Safe Starches and The Perfect Health Diet

Many thanks to Richard Nikoley, Tim “Tatertot” Steele and Grace Liu for not only giving comprehensive answers to my many questions about resistant starch, but for taking the time to answer questions in the comments section as well.  I appreciate your dedication, gang.

Speaking of the gang, Richard was the guest host for the latest episode of Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb show.  Tim and Grace were his primary guests.  I came on at the end.  The topic, of course, was resistant starch.

I started the three-part interview series by saying my next few posts should be filed under Stuff I Got Wrong or Stuff I Wish I Hadn’t Ignored.  Resistant starch was one.  Okay, got that one covered for now.  The other was “safe starch” as prescribed in Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet.

I’ve already explained why I dismissed resistant starch when the topic first hit the media:  the people pushing it were the makers of an industrial corn product that’s used to add a little resistant starch to muffins and other baked goods that are still frankenfood garbage.  They’re still promoting resistant starch that way.

I mostly ignored the “safe starch” issue when it created a buzz in 2011 because I’d given up starchy foods and felt fine.  In fact, I didn’t even watch the Ancestral Health Symposium debate on safe starch until last week.  I say mostly ignored because the one time I commented on it was when Jimmy Moore wrote a blog post and asked for a comment.  I hadn’t read the Perfect Health Diet book, but knew Jaminet recommended a diet that included “safe starches” such as white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and plantains to avoid a glucose deficiency.  So I made a wisecrack about how my Irish ancestors died off from a glucose deficiency because they didn’t have access to white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and plantains – none of which are native to Ireland.  (Potatoes didn’t come to Ireland until they were brought from the New World.)  Then I went back to ignoring the topic.

I did, however, start adding sweet potatoes and squashes back into my diet here and there after I read more on paleo and ancestral diets and realized that tubers and other starchy plants have been part of the human diet for a long, long time.  Unlike wheat and other cereal grains, roots and tubers are not Neolithic foods that require farming and processing.  They’re ancient foods that can be (and were) gathered by hunter-gatherer societies.  In the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, the author cites research showing that humans began cooking meats and tubers hundreds of thousands of years ago.  It was these calorically-dense foods, easily digested after cooking, that allowed our big brains to develop.

So when we talk about Paleo Man with his tall stature and good bones and teeth, we’re talking about a man who gathered and ate some roots, tubers and other starchy plants to go along with his meat and fish.  My Irish ancestors didn’t eat rice or yams or plantains, but that’s not the point (or so I realize now).  Because the truth is, none of us eats exactly what our paleo ancestors ate.  We can’t.  They hunted animals that have gone extinct.  They gathered plants that have mutated or gone extinct.  When we shift towards what we now call a paleo diet, the best we can do is try to eat foods that provide the nutrients they consumed, not the same plants and animals that provided them with those nutrients.  My Irish ancestors didn’t eat yams, but they likely discovered species of edible roots and tubers while digging up the Guinness bushes to make themselves a yummy drink.

With all that in mind, I added small servings of sweet potatoes and squashes back into my diet, but considered them an acceptable real-food treat, not a necessary part of a healthy diet.  I figured I could just easily live without any starchy foods, and perhaps I can … but perhaps some people can’t, and perhaps I’m better off with those foods than without them.

As you know if you saw my most recent speech, I’m a fan of the Wisdom of Crowds effect: when people communicate what they know with each other, the answers bubble up.  In the cyberspace crowd of health-oriented blogs and Facebook groups, I noticed more and more people saying they developed problems on a strict very-low-carb diet – low thyroid function, cold hands and feet, high fasting glucose, dry eyes, etc. – which went away when they added some “safe starches” back into their diets as prescribed in the Perfect Health Diet.  In the same post about safe starches where I made the wisecrack about my Irish ancestors, in fact, Chris Kresser made this observation:

I see a fair number of patients in my practice struggling with symptoms like hair loss, cold hands and feet, plateaued weight loss, low energy and mood imbalances after following a VLC diet for several months. In many cases they adopted this approach to lose weight, which was successful – at least to a certain point. However, others were not overweight to begin with and simply chose to eat VLC because they got the impression that “carbs are bad”, even for people without metabolic problems. I believe many of these issues are related to the decrease in thyroid hormone levels seen on VLC diets.

In cases where there is no significant metabolic damage, when I have these folks increase their carbohydrate intake (with starch like tubers and white rice, and fruit) to closer to 150g a day, they almost always feel better. Their hair loss stops, their body temperature increases and their mood and energy improves.

So I figured there had to be something to it.  Kresser is a brilliant guy and treats a lot of patients.  That’s real-world experience talking.  But he followed with this:

For people that are overweight and are insulin/leptin resistant, it’s a bit trickier. In some cases increasing carbohydrate intake moderately, to approximately 100g per day, actually re-starts the weight loss again. In other cases, any increase in carbohydrate intake – in any form – will cause weight gain and other unpleasant symptoms. A different approach is required for these patients.

As always, there’s no simple answer and no one-size-fits-all approach. If I could leave your readers with one point, that would be it.

I agree completely.  We’re all different.  Some people may need starchy carbs in their diets, other people probably don’t.  Until recently, I put myself in the second camp.  I was doing fine without making safe starches a part of my daily diet.  I never developed any of the health problems people were saying they cured with safe starches.  Cold hands and feet?  Nope.  Dry eyes?  Nope.  Depressed thyroid?  Not according to the battery of lab tests I had when I turned 55.  So I figured if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and continued pretty much ignoring the safe-starch issue.

It was revisiting resistant starch that finally prompted me to revisit safe starches and read Paul Jaminet’s book.  Why?  Well, it’s all about gut health and the microbiome.  After Richard Nikoley beat me and thousands of other people over the head with a hundred or so posts on resistant starch, I decided to give it try.  Within two days, it solved the one issue I had not just with a low-carb diet, but with every diet I’ve ever tried:  slow digestion.  As I’ve mentioned in several posts, the worst digestion I ever had was back in my grain-eating vegetarian days.  I always had a bottle of Pepto-Bismal in my medicine cabinet and packed the chewable version when I traveled.  Going low-carb cured that.  No more stomach aches, no more irritable bowel, no more gastric reflux – probably because going low-carb meant giving up wheat and other gluten-containing grains.

But the slow digestion stuck around, so I either ate good-sized servings of almonds or swallowed psyllium-husk pills before bed.  That usually did the trick.  But after starting a protocol of resistant starch and probiotics, my digestion has been excellent – better than it’s ever been.  I’m also sleeping more deeply than I have in decades, which is quite a welcome development, since I’ve been prone to occasional bouts of insomnia for most of my life.  I feel clear-headed and alert soon after waking.  Normally it takes two big cups of coffee before I feel truly awake.

That’s when I decided my if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it confidence was misplaced.  Something was broken, or at least far from optimal.  My version of a near-paleo diet was controlling my blood sugar and keeping my weight down, but it wasn’t properly feeding my gut bacteria.

In an email exchange with Richard Nikoley, he told me he first learned about the benefits of resistant starch from Tim Steele.  In an email exchange with Tim Steele, he told me he first learned about the benefits of resistant starch from … wait for it … Paul Jaminet.  Okay, I thought to myself, it’s about time I read this guy’s book.

And so, with apologies to Jaminet for the longest preamble ever to a book review (and for that wisecrack about my Irish ancestors), I’ll explain why I believe it’s one of the best books on nutrition I’ve ever read.

In case you’re not familiar with his story, Paul Jaminet lived on a standard American diet for decades and paid for it with ill health.  His health improved on a very-low-carb paleo diet for awhile, but then he developed other problems – scurvy, to name one example.  So his low-carb paleo diet was better, but obviously still not good enough.  It was the desire to find a perfect diet that inspired all the research that eventually went into the first edition of the Perfect Health Diet book and the Perfect Health Diet website.

Among other careers, Paul Jaminet was once an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  His wife and co-author, Shou-Ching Jaminet, is a molecular biologist and cancer researcher at the Harvard Medical School.  So let’s just say they’re on the smart side of the bell curve and not afraid to delve into the heavy-duty science stuff.  Fortunately for the book’s readers, they explain it clearly.  In fact, I would describe their writing style as relentlessly logical – and I mean that as a compliment.

The relentless logic that underlies the Perfect Health Diet goes like this:  ill health is the result of pathogens, nutrient deficiencies and toxins.  So other than avoiding pathogens, the key to robust health is a diet that excludes toxins as much as possible while providing the optimal intake of all necessary nutrients.  Optimal intake means enough to derive the biological benefits, but not enough to become toxic – because almost anything can become toxic to humans at some level.  Not too little, not too much.

Among many other nutrients, the Jaminets make a case that there’s an optimal intake of glucose – otherwise known as starch.  (Fruits provide most of their calories as fructose, and sugar is roughly half fructose and half glucose.)  As the book explains:

For glucose, as for all other nutrients, our strategy is to find the peak health range – the intakes at which benefits have ended and there is still no toxicity.

That peak health range is the amount of glucose our bodies require on a daily basis — somewhere in the range of 100 to 150 grams. It’s this chapter of the book that started all the hubbub over “safe starches.”  Yes, your body will convert protein into glucose – even if it has to raid the protein stored in your muscles to do so – but the Jaminets argue that forcing your body to meet its daily glucose requirement through gluconeogenesis can eventually cause the health problems Chris Kresser described seeing in some of his patients: slow thyroid, dry eyes, cold hands and feet, low energy, weight-loss stalls, etc.

I don’t believe everyone on a very-low-carb diet will develop those problems, of course.  I didn’t.  But as I mentioned above, I’ve been including occasional servings of sweet potatoes and squashes in my diet for awhile now, plus I usually consume a high-carb Mexican meal on Saturday night.  Perhaps that made the difference.  Or it could just be that some of us are more efficient at producing glucose from protein than others and therefore avoid the glucose-deficiency problems the Jaminets describe.

The point is, just because a low-carb diet is beneficial for many people, it doesn’t mean a no-carb diet is even better.  If the optimal intake for most people is somewhere in the 100 to 150 gram range, which the Jaminets believe it is, then we need to obtain those carbohydrates from foods that also provide nutrients without tossing toxins into the mix.  That’s the logic behind what they call safe starches:  potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, tapioca, white rice, plantains, yams and sago.  Those are low-toxin Paleolithic foods (with the possible exception of rice) that provide nutrients such as potassium, copper, vitamin A, resistant starch and fiber.

The Jaminets mention resistant starch specifically several times in the book.  Here’s an example from a section about the benefits of producing butyrate in the colon:

Although the fiber in cereal bran is harmful, two kinds of fiber seem to be highly beneficial:  resistant starch and pectin.  These also happen to be the types that generate the most butyrate.

“Resistant starch” is starch that is indigestible to human digestive enzymes.  Potatoes naturally come with high levels of resistant starch.  But all starchy foods can form resistant starch after cooking and cooling.  Cooking gelatinizes starch into a form that is readily digested by human amylase, but if it is allowed to cool, some of this gelatinized starch re-forms into resistant starch.

In a later chapter on meal planning, the Jaminets mention that they regularly cook several potatoes ahead of time and then store them in the refrigerator (a habit Chareva recently adopted as well).  That means a good chunk of their safe starch is also resistant starch, the kind that keeps our gut bugs fat and happy.

The Perfect Health Diet is not an invitation to go carb-crazy – not by a long shot.  The book specifically says starches should only be eaten as part of meal that includes plenty of fat to avoid glucose spikes.  Despite being dismissed or ignored by much of the low-carb world (including yours truly) because of the safe-starch issue, the Jaminets are essentially advocating a lowish-carb paleo diet.  It’s just not very-low-carb.  If you followed their advice and were at the lower end of the recommended starch intake, your diet would be roughly 20% carbohydrate, 15% protein and 65% fat.  Is that high-fat enough for you?

My Fat Head fast-food diet was 22% carbohydrate, by the way, with a lower proportion of fat (55%) than the Jaminets recommend.  Funny how I became known as a “fat head” low-carb advocate while the Jaminets didn’t, at least not in low-carb circles.  Of course, my 100 grams or so of starch were coming from hamburger buns and potatoes fried in vegetable oils, both of which the Jaminets advise against.  I guess we could call my experiment The Very Imperfect Health Diet.

So far I’ve been focusing on the safe-starch aspect of the Perfect Health Diet, since that’s the section that caused all the debate in the paleo and low-carb diet worlds.  But there’s way more to it than that.  The new paperback edition runs just over 400 pages and offers advice on the optimal levels and best sources for all three macronutrients and plenty of micronutrients.  The first chapter is titled Why We Start with an Evolutionary Perspective, so not surprisingly, almost everything in the book will have paleo enthusiasts nodding their heads in agreement.  (Mark Sisson wrote the forward for this edition.)

The chapter on grains is titled The Most Toxic Food: Cereal Grains.  (It’s like a Reader’s Digest version of Wheat Belly.  They could have titled it Wheat Is Murder.)  The chapter on vegetable oils is titled Liquid Devils: Vegetable Seed Oils.  Sugar takes a beating in a chapter titled The Sweet Toxin: Fructose.  (Dr. Robert Lustig would approve.)

There’s a ton of good information in the book, but since this will already be a long post, I’ll just give you a taste with some random quotes in no particular order:

Don’t be afraid to eat fat!  Hunter-gatherers flourished on a fat-rich diet.

Too often, experts dole out advice based on unproven hypotheses without ever looking at the scientific evidence from evolutionary selection.  In fact, evolution selected for a certain salt intake.  Anti-salt advice was not supported by reliable studies.

One often hears that glucose is the body’s primary fuel.  That is quite mistaken.  It’s true that all human cells can, if need be, metabolize glucose.  But mitochondria, the energy producers in most human cells, prefer to burn fat.  So in the body, fat is the preferred and primary fuel, except in specialist cells that lack mitochondria or ready access to fat.

Saturated and monounsaturated fats are the safest calorie source – indeed the only calorie source that is nontoxic even in very high doses – and should provide the bulk of calories.  Fish, shellfish, beef, lamb, and dairy fats such as butter and cream are the best animal sources; coconut milk and coconut oil are great plant sources.

Saturated fat improves lipid profiles in two ways:  it increases levels of protective HDL cholesterol, and it makes LDL particles larger and more buoyant, protecting them from glycation and oxidation.

Choline is abundant in liver and egg yolks — foods American eat less than ever before, thanks in part to the demonization of cholesterol… Get choline by eating three eggs yolks a day and liver once a week.

As our Paleolithic ancestors who dominated the globe were characterized by tall stature and healthy teeth and bones and their health deteriorated as soon as their diet was altered, we think it’s safe to say that such a low-carb, high-plant, starch-meat-and-fat-based diet is a healthful human diet.

When the obese try to eat less on a malnourishing diet, they sooner or later become hungry and weight loss stalls or reverses.

The long-term effects of eating less without improving the character of the diet are shockingly bad… efforts to eat less often lead to weighing more.

In their own version of what I’ve termed Character vs. Chemistry in several posts, the Jaminets explain that hunger is the body’s way of saying I need nutrients!  If your diet is deficient in a necessary nutrient, you’re going to be hungry, and eventually you’re going to give in and eat more. Nutrient deficiencies, in fact, may explain why people adopt a particular diet, feel great for awhile, then feel not-so-great, adopt a different diet, feel great for awhile, then feel not-so-great, lather, rinse, repeat.  To quote from the book:

Sometimes people alternate among extreme diets.  They do a low-fat diet, and it works great until a fat-associated nutrient becomes scare and hunger returns.  Weight starts to rebound due to hunger for the fat-associated nutrient.  Disturbed by the weight gain, they shift to the opposite diet – low-carb, high-protein, high-fat.  Now weight loss resumes until they become deficient in some plant-associated nutrient that, on their low-carb diet, they no longer obtain.  Then weight loss stops, hunger increases, and the weight comes back.

The key to long-term weight loss, then, is a diet that provides all the necessary nutrients without an overabundance of food. When you give your body what it needs, it stops ramping up your appetite in hopes that you’ll keep eating and eventually stumble across some actual nutrients.

Darned if that doesn’t make perfect sense.  That’s what I kept thinking to myself as I read the book:  Man, this is all so logical.  It just makes sense.

Like I said, the Jaminets are relentlessly logical. Their own health problems inspired them to undertake a seven-year, relentlessly logical review of the science and design a diet based on unprocessed whole foods, high in fat and low in carbohydrates … but not low enough to create a deficiency that could cause other problems, and with the carbohydrates coming from real foods that provide real nutrients, such as resistant starch to feed our gut bacteria.

Is the Perfect Health Diet truly the perfect diet?  I don’t know, but I was persuaded to move my own diet more in that direction.  I’ll describe what that looks like in a future post.

Meanwhile, I asked Paul Jaminet if he’d be up for a Q & A with the Fat Head audience, and he graciously agreed.  Ask your questions in the comments section for this post.  Put the phrase “Question for Paul Jaminet” at the beginning of the comment so I know it’s a question for him, not for me.  I won’t reply to those comments.  I’ll pick a dozen or so questions and forward them to Paul, then post his answers.

Perhaps you’ll be persuaded to eat a potato smothered in grass-fed butter.


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367 thoughts on “Safe Starches and The Perfect Health Diet

  1. Cindy

    Great post! This is just what I needed to read. I felt guilty adding back potatoes and rice, but I feel guilty no more. My body just feels better, almost cleaner, when I include them in my diet.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I feel fine with the potatoes too. By contrast, when I’ve cheated with wheat, I feel very not-so-fine the next day … sluggish, mentally foggy.

      Reply
      1. Roy GA

        Do you still check your blood glucose? I was reading through the archives last weekend before the hack and remember reading a comment you made about a St. Patrick Day meal where you had added a little bit of potato and your BG an hour later was in the 160’s. Are potatoes no longer a problem for you? Thanks Tom!

        Reply
  2. Mark

    I love how you and your tribe of people are pretty much saying: “Look, here are the problems you’re facing. These problems might be caused by this, this or this. Let’s try and fix it by changing this, this or this”. It’s pretty damn refreshing to not be getting brow-beaten with a particular ideology.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I never thought of them as a tribe. Now I want to find fancy headdress designating me as the tribal chief.

      Reply
  3. Norm

    Question for Paul and Tom,

    1. Why do hunger and cravings for carbs increase for some people by introducing rice and potatoes whereas most of the people do not have that being low carb?

    2. How do we know that symptoms associated with low carb like cold hands and feet, low thyroid etc are NOT from eating less as hunger is dramatically reduced on a low carb diet?

    3. Paul highly recommends 16 hours of fasting, would PHD provide the same benefits especially weight loss without 16 hours of fasting? Probably standard American diet would be a lot healthier with 16 hours of fasting? If calorie restriction is not good or creates problem for people especially in term of weight loss then why calorie restriction is achieved via intermittent fasting on PHD?

    Thanks

    Reply
  4. JD

    This question is for Mr. Jaminet, but I’d like to hear from anyone if they have something useful to add (or at least funny).

    Just like all of this rethinking about RS, I’ve been rethinking the theory about optimal omega 3:6 ratios. Everything I remember reading about it recommends the ideal ratio is between 1:1 and 1:4. But what if it’s less about the ratios and more about eliminating bad fats (franken oils, factory farmed animals). Let’s say someone is following the Perfect Health Diet almost to a T, except most of their fat calories are coming from a high quality olive oil so the O3:6 ratio is closer to 1:8; is there any reason to think that person might less healthy than someone with a more ideal ratio? I do remember reading about how essential fatty acids from O3 and O6 fats compete for the same enzymes, but are there any studies out there that suggest excessive olive oil consumption interferes with therapeutic doses of O3 EFAs?

    I guess my question could really be simplified to this; Is there any reason I should stop drowning my salads in olive oil?

    Reply
    1. Kristin

      I have no expert advice whatsoever but it has occurred to me over the last year that the party line of “eat lots of vegetable oil and oh by the way in order to have a good 3-6 ratio you MUST have lots of fish and olive oil.” Well…wouldn’t it be better to just drop the Franken-oils (love that term you used…stealing) and just enjoy as much of a range of healthy fats as possible. I sometimes get a huge craving for oily fish or a good drizzle of olive oil over a dish. With the balance of lard, butter, coconut oil etc that I eat (without the huge hit of O6) I no longer really worry about the balance. Just the way I’m rolling now. I look forward to other opinions on this.

      Reply
      1. Bob Geary

        I’m not Mr. Jaminet, but I *did* read his book a while back and have fuzzy memories of it, so that makes me an expert in Internet terms 🙂

        What I remember taking away as the GIST of the omega3/omega6 issue was three main points:

        1) Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are biologically necessary;

        2) There’s probably some exact ideal ratio that’s probably slightly different for every person, but it’s definitely closer to “1:1” than it is to the Standard American Diet’s “1:10” or “1:20”;

        BUT 3) both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, and should thus be limited. The actual amounts we need of both are pretty small. (I bet almost nobody eating in America has an omega-6 deficiency – it’s just everywhere. And the amount of omega-3 that we need, according to Jaminet, can be gotten with a couple/few servings of salmon or similar fish per week.)

        So it seemed to me that “balancing” 3’s and 6’s is a secondary goal – eating a pound of salmon and drinking a quarter-cup of canola oil might result in a “good” ratio, but the bad effects of overdosing on polyunsaturated fats would dwarf any benefits of that “balance.” The primary goal should be reducing omega-6 whenever possible (because pretty much everybody gets too much of it) and getting “sufficient” omega-3.

        So if there’s a problem with getting most of one’s fat from olive oil, it wouldn’t be primarily an omega-ratio one – it’d be a too-much-PUFAs one. (And olive oil’s not so bad in that department – it has ~1/3 the omega-6 hit of an equal serving of canola or corn oil. Macadamia nut oil is even lower, plus the exorbitant price means you use less :-))

        All my opinions, but based on memories of Jaminet’s book (which I LOVED, btw).

        Reply
  5. Firebird7478

    Regarding Rice noodles and rice pasta, Paul includes them in the diet, but are they RS hot and drained out of the pot or should are they RS only when cooled?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Purely a guess, but I would think rice noodles have already been cooked and cooled at least once to form them into noodles.

      Reply
      1. Janknitz

        I had this question so I googled it. According to Harold McGee who wrote “On Food and Cooking”, transparent noodles from rice and mung bean flour are high in Amylose and their processing includes boiling to gel all the starch and then cooling and drying. So they are very high in RS. The same with rice noodles and wrappers–they are retrograded, so they should have plenty of RS.

        I find I can eat them in small amounts. I’m particularly enjoying Vietnamese rice wrappers and rice noodles. It’s great!

        Reply
      2. Judy

        Not necessarily. Regular (wheat) noodles are dried, not cooked, then packaged to be cooked at home. I suspect the same is true for the rice noodles, but don’t know for sure.

        Reply
  6. Amberly

    Question for Tom:
    One of the advantages of a ketogenic diet for me is appetite suppression. When I am in ketosis, it is easy to say no to the junk, and I’m not constantly thinking about my next meal. Have you noticed a change in your appetite as you have added more safe starches? Do you get hungrier? Have more cravings?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I felt an increase in appetite for a few days, then it subsided. Probably an adjustment period. I also noticed my morning ketone readings are the same as before.

      Reply
    2. Tom Naughton

      Forgot to mention: there’s also a ketogenic version of the diet spelled out in the book. You still consume some safe starches, but add coconut or MTC oil to the mix.

      Reply
    3. Kristin

      I have only a week of adding some RS into my diet. It is all either potato starch or tapioca starch stirred into yogurt or smoothies or cooked and cooled potatoes. One serving of potatoes and one serving of raw starch a day and I’m only doing a teaspoon right now. Instantly I quit craving bread which I had been doing for several months to my consternation. And my appetite is more suppressed than on VLC. I’m eating a good sized breakfast and one more small meal when I realize I really should eat. One week does not a proper N=1 make but early returns are encouraging. I’m also boosting the amount of my homemade kombucha I drink every day.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton

        Interesting how this varies from person to person. Some people say their appetites went up, others say it went down.

        Reply
  7. Amberly

    Questions for Paul Jaminet:
    I have not yet read the book, but have it on order, so please forgive me if the answers to these questions should be obvious 🙂

    If using RS as a supplement (ie Potato Starch in a smoothie or cup of warm water), is there a “best” time of day to take it? In the morning? Before bed? All at once? Split into two or three doses?

    Also, I am very sensitive to carbs and need to lose quite a bit of weight. What is the lowest number of carbs you would recommend going? Is it possible to stay in ketosis? Can you get the same health benefits from a cyclical ketogenic diet–IE VLC most of the time with one or two evenings a week of safe starches? Can you get health benefits by adding just RS (ie Potato Starch) but not the safe starches?

    Reply
  8. Janknitz

    I make a distinction between RESISTANT starch and SAFE starches. Resistant starches may be safe starches, but not all safe starches are resistant.

    I think this is important, because in my small brain I don’t think that resistant starches act like carbohydrates in the body.

    Carbohydrates start digesting immediately when they mix with saliva (and the enzyme lipase)in the mouth. They break down into simple glucose and other things immediately. They trigger the insulin response.

    Resistant starch, OTOH, doesn’t break down in most of the digestive tract until it reaches the large intestine. When it does break down (courtesy of gut bacteria) it becomes saturated fatty acids, not glucose. Blood sugar is not raised, insulin is minimal.

    So if you have hyperinsulemia issues as many of us with metabolic issues do, this is an important distinction. I seem to be able to have retrograded rice and potatoes, green plantains, with little insulin effect. But a fresh hot potato or rice, or too much sweet potato (which has too little RS) is going to spike my insulin because that’s going to metabolize as sugar, while the RS does not. (I can eat small servings of sweet potato and winter squash when I’m not otherwise pushing the carb envelope too much).

    BTW, my favorite RS breakfast lately has become egg custard with rice (aka rice pudding), cooked ahead and chilled, then served barely warm. This doesn’t even knock me out of ketosis!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      That’s an important distinction to make. And even if you cook and cool a potato, you’re still consuming a mix of starch and resistant starch. However, the resistant-starch portion seems to blunt the glucose spike we’d normally receive from the regular-starch portion, at least for many of us.

      Reply
    2. Mike G

      Question for Paul Jaminet

      I believe you mean the enzyme amylase, rather than lipase? Amylase will hydrolyze the starch into maltose disaccharides first, then maltase (on the villi of the small intestine) will digest the maltoses into glucoses. Then the glucoses can be easily absorbed via transporters on the villi surface. This is why I cannot wrap my head around how fatty acids could blunt glucose spikes, or insulin spikes. Do the fatty acids bind to the glucoses? I suppose they could, given that we have glycolipids on our cell membranes.

      Tom or Paul? Any thoughts?

      Tom,

      I have ordered Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch, and I will give this a try. I may take a probiotic first, just to make sure I’ve got the gut bugs to feed. The past few weeks I have been having a Quest Bar for a mid-morning snack. I have felt a little better digestion wise, and I lost 4 pounds. I know that Quest Bars have prebiotic fiber, so maybe that is what’s causing the effect? Thanks, Tom, for continuing to provide valuable science for us fat-heads!

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton

        I’m adding the “Question for Paul Jaminet” line at the top. That’s how I asked him to spot the questions for him.

        Reply
  9. Sabine

    It all depends on your genes!

    A word of caution for those of us with NORTHERN genes (HLA-B27, for example):
    Eating resistant starches will make your autoimmune diseases worse or start them up in the first place. Eating starches may make you very sick in many ways, even “resistant” starch.
    People of sub-Saharan Africa, who always ate some starch, have more starch tolerant genetic make-ups (NO HLA-B27 genes and diseases) than many Inuit or other Northern people, who never ate starches.

    Reply
    1. tony

      I’ve never heard of that. Please provide links to studies (not just abstracts) to support your claim.

      Reply
  10. troysdailybacon

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    With regards to Xylitol – I use it as a tooth protocol to fight cavities, but end up injesting a small amount. I’ve heard that it acts like a prebiotic as well. But in the mouth, bad bacteria try to metabolize it, but can’t, so the bacteria die off. How does Xylitol react in the gut? Will it feed the good bacteria and produce butyrate? Or, like in the mouth, will it kill off good and/or bad bacteria in the gut?

    Question for Tom:

    Did you introduce any soil based probiotics at the same time as the resistant starch? Or are you just relying on whatever you might get from your garden and chickens? Perhaps you didn’t feel the need for them if you didn’t experience the common carpet-bombing methane gas production from the RS?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I started with the resistant starch and digested it without any problems, which I take as a good sign. Nonetheless, I started taking soil-based probiotics a couple of weeks into the experiment. More of a “just to make sure” move.

      Reply
  11. Rob

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    Do you recommend supplementing with additional resistant starch (potato starch) and other fermentable fibers (inulin, pectin, etc) or just getting these things from food? What are the potential negative effects of too much resistant starch and fermentable fibers?

    Reply
  12. TMA

    Question for Paul Jaminet

    I haven’t read your book but what I’ve read about your diet on your website sounds appealing. One concern I have though is the number of different supplements you recommend. I’d be leery of low dose lithium for example. Do you discuss your rationale for these supplements in your book? And how would you suggest that people gauge their responses to a given supplement when there are so many and the purported effects are subtle and subjective?

    Question for Tom

    Great series of posts. One question though–do you think this notion of safe starch is a nail in the coffin of the notion that insulin is driving obesity? If you were re-doing Fathead or Big Fat Fiasco now, would you leave insulin out of it?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      No, I think it supports the notion that insulin drives obesity, but we’re talking about fasting insulin levels, not post-meal rises in insulin. It’s high fasting insulin that’s the real problem in my book. The time between meals — especially during the overnight fast — is when your body should be releasing fatty acids, which would be slowed by high fasting insulin levels.

      Resistant starch and small servings of safe starch both appear (for many people, anyway) to lead to increased insulin sensitivity and therefore lower fasting insulin levels over time. That’s why Grace mentioned she believes the weight loss some people experience on resistant starch is due to increased whole-body insulin sensitivity.

      Here’s one of many references:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20536509

      Reply
      1. TMA

        Makes sense, I’ll buy that. But this discussion does suggest that total carbohydrate intake is not the main driver of fasting insulin, and it makes me wonder about the relevance of counting carbs per se, rather than merely choosing healthy carbs.

        Thanks for the reference.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton

          I agree it’s more complicated than a straight-line relationship … i.e., it’s not as simple as more carbs = higher fasting insulin, fewer carbs = lower fasting insulin. That’s why the Jaminets keep making the point in the book that it’s about finding that ideal range. It could be that for many people, their suggested range of 100 to 150 grams leads to the lowest fasting insulin level in the long term.

          Reply
  13. Gerard Pinzone (@GerardPinzone)

    Question for Paul Jaminet

    I’m interested in trying this out to see what difference it might make. I’ve heard that there may be an initial period of weight gain. If true, why? Can you provide a recommended schedule? Something like, “1 tablespoon of potato starch in the morning for one week, then increase by 1 tablespoon each week until you reach 4 tablespoons.” Is it better in the morning than night? Also, what issues are signs that we should stop and which should we grin and bear? Can we start/continue to take a probiotic? Should we?

    Tom,
    I’ll throw this out to you, too. Did you monitor your weight during your initial break-in period? How fast did you increase your dose?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I don’t have a scale at home, so I weigh myself once per week at the gym. When I first added potatoes back into my diet, I picked up three pounds. Then I snapped back to my previous weight and have stayed there.

      Reply
      1. Erica

        I’m sitting at around the same weight, and I’ve been doing the RS since about April 15th. Added in a probiotic about 4-5 days ago. Eating black beans (a beloved recipe I thought I’d never have again!), potatoes, and white rice. Having to be careful because of my blood sugar, but loving this. My body is very happy with me.

        Here’s a question: Why do we have to eat white rice instead of brown/whole grain? I LOVE brown rice.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          The brown rice contains some of the toxins on the Jamimets’ no-no list. Plants surround themselves with toxins to protect themselves from being eaten out of existence. It’s the same reason we peel potatoes. The toxins are in the skin.

          Reply
  14. Cindy

    Great post! This is just what I needed to read. I felt guilty adding back potatoes and rice, but I feel guilty no more. My body just feels better, almost cleaner, when I include them in my diet.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I feel fine with the potatoes too. By contrast, when I’ve cheated with wheat, I feel very not-so-fine the next day … sluggish, mentally foggy.

      Reply
      1. Roy GA

        Do you still check your blood glucose? I was reading through the archives last weekend before the hack and remember reading a comment you made about a St. Patrick Day meal where you had added a little bit of potato and your BG an hour later was in the 160’s. Are potatoes no longer a problem for you? Thanks Tom!

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I checked several times and then ran out of glucose strips. After starting the RS (and cooking and cooling and reheating potatoes), the glucose response was blunted. I had a baked potato with dinner one night and peaked at 126, ended up in the 90s an hour later. So yes, the RS does seem to make a difference.

          Reply
  15. Gabe

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    I’ve heard you refer to your own experience in dealing with and/or eliminating chronic infections. Can you offer us some insights or advice on the solutions you found to these chronic infections, and/or what kind of medical practitioner one should consult? If one is already seeing a medical practitioner, what kinds of testing would indicate that practitioner is thoroughly considering what you know to be the right kinds of tests?

    I get the feeling that Chris Kresser would be exactly the right kind of practitioner, but he’s not seeing new patients. Searching for functional medicine practitioners in my area has come up mostly with dietitians; it’s not clear they have the correct licensure to be ordering lab work.

    And of course, big thanks to all three of you.

    Reply
  16. Howard Lee Harkness

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    Is the “soluble fiber” in chia seed (gel) a suitable “resistant starch” for the PHD?

    I’ve been experimenting with chia seed gel, and I have noticed that when I eat a serving (about 3 tbl chia seed soaked in 8 oz water about 15 minutes & added to a 20g protein shake with ice, coconut oil and MCT), I am not hungry again for a very long time (12 hours or more). However, I have not noticed any weight loss over the past week. My other main source of soluble fiber is raw carrot (about 1/2 cup per day), which I’ve been trying for about 3 weeks, again with no change in weight.

    Background: I easily lost a bit over 100 lbs on an Atkins-style diet starting in late 1999, but have remained weight-stable at roughly 50 lbs over goal (give or take about 10 lbs) since 2002.

    Reply
  17. Azurean

    Overall interesting post, but I’m not sold on the theory.

    It’s true that the body needs glucose, and if you don’t ingest some it will create it. From protein with neoglucogenesis but also – mostly actually, up to 85% in controlled fasting studies – from triglycerides (fat) breakdown. If Jaminet doesn’t mention that second principal glucose production, then he’s either ignorant or dishonest. Add 30g of carbs from green vegetables and voila, you have your 150g of glucose each day, without eating potatoes or your own muscles. That’s for theory, maybe some people have impaired triglyceride breakdown and need to ingest dire.ctly carbs. But then it means that they’re already sick and glucose deficiency is merely a symptom, not a cause – high fever doesn’t cause flu.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that anyone who doesn’t thrive on a very-low-carb diet is sick. Richard Nikoley wrote some interesting posts (links in the resistant-starch posts) about how even the Inuit — the poster boys for a no-carb diet — actually ended up with about 20% of their calories coming from glycogen stored in the meats and organs of the animals they killed.

      Reply
      1. Ryan H.

        I agree, Richard’s posts on the Inuit were really interesting. His debates with Dr. Eades were amusing as well lol. (No knock on The Eades, I still think they’re great).

        But this topic also made me think about Maasai tribe in Africa in which many people think their diet is really low-carb because they eat meat and no starches. Yes, they eat a lot of meat but, they are also getting an adequate amount of glucose from the raw milk and blood they consume as well. So in reality, they are not as low carb as we are also lead to believe..

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton

          I dropped the notion that Paleo Man lived on a no-carb or almost-no-carb diet a long time ago, as I mentioned in the post. Starchy plants of some sort were consumed all over the world for a long, long time. There’s even a tuber that grows waaaaay up north and is known as the “Eskimo Potato.”

          The Jaminets write in the book that hunter-gatherer diets were typically 15-40% carbohydrate by calories. Apparently that was true even for the Inuits, if Richard’s posts about them eating glycogen-rich animal parts are correct. So it would make sense that many people feel great on low-carb (say, 20% of calories) but not no-carb. No-carb would not mimic the diet of their paleo ancestors.

          Reply
      1. Tom Naughton

        Interesting, and another reason I don’t believe everyone who goes very-low-carb will experience the glucose deficiency the Jaminets described.

        Reply
  18. Kathy from Maine

    Questions for Paul Jaminet

    Let me preface this by saying that I’ve purchased the book and glanced through it (and the website and lots of these blog posts) but won’t have a chance to really study the book until this weekend. That said …

    1. Tom said at the end of the post, “Perhaps you’ll be persuaded to eat a potato smothered in grass-fed butter.” From my limited reading of PHD, I took away the message that the plan is higher fat (65%), but that fat should come from what naturally occurs in foods and NOT ADDED to foods, like butter on the baked potato, etc. Did I misread this?

    2. I’m confused on the 140 degrees. I thought that after the initial cooking and cooling, it was critical that the food NOT be reheated more than 140 degrees to reap the most resistant starch.

    3. PHD recommends approximately 15% protein, which on a 2000-calorie diet would be 300 calories, or just 75 grams of protein. How does this correlate to Phinney & Volek’s advice in “Art & Science of LC Living” (and in a podcast I heard from Phinney) that everyone needs three 30-gram servings of protein daily, for a total of 90 – 100 grams or more in order to trigger protein muscle synthesis? In that book, they showed a table of a weight loss plan for a woman, and it advocated 100 grams of protein through all stages of the weight loss from “induction” through maintenance. Also, Dr. Eades notes in his Lifeplan book that women over 50 actually need more protein than men (and recommends at least 100 grams daily) because women of that age don’t absorb as much of the protein as do the men. I’ve always tried to get at least 100 grams a day. Is that too much, in Jaminet’s thinking? Or is 75 – 100 grams a good ballpark figure?

    Thank you so much for the series!

    Reply
  19. JD

    This question is for Mr. Jaminet, but I’d like to hear from anyone if they have something useful to add (or at least funny).

    Just like all of this rethinking about RS, I’ve been rethinking the theory about optimal omega 3:6 ratios. Everything I remember reading about it recommends the ideal ratio is between 1:1 and 1:4. But what if it’s less about the ratios and more about eliminating bad fats (franken oils, factory farmed animals). Let’s say someone is following the Perfect Health Diet almost to a T, except most of their fat calories are coming from a high quality olive oil so the O3:6 ratio is closer to 1:8; is there any reason to think that person might less healthy than someone with a more ideal ratio? I do remember reading about how essential fatty acids from O3 and O6 fats compete for the same enzymes, but are there any studies out there that suggest excessive olive oil consumption interferes with therapeutic doses of O3 EFAs?

    I guess my question could really be simplified to this; Is there any reason I should stop drowning my salads in olive oil?

    Reply
    1. Kristin

      I have no expert advice whatsoever but it has occurred to me over the last year that the party line of “eat lots of vegetable oil and oh by the way in order to have a good 3-6 ratio you MUST have lots of fish and olive oil.” Well…wouldn’t it be better to just drop the Franken-oils (love that term you used…stealing) and just enjoy as much of a range of healthy fats as possible. I sometimes get a huge craving for oily fish or a good drizzle of olive oil over a dish. With the balance of lard, butter, coconut oil etc that I eat (without the huge hit of O6) I no longer really worry about the balance. Just the way I’m rolling now. I look forward to other opinions on this.

      Reply
      1. Bob Geary

        I’m not Mr. Jaminet, but I *did* read his book a while back and have fuzzy memories of it, so that makes me an expert in Internet terms 🙂

        What I remember taking away as the GIST of the omega3/omega6 issue was three main points:

        1) Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are biologically necessary;

        2) There’s probably some exact ideal ratio that’s probably slightly different for every person, but it’s definitely closer to “1:1” than it is to the Standard American Diet’s “1:10” or “1:20”;

        BUT 3) both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, and should thus be limited. The actual amounts we need of both are pretty small. (I bet almost nobody eating in America has an omega-6 deficiency – it’s just everywhere. And the amount of omega-3 that we need, according to Jaminet, can be gotten with a couple/few servings of salmon or similar fish per week.)

        So it seemed to me that “balancing” 3’s and 6’s is a secondary goal – eating a pound of salmon and drinking a quarter-cup of canola oil might result in a “good” ratio, but the bad effects of overdosing on polyunsaturated fats would dwarf any benefits of that “balance.” The primary goal should be reducing omega-6 whenever possible (because pretty much everybody gets too much of it) and getting “sufficient” omega-3.

        So if there’s a problem with getting most of one’s fat from olive oil, it wouldn’t be primarily an omega-ratio one – it’d be a too-much-PUFAs one. (And olive oil’s not so bad in that department – it has ~1/3 the omega-6 hit of an equal serving of canola or corn oil. Macadamia nut oil is even lower, plus the exorbitant price means you use less :-))

        All my opinions, but based on memories of Jaminet’s book (which I LOVED, btw).

        Reply
  20. Firebird7478

    Regarding Rice noodles and rice pasta, Paul includes them in the diet, but are they RS hot and drained out of the pot or should are they RS only when cooled?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Purely a guess, but I would think rice noodles have already been cooked and cooled at least once to form them into noodles.

      Reply
      1. Janknitz

        I had this question so I googled it. According to Harold McGee who wrote “On Food and Cooking”, transparent noodles from rice and mung bean flour are high in Amylose and their processing includes boiling to gel all the starch and then cooling and drying. So they are very high in RS. The same with rice noodles and wrappers–they are retrograded, so they should have plenty of RS.

        I find I can eat them in small amounts. I’m particularly enjoying Vietnamese rice wrappers and rice noodles. It’s great!

        Reply
      2. Judy

        Not necessarily. Regular (wheat) noodles are dried, not cooked, then packaged to be cooked at home. I suspect the same is true for the rice noodles, but don’t know for sure.

        Reply
  21. Amberly

    One more question for Paul Jaminet (or anyone who knows the answer):

    In creating the most RS from a SS, does it matter how the item is cooked/cooled? IE does it matter if you bake the potato and then eat it immediately after it has mostly cooled (below 140), or does it form more RS if it is baked/boiled then put in the refrigerator overnight, and then reheated? Same type of idea with rice. Does the longer a food is cooled the more RS it creates, or is it pretty much the same?

    Reply
    1. Janknitz

      I heard either RN or TT say on some podcast that it required cooling the rice or potatoes down in the refrigerator overnight, and that freezing was even better. However, I don’t know if that is just their thoughts, or a study showed that.

      They also said that for potatoes, baking or roasting is better to gel the starch than boiling.

      As for re-heating, they said it was OK to eat the food warm (130 degrees or less AFTER it had been completely cooled down, and OK to re-heat more than once . So you don’t have to eat your potato ice cold. I’ve been making fried rice, but adding rice at the very last and taking it immediately off the heat.

      Reply
    2. Amberly

      Also, does microwaving affect it … do the microwaves break down or alter the resistant starch?

      Reply
  22. Amberly

    Question for Tom:
    One of the advantages of a ketogenic diet for me is appetite suppression. When I am in ketosis, it is easy to say no to the junk, and I’m not constantly thinking about my next meal. Have you noticed a change in your appetite as you have added more safe starches? Do you get hungrier? Have more cravings?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I felt an increase in appetite for a few days, then it subsided. Probably an adjustment period. I also noticed my morning ketone readings are the same as before.

      Reply
    2. Tom Naughton Post author

      Forgot to mention: there’s also a ketogenic version of the diet spelled out in the book. You still consume some safe starches, but add coconut or MTC oil to the mix.

      Reply
    3. Kristin

      I have only a week of adding some RS into my diet. It is all either potato starch or tapioca starch stirred into yogurt or smoothies or cooked and cooled potatoes. One serving of potatoes and one serving of raw starch a day and I’m only doing a teaspoon right now. Instantly I quit craving bread which I had been doing for several months to my consternation. And my appetite is more suppressed than on VLC. I’m eating a good sized breakfast and one more small meal when I realize I really should eat. One week does not a proper N=1 make but early returns are encouraging. I’m also boosting the amount of my homemade kombucha I drink every day.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Interesting how this varies from person to person. Some people say their appetites went up, others say it went down.

        Reply
  23. Amberly

    Questions for Paul Jaminet:
    I have not yet read the book, but have it on order, so please forgive me if the answers to these questions should be obvious 🙂

    If using RS as a supplement (ie Potato Starch in a smoothie or cup of warm water), is there a “best” time of day to take it? In the morning? Before bed? All at once? Split into two or three doses?

    Also, I am very sensitive to carbs and need to lose quite a bit of weight. What is the lowest number of carbs you would recommend going? Is it possible to stay in ketosis? Can you get the same health benefits from a cyclical ketogenic diet–IE VLC most of the time with one or two evenings a week of safe starches? Can you get health benefits by adding just RS (ie Potato Starch) but not the safe starches?

    Reply
  24. Janknitz

    I make a distinction between RESISTANT starch and SAFE starches. Resistant starches may be safe starches, but not all safe starches are resistant.

    I think this is important, because in my small brain I don’t think that resistant starches act like carbohydrates in the body.

    Carbohydrates start digesting immediately when they mix with saliva (and the enzyme lipase)in the mouth. They break down into simple glucose and other things immediately. They trigger the insulin response.

    Resistant starch, OTOH, doesn’t break down in most of the digestive tract until it reaches the large intestine. When it does break down (courtesy of gut bacteria) it becomes saturated fatty acids, not glucose. Blood sugar is not raised, insulin is minimal.

    So if you have hyperinsulemia issues as many of us with metabolic issues do, this is an important distinction. I seem to be able to have retrograded rice and potatoes, green plantains, with little insulin effect. But a fresh hot potato or rice, or too much sweet potato (which has too little RS) is going to spike my insulin because that’s going to metabolize as sugar, while the RS does not. (I can eat small servings of sweet potato and winter squash when I’m not otherwise pushing the carb envelope too much).

    BTW, my favorite RS breakfast lately has become egg custard with rice (aka rice pudding), cooked ahead and chilled, then served barely warm. This doesn’t even knock me out of ketosis!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s an important distinction to make. And even if you cook and cool a potato, you’re still consuming a mix of starch and resistant starch. However, the resistant-starch portion seems to blunt the glucose spike we’d normally receive from the regular-starch portion, at least for many of us.

      Reply
    2. Mike G

      Question for Paul Jaminet

      I believe you mean the enzyme amylase, rather than lipase? Amylase will hydrolyze the starch into maltose disaccharides first, then maltase (on the villi of the small intestine) will digest the maltoses into glucoses. Then the glucoses can be easily absorbed via transporters on the villi surface. This is why I cannot wrap my head around how fatty acids could blunt glucose spikes, or insulin spikes. Do the fatty acids bind to the glucoses? I suppose they could, given that we have glycolipids on our cell membranes.

      Tom or Paul? Any thoughts?

      Tom,

      I have ordered Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch, and I will give this a try. I may take a probiotic first, just to make sure I’ve got the gut bugs to feed. The past few weeks I have been having a Quest Bar for a mid-morning snack. I have felt a little better digestion wise, and I lost 4 pounds. I know that Quest Bars have prebiotic fiber, so maybe that is what’s causing the effect? Thanks, Tom, for continuing to provide valuable science for us fat-heads!

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I’m adding the “Question for Paul Jaminet” line at the top. That’s how I asked him to spot the questions for him.

        Reply
  25. Sabine

    It all depends on your genes!

    A word of caution for those of us with NORTHERN genes (HLA-B27, for example):
    Eating resistant starches will make your autoimmune diseases worse or start them up in the first place. Eating starches may make you very sick in many ways, even “resistant” starch.
    People of sub-Saharan Africa, who always ate some starch, have more starch tolerant genetic make-ups (NO HLA-B27 genes and diseases) than many Inuit or other Northern people, who never ate starches.

    Reply
  26. troysdailybacon

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    With regards to Xylitol – I use it as a tooth protocol to fight cavities, but end up injesting a small amount. I’ve heard that it acts like a prebiotic as well. But in the mouth, bad bacteria try to metabolize it, but can’t, so the bacteria die off. How does Xylitol react in the gut? Will it feed the good bacteria and produce butyrate? Or, like in the mouth, will it kill off good and/or bad bacteria in the gut?

    Question for Tom:

    Did you introduce any soil based probiotics at the same time as the resistant starch? Or are you just relying on whatever you might get from your garden and chickens? Perhaps you didn’t feel the need for them if you didn’t experience the common carpet-bombing methane gas production from the RS?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I started with the resistant starch and digested it without any problems, which I take as a good sign. Nonetheless, I started taking soil-based probiotics a couple of weeks into the experiment. More of a “just to make sure” move.

      Reply
  27. Rob

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    Do you recommend supplementing with additional resistant starch (potato starch) and other fermentable fibers (inulin, pectin, etc) or just getting these things from food? What are the potential negative effects of too much resistant starch and fermentable fibers?

    Reply
  28. Daci

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    What about green bananas as a safe starch? I really miss them since being on a lchf diet. I like them better than ripe ones..Always have.
    Any thoughts?

    Reply
  29. TMA

    Question for Paul Jaminet

    I haven’t read your book but what I’ve read about your diet on your website sounds appealing. One concern I have though is the number of different supplements you recommend. I’d be leery of low dose lithium for example. Do you discuss your rationale for these supplements in your book? And how would you suggest that people gauge their responses to a given supplement when there are so many and the purported effects are subtle and subjective?

    Question for Tom

    Great series of posts. One question though–do you think this notion of safe starch is a nail in the coffin of the notion that insulin is driving obesity? If you were re-doing Fathead or Big Fat Fiasco now, would you leave insulin out of it?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      No, I think it supports the notion that insulin drives obesity, but we’re talking about fasting insulin levels, not post-meal rises in insulin. It’s high fasting insulin that’s the real problem in my book. The time between meals — especially during the overnight fast — is when your body should be releasing fatty acids, which would be slowed by high fasting insulin levels.

      Resistant starch and small servings of safe starch both appear (for many people, anyway) to lead to increased insulin sensitivity and therefore lower fasting insulin levels over time. That’s why Grace mentioned she believes the weight loss some people experience on resistant starch is due to increased whole-body insulin sensitivity.

      Here’s one of many references:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20536509

      Reply
      1. TMA

        Makes sense, I’ll buy that. But this discussion does suggest that total carbohydrate intake is not the main driver of fasting insulin, and it makes me wonder about the relevance of counting carbs per se, rather than merely choosing healthy carbs.

        Thanks for the reference.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I agree it’s more complicated than a straight-line relationship … i.e., it’s not as simple as more carbs = higher fasting insulin, fewer carbs = lower fasting insulin. That’s why the Jaminets keep making the point in the book that it’s about finding that ideal range. It could be that for many people, their suggested range of 100 to 150 grams leads to the lowest fasting insulin level in the long term.

          Reply
  30. Gabe

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    I’ve heard you refer to your own experience in dealing with and/or eliminating chronic infections. Can you offer us some insights or advice on the solutions you found to these chronic infections, and/or what kind of medical practitioner one should consult? If one is already seeing a medical practitioner, what kinds of testing would indicate that practitioner is thoroughly considering what you know to be the right kinds of tests?

    I get the feeling that Chris Kresser would be exactly the right kind of practitioner, but he’s not seeing new patients. Searching for functional medicine practitioners in my area has come up mostly with dietitians; it’s not clear they have the correct licensure to be ordering lab work.

    And of course, big thanks to all three of you.

    Reply
  31. Howard Lee Harkness

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    Is the “soluble fiber” in chia seed (gel) a suitable “resistant starch” for the PHD?

    I’ve been experimenting with chia seed gel, and I have noticed that when I eat a serving (about 3 tbl chia seed soaked in 8 oz water about 15 minutes & added to a 20g protein shake with ice, coconut oil and MCT), I am not hungry again for a very long time (12 hours or more). However, I have not noticed any weight loss over the past week. My other main source of soluble fiber is raw carrot (about 1/2 cup per day), which I’ve been trying for about 3 weeks, again with no change in weight.

    Background: I easily lost a bit over 100 lbs on an Atkins-style diet starting in late 1999, but have remained weight-stable at roughly 50 lbs over goal (give or take about 10 lbs) since 2002.

    Reply
  32. Azurean

    Overall interesting post, but I’m not sold on the theory.

    It’s true that the body needs glucose, and if you don’t ingest some it will create it. From protein with neoglucogenesis but also – mostly actually, up to 85% in controlled fasting studies – from triglycerides (fat) breakdown. If Jaminet doesn’t mention that second principal glucose production, then he’s either ignorant or dishonest. Add 30g of carbs from green vegetables and voila, you have your 150g of glucose each day, without eating potatoes or your own muscles. That’s for theory, maybe some people have impaired triglyceride breakdown and need to ingest dire.ctly carbs. But then it means that they’re already sick and glucose deficiency is merely a symptom, not a cause – high fever doesn’t cause flu.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that anyone who doesn’t thrive on a very-low-carb diet is sick. Richard Nikoley wrote some interesting posts (links in the resistant-starch posts) about how even the Inuit — the poster boys for a no-carb diet — actually ended up with about 20% of their calories coming from glycogen stored in the meats and organs of the animals they killed.

      Reply
      1. Ryan H.

        I agree, Richard’s posts on the Inuit were really interesting. His debates with Dr. Eades were amusing as well lol. (No knock on The Eades, I still think they’re great).

        But this topic also made me think about Maasai tribe in Africa in which many people think their diet is really low-carb because they eat meat and no starches. Yes, they eat a lot of meat but, they are also getting an adequate amount of glucose from the raw milk and blood they consume as well. So in reality, they are not as low carb as we are also lead to believe..

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I dropped the notion that Paleo Man lived on a no-carb or almost-no-carb diet a long time ago, as I mentioned in the post. Starchy plants of some sort were consumed all over the world for a long, long time. There’s even a tuber that grows waaaaay up north and is known as the “Eskimo Potato.”

          The Jaminets write in the book that hunter-gatherer diets were typically 15-40% carbohydrate by calories. Apparently that was true even for the Inuits, if Richard’s posts about them eating glycogen-rich animal parts are correct. So it would make sense that many people feel great on low-carb (say, 20% of calories) but not no-carb. No-carb would not mimic the diet of their paleo ancestors.

          Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I found this reply rather informative:

          http://freetheanimal.com/2014/04/indigenous-inhabiting-coldest.html

          But let’s suppose for the sake of argument the Inuit actually did live on a diet of almost no carbs from glycogen or other sources. I’d reply the same way I replied when people pointed out that the Kitavans lived on a diet of 75% starch: I’m not a Kitavan. Or an Inuit. Their diets simply may not work for me, or at least not be ideal for me, because my ancestors never adapted to their diets. That’s why I believe this ultimately comes down to individual variability, which is also why when I hear from people like Chris Kresser that many of his patients experienced real health issues on a strict very-low-carb diet, I believe him. And I don’t think it means those people are sick. I think it means they need to adjust their diets so they won’t be sick.

          Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Interesting, and another reason I don’t believe everyone who goes very-low-carb will experience the glucose deficiency the Jaminets described.

        Reply
  33. Kathy from Maine

    Questions for Paul Jaminet

    Let me preface this by saying that I’ve purchased the book and glanced through it (and the website and lots of these blog posts) but won’t have a chance to really study the book until this weekend. That said …

    1. Tom said at the end of the post, “Perhaps you’ll be persuaded to eat a potato smothered in grass-fed butter.” From my limited reading of PHD, I took away the message that the plan is higher fat (65%), but that fat should come from what naturally occurs in foods and NOT ADDED to foods, like butter on the baked potato, etc. Did I misread this?

    2. I’m confused on the 140 degrees. I thought that after the initial cooking and cooling, it was critical that the food NOT be reheated more than 140 degrees to reap the most resistant starch.

    3. PHD recommends approximately 15% protein, which on a 2000-calorie diet would be 300 calories, or just 75 grams of protein. How does this correlate to Phinney & Volek’s advice in “Art & Science of LC Living” (and in a podcast I heard from Phinney) that everyone needs three 30-gram servings of protein daily, for a total of 90 – 100 grams or more in order to trigger protein muscle synthesis? In that book, they showed a table of a weight loss plan for a woman, and it advocated 100 grams of protein through all stages of the weight loss from “induction” through maintenance. Also, Dr. Eades notes in his Lifeplan book that women over 50 actually need more protein than men (and recommends at least 100 grams daily) because women of that age don’t absorb as much of the protein as do the men. I’ve always tried to get at least 100 grams a day. Is that too much, in Jaminet’s thinking? Or is 75 – 100 grams a good ballpark figure?

    Thank you so much for the series!

    Reply
  34. Amberly

    One more question for Paul Jaminet (or anyone who knows the answer):

    In creating the most RS from a SS, does it matter how the item is cooked/cooled? IE does it matter if you bake the potato and then eat it immediately after it has mostly cooled (below 140), or does it form more RS if it is baked/boiled then put in the refrigerator overnight, and then reheated? Same type of idea with rice. Does the longer a food is cooled the more RS it creates, or is it pretty much the same?

    Reply
    1. Janknitz

      I heard either RN or TT say on some podcast that it required cooling the rice or potatoes down in the refrigerator overnight, and that freezing was even better. However, I don’t know if that is just their thoughts, or a study showed that.

      They also said that for potatoes, baking or roasting is better to gel the starch than boiling.

      As for re-heating, they said it was OK to eat the food warm (130 degrees or less AFTER it had been completely cooled down, and OK to re-heat more than once . So you don’t have to eat your potato ice cold. I’ve been making fried rice, but adding rice at the very last and taking it immediately off the heat.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I haven’t seen anything suggesting that reheating in a microwave affects the RS content.

        Reply
  35. Jennifer Snow

    Your articles on resistant starch were REALLY timely for me–I was on low-carb for a couple of years but over the past couple of months I developed stomach problems where I just flat out couldn’t digest protein any more. It was miserably uncomfortable and wound up having to mainline betaine HCL in order to keep my digestion working. 3+ capsules per meal is not a sustainable situation. I wound up drinking a lot of diet soda and eating carbs again because at least that helped with the pain. I was baffled, and not too happy because my feet swelled up again as they always do when I eat bread or anything with sugar in it.

    And then here comes your articles on resistant starch, so I ordered a broad-spectrum probiotic and a bunch of potato starch. 4 days in and I can already eat without the HCL and the pain has gone away. Yay! Here’s hoping this continues.

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Do you have a link, Firebird? I find your comment hard to believe given that every reference Dr. Davis has made to resistant starch on his blog (that I can find at least, and certainly within the last several weeks) has been a positive/favorable one.

      Talking about the necessity of nourishing your bowel flora with resistant starch:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2014/04/gastrointestinal-recovery-after-the-wheat-battle-is-won/

      Talking about the healthy effects on the body, such as reduced blood sugar, by the ingestion of butyrate-producing resistant starch:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2014/04/shame-on-the-chicago-tribune/

      Answering in the affirmative when a commenter asks if resistant starch supplementation in a wheat-free diet would be beneficial:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2014/03/diabetes-australia-bungles-dietary-advice/

      From what I can tell, Dr. D. seems to believe in resistant starch.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton

        I also found this exchange in the comments on his blog:

        Alifromcali says:
        March 29, 2014 at 10:44 pm

        Would adding resistant starch supplemantion to a wheat free diet be beneficial?

        Dr. Davis says:
        March 30, 2014 at 2:07 pm

        Yes, absolutely!

        Reply
  36. Daci

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    What about green bananas as a safe starch? I really miss them since being on a lchf diet. I like them better than ripe ones..Always have.
    Any thoughts?

    Reply
  37. Jennifer Snow

    Your articles on resistant starch were REALLY timely for me–I was on low-carb for a couple of years but over the past couple of months I developed stomach problems where I just flat out couldn’t digest protein any more. It was miserably uncomfortable and wound up having to mainline betaine HCL in order to keep my digestion working. 3+ capsules per meal is not a sustainable situation. I wound up drinking a lot of diet soda and eating carbs again because at least that helped with the pain. I was baffled, and not too happy because my feet swelled up again as they always do when I eat bread or anything with sugar in it.

    And then here comes your articles on resistant starch, so I ordered a broad-spectrum probiotic and a bunch of potato starch. 4 days in and I can already eat without the HCL and the pain has gone away. Yay! Here’s hoping this continues.

    Reply
    1. Bret

      Do you have a link, Firebird? I find your comment hard to believe given that every reference Dr. Davis has made to resistant starch on his blog (that I can find at least, and certainly within the last several weeks) has been a positive/favorable one.

      Talking about the necessity of nourishing your bowel flora with resistant starch:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2014/04/gastrointestinal-recovery-after-the-wheat-battle-is-won/

      Talking about the healthy effects on the body, such as reduced blood sugar, by the ingestion of butyrate-producing resistant starch:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2014/04/shame-on-the-chicago-tribune/

      Answering in the affirmative when a commenter asks if resistant starch supplementation in a wheat-free diet would be beneficial:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2014/03/diabetes-australia-bungles-dietary-advice/

      From what I can tell, Dr. D. seems to believe in resistant starch.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I also found this exchange in the comments on his blog:

        Alifromcali says:
        March 29, 2014 at 10:44 pm

        Would adding resistant starch supplemantion to a wheat free diet be beneficial?

        Dr. Davis says:
        March 30, 2014 at 2:07 pm

        Yes, absolutely!

        Reply
  38. Katie in FL

    Hi Tom,
    I just saw this blog post, and it is very interesting. I just wanted to state that I have great respect for you and Chareva that you are not idealogues. You are open to ideas that make sense and are not afraid to change what you did in the past if you believe it benefit you and your family. Keep up that good work!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      It’s all about finding what works. I don’t think we should label ourselves and then cling to a belief (or a diet) to maintain the label.

      Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I sense a new marketing campaign coming … billboards everywhere with pictures of those foods and Got Gas? as the tagline.

      Reply
  39. george

    Question for Paul:

    Big fan of PHD and have been incorporating resistant starch particularly in the form of 4 Tbl of Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato starch. Question: Give the nutritional breakdown of 4 Tbl of Potato Starch (160 calories/40 grams of carbohydrate): do does amounts contribute to the PHD minimum levels of starch 400-600 calories per day if this form of starch bypasses digestion in the stomach and small intestine and instead is largely digested by gut bacteria in the large intestine/colon? Or is it recommended to eat some starch that is not “resistant”? If so, how much of “resistant” and Non-resistant starch should be consumed or does it not matter?

    Reply
  40. Katie in FL

    Hi Tom,
    I just saw this blog post, and it is very interesting. I just wanted to state that I have great respect for you and Chareva that you are not idealogues. You are open to ideas that make sense and are not afraid to change what you did in the past if you believe it benefit you and your family. Keep up that good work!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s all about finding what works. I don’t think we should label ourselves and then cling to a belief (or a diet) to maintain the label.

      Reply
  41. Harry

    Paul’s central thesis (that toxins cause disease, and should therefore be minimised) is a leap of faith.

    If toxins do in fact cause disease (that is, chronic consumption of low doses of toxins; we all know that consumption of high doses makes one very ill…or dead), then it simply does not follow that they should be minimised.

    Hormesis in the body occurs in many systems, including the digestive/metabolic systems. It would certainly strike us as strange if we surmised that, since working to exhaustion causes death, then lying prone all day is the best way to avoid death. Similarly, it is strange (although understandable) that one might think that toxins should be avoided at all costs. Just like exposure to bacteria challenges and ultimately strengthens the immune system, so too it is possible that exposure to a certain level of dietary toxins is preferable to a completely ‘safe’ diet.

    The resolution to this question ultimately lies with controlled studies…but given the difficulty of assessing variables in the human diet, this may be a long time coming. In the interim, how about we swear off alarmist diet gurus that demonise foods that have been eaten by humans for centuries…and instead just shoot for a balanced diet that is mostly unprocessed foods? Too boring?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      A balanced diet of mostly unprocessed food is exactly what he recommends. As for toxins, he’s quite clear that it’s a matter of “the dose makes the poison.” He describes safe starches as low-toxin foods, not no-toxin foods. So I think you’re more in agreement than not.

      Reply
      1. Harry

        Yes, of course the dose makes the poison. My point exactly.

        Paul’s view is that the dose should always be as low as possible. This is where we are getting into pure hypothetical territory. There is a possibility (one that is reasonable given what we know about hormesis) that a dose of certain toxins somewhat higher than the lowest possible is superior in terms of promoting good health (just as exposure to some bacteria is far better for the immune system than living in a sterile environment).

        As I said, it would be wickedly difficult to determine the optimal levels of dietary toxins using the scientific method, but it is just conjecture to argue that since a high dose of toxicity is bad for health, the lowest possible dose should be recommended. This is a classic case where ‘common sense’ (a priori reasoning and induction) does not necessarily yield the truth…hence the need for empirical testing.

        I guess I’m just over people running a contestable notion up the flagpole and passing it off as truth. The history of dietary advice is replete with such ideas, which while superficially attractive, turned out to be fruitless.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton

          Well, I personally like the idea of running a contestable notion up the flagpole. The passing it off as truth part is a different matter.

          Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I sense a new marketing campaign coming … billboards everywhere with pictures of those foods and Got Gas? as the tagline.

      Reply
  42. george

    Question for Paul:

    Big fan of PHD and have been incorporating resistant starch particularly in the form of 4 Tbl of Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato starch. Question: Give the nutritional breakdown of 4 Tbl of Potato Starch (160 calories/40 grams of carbohydrate): do does amounts contribute to the PHD minimum levels of starch 400-600 calories per day if this form of starch bypasses digestion in the stomach and small intestine and instead is largely digested by gut bacteria in the large intestine/colon? Or is it recommended to eat some starch that is not “resistant”? If so, how much of “resistant” and Non-resistant starch should be consumed or does it not matter?

    Reply
  43. Pam

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    You have milk as a not to be consumed. But, what about raw milk? I have been drinking raw goat milk for about a year. And then there is the Milk Cure from the early 20th century. Your thoughts?

    Reply
  44. Harry

    Paul’s central thesis (that toxins cause disease, and should therefore be minimised) is a leap of faith.

    If toxins do in fact cause disease (that is, chronic consumption of low doses of toxins; we all know that consumption of high doses makes one very ill…or dead), then it simply does not follow that they should be minimised.

    Hormesis in the body occurs in many systems, including the digestive/metabolic systems. It would certainly strike us as strange if we surmised that, since working to exhaustion causes death, then lying prone all day is the best way to avoid death. Similarly, it is strange (although understandable) that one might think that toxins should be avoided at all costs. Just like exposure to bacteria challenges and ultimately strengthens the immune system, so too it is possible that exposure to a certain level of dietary toxins is preferable to a completely ‘safe’ diet.

    The resolution to this question ultimately lies with controlled studies…but given the difficulty of assessing variables in the human diet, this may be a long time coming. In the interim, how about we swear off alarmist diet gurus that demonise foods that have been eaten by humans for centuries…and instead just shoot for a balanced diet that is mostly unprocessed foods? Too boring?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      A balanced diet of mostly unprocessed food is exactly what he recommends. As for toxins, he’s quite clear that it’s a matter of “the dose makes the poison.” He describes safe starches as low-toxin foods, not no-toxin foods. So I think you’re more in agreement than not.

      Reply
      1. Harry

        Yes, of course the dose makes the poison. My point exactly.

        Paul’s view is that the dose should always be as low as possible. This is where we are getting into pure hypothetical territory. There is a possibility (one that is reasonable given what we know about hormesis) that a dose of certain toxins somewhat higher than the lowest possible is superior in terms of promoting good health (just as exposure to some bacteria is far better for the immune system than living in a sterile environment).

        As I said, it would be wickedly difficult to determine the optimal levels of dietary toxins using the scientific method, but it is just conjecture to argue that since a high dose of toxicity is bad for health, the lowest possible dose should be recommended. This is a classic case where ‘common sense’ (a priori reasoning and induction) does not necessarily yield the truth…hence the need for empirical testing.

        I guess I’m just over people running a contestable notion up the flagpole and passing it off as truth. The history of dietary advice is replete with such ideas, which while superficially attractive, turned out to be fruitless.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Well, I personally like the idea of running a contestable notion up the flagpole. The passing it off as truth part is a different matter.

          Reply
  45. vlc eater

    Question for Paul Jaminet.

    Do you recommend PHD for diabetics and prediabetics? If VLC eliminates fasting glucose issues and leads to better glocose levels overall, do you see a problem?

    Also, is it possible that the self-reported mood issues reported here are a manifestation of mild carb addiction?

    This is a sincere question. I am also going to get a copy of your book to learn more about PHD.

    Thanks

    Reply
  46. Ben

    Question for Paul Jaminet:

    Where can I see a very recent photo of you and your wife? (I see the author/advocate’s physical appearance as a data point–not “the only” data point, or a critically important data point, but a point all the same–when considering a proposed approach to nutrition.)

    Reply

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