oxalates for me.

          By the way, I keep a bottle of activated charcoal by my bedside and take some before I get too sick. It works miracles.

    • sven

      I had the same type of thing happen with Kashi Go-Lean. After a long spell of avoiding starches I had some go-lean with pasture whole milk yogurt and felt it for two days. I wont be eating that again.

      • Jakob

        Kashi = GMO’s. Take that into consideration, for what it’s worth

  • Stu_UK

    Dave, what do you think about taking Dextrose post-workout with some whey protein? The workout will be high intensity weight training to muscle failure.

  • Stephanie

    I’m interested in the effects of low carb on women, especially regarding fertility. See Stafani’s post on encouraging women to eat carbs. Ans cheeseslave. Women are complicated. I know it seems that during certain parts of my cycle my energy and mood plummet if I don’t eat starches or fruit.

  • Brendan

    I’m very curious about body weight changes when combining a carb-rich meal with fat. Here’s a scenario: You are at a friend’s house for dinner with no say over what’s being served. The meal is heavy on ok-carbs (rice) and bad carbs (bread). Assuming that this meal will shift your body into storage mode (we’ll avoid thinking about how crappy we’ll feel the next morning from the gluten), does the result of this meal improve if we added a few tablespoons of Kerrygold butter to the rice or bread to slow digestion of the carbs? Or, since we’ll already be shifting part of this meal to stored body fat, will the additional dietary fat from the butter just get shuttled into fat cells as well?

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  • frank

    so what would make brown rice less safe than white rice?

  • Sonia

    Wouldn’t the MCT oil keep me up at night??

  • Sonia

    Would peeling an organic white potato help the mold/toxin issue at all? We don’t have them often, but maybe once a month or so.

  • fredhahn

    Dave I love your work. But like any self experiment, it doesn’t tell us much and is often misleading. FE: Drug addicts who quit using often experience weeks of “ill health” – aches, pains, mental stress, loss of sleep, halucinations, etc. This does not mean they should start using again. But you know this.

    Mike Eades wrote a fantastic blog last year on using your own feelings as an indicator that a LC diet is good or bad for you. In most cases, it’s not a good way to measure benefit or detriment. Let science be the candle in the dark. We only have a teaspoon of glucose coursing thorugh our blood stream at one time.

    MANY people who allow themselves to get through the dark times after adopting a VLCD (which I like to call a “normal” carbohydrate diet), find these “bad” symptoms dissapear in a few days/weeks. But for many people it can take months. Might not be worth the wait however. Dr. Jack Kruse says for some people it can take years. That sucks.

    I’m with Cate. Her work seems the most sound. And sure, some sweet potato now and again ain’t a big deal.

    And, BTW, I’ll be speaking on the 2014 LCC too! Look forward to meeting you.

    In strength,

    • Reasonable, Fred, but keep in mind that Jaminet was on a ZC diet for two years & had many of the same symptoms. I wonder if the MCT hack (for staying in ketosis) along with occasional small polysaccaride doses might be even better than Dave’s recoomendation of cycling in and out? Only one way to find out…

  • Jeremy

    So is having high cholesterol good or bad! I just came back from the doctor and mine was 234. I use a lot of grass fed butter and MCT oil as well. My LDL was 164 and the HDL was 70. The Doc was like we need to look at this more closely! Any suggestions.

  • catherine

    Dave, I have been going completely grain free and even starch free with the exception of one piece of food of life white rice bread at night. I have late stage lyme and had mold exposure. Everything is so crazy for me to get a grasp on and diet changes take time for me, I always have to find a way to make it work where I know I will stick to it. Now I have to eat like every two hours or so and I eat the bread before I sleep cause with out it I would wake up from hunger. I have not thought of a way to replace this bread with something else. Do you think doing that is going to set me back? Or is it totally necessary to do the 3 days a week. Many thanks. I have been stressing about how to do this and avoid mycotoxins and go paleo for sometime and really the set back is that one piece of bread I do at night. ( its white rice ). Ps Can I email you by chance?

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  • Todd Wohl

    I’m curious to know how bulletproof turnips are. I don’t see them on the color coded bulletproof diet chart.

  • haig

    I’m sure you’re well aware of Art De Vany and his long term no starch diet he’s been living successfully. I’d be curious to see if he had any of the dryness or mucus problems, if his consumption of daily fruits with his meals help in this regard, or if he’s just a genetic freak.

  • ColleenCoble

    Thanks for being brave enough to post this, Dave! I totally agree with you. After about 9 mos on a strict paleo diet, I felt worse and worse. My labs got worse too, and my thyroid had tanked. My body composition got way worse with more fats (I have no gall bladder though so that might an issue.) Now that I’m eating more carbs including sweet potatoes and some occasional quinoa and rice, I’m feeling really great again. I’ll never go super low carb again. It’s not for me.

  • kelly

    I remember reading years ago in the Atkins New Diet Revolution book that going in and out of ketosis–like going low-carb Mon.-Fri. and high carb on the weekends–wasn’t recommended because it would screw up your metabolism. Any thoughts on this?

  • Beedee

    Here’s my problem with starch and dry eyes. I have Type 2 diabetes; blood glucose is NOT my problem. I have it, and I make more overnight. When I tried Paul Jaminet’s suggestion to eat some white rice and take vitamin C, within 5 days my eyes were dramatically worse and I gained 5 pounds. So for diabetics or someone who is insulin resistant, this strategy doesn’t make sense. I wish someone would figure out dry eyes, though, because it is one nasty, painful way to torture a human being on a daily basis.

  • Paul Andre

    Hey Everyone! First time post here.

    I have been on the bulletproof diet for about 2 weeks now.

    Here is how I do things. (21 by the way)

    Morning: 24 oz of bulletproof coffee with 3 tablespoons Kerry gold unsalted and 3 tablespoons Upgraded Brain Octane. I will also do an upgraded Kale shake with the coffee.

    Lunch: Will usually look to have a local grassfed steak or chicken breast soaked in grassfed butter with some avocado or almonds. I am usually rarely hungry at this time due to the bulletproof coffee, so it is usually a fairly small meal.

    Workout: I will weight train for about half hour, No cardio

    Post workout: Upgraded Whey and a couple berries. Experimenting whether I need the whey and a fat or whey and a starch post workout.

    Dinner: I will have more grass fed meat, greens, and some berries.

    Every 4 days I will have a big bowl of white rice and honey with dinner.

    Verdict: I have never felt better in my life. Working out less then I used to but my muscle tone and body fat has dropped exponentially. **Used to workout 4x a week on a high protein, mwdium fat, medium carb diet. I used to play college football and am still a recreational. Bodybuilder

    I would always have mood swings on my previous diet and was eating 4-5 a day as I was always hungry. I was hypnotized by the body building myth of high protein for muscle gain.

    The diet works. Period. Have energy 24/7, literally feel like I am on Adderall all day with no crash. Have to compare it to that, tried it once never again!!! However, the effects are so similar

    • Brandon Teel

      I am actually very interested in this. Ill give this a try and post my personal findings after the same time and let you know.

    • Linda McKinney Baker

      You meant to say your muscle tone is better, and your fat has dropped. Go back and read that sentence. Just wanted to make sure you realize what you said 🙂

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  • wz

    I have been doing some research on starches in particular. Corn Starch, Tapioca Starch. I recently came across some sweet potato starch noodles from Thailand. They are clear and gummy and very delicious. But I am hesitating because it is starch. Starch is a heavily proccessed food. If you think about corn, then corn meal, then corn flour, then corn starch – how may proccesses does this go through to get to starch? And WHAT HAPPENS when you COOK the starch? That is the key. If you eat raw starch, it may not affect you. But who eats raw starch? Go to and download the PDF about where MSG is hidden. If it’s in corn starch, it is in every kind of starch. Look into the making of starch. The intense processing. Processing, especially if it involves heat and water, will create MSG, by default.

  • George

    I feel best with a moderate paleo eating approach. What works for me is having some safe starches in the diet on occassions or having safe starches before/after a high intensity workout. Before settling with this eating approach, I followed a ketogenic diet for 6 months, but I never felt good at all. I was always grumpy and had a low level hunger feeling in my stomach all the time. I switched to a low-fat, high carb diet and this approach to my surprise, worked failry well and I got leaner. I find that I can handle 800 grams of carbs (including grains) easily. I think that it is important to recognize that not everyone has the same genes. What works for one person may not work for another and having options is important. Some of us do need starches in the diet to feel good while others may not need starches or carbs and can do just fine.

  • Sweet potatoes are the best!

  • Holly Dryden

    Dave – Can your share with us this Mochi recipe?! Sounds amazing……

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  • David Keenihan

    You clearly did not read the article….

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