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Here's another relatively new take on safe starches for paleo diets. It's not always about feeding you, sometimes it's about feeding your probiotic bacteria.

Most paleo dieters get great results from their meat and veggie diets at first. The pounds fall off. The nagging health issues go away.

But for most of us, trying to go no-carb leads to breakdowns in self-control. And simply having to repeat the mantra "I won't eat carbs, I won't eat carbs, I won't eat carbs" all day long, well, burns a lot of carbs. The brain runs on glucose. Sooner or later, all but the most ardent, or genetically suited, followers of paleo and primal diets succumb to carb cravings, and many erase the results of months of hard work.

This doesn't have to be. 

There are relatively safe carbs. They happen to be boring carbs, so chances are you are not going to lose control with them.

Irish Potatoes, White Rice, Winter Squash, Yams, and Plantains (But Not Bananas)

Safe starches for paleo dieters include Irish potatoes, white (but not brown) rice, winter (acorn) squash, yams, and plantains. Please note that this list does not read au gratin potatoes with lots of cheese and bacon, white rice pudding with whiskey sauce, winter squash with caramel, candied yams, or plantains in tequila flambe served with ice cream.

If you want to satisfy your body's legitimate carbohydrate needs while staying as close as possible to paleo or primal principles, you will need to:
  • Stick to this relatively short list of starchy vegetables. Other starchy vegetables (including brown rice and bananas) contain chemicals that counteract their nutritional value.
  • Cook them by boiling in water. The boiling process changes starches into a safer, more slowly digested form in ways that aren't accomplished by eating these foods grilled, baked, steamed, roasted, or raw.
  • Let them cool after cooking before you eat them. Cooling cooked starchy foods changes the structure of starch into a more slowly digested form.
  • Limit yourself to 1 or 2 servings per meal. About 1/3 of a pound, or 150 grams, of starchy foods is about all the body can process at a single meal. Diabetics probably need to cut that serving size in half. That's 1 or 2 servings of all starchy foods considered together, not 1 or 2 servings of each food on the list.

And Maybe Rye

Rye flour and rye cereals contain gluten, but the reality is, less than 1% of the population has celiac disease, and only about 10% of the population has any immune system reaction to gluten at all. The problem with cereal grains is that they activate inflammation--except for rye, which counteracts the inflammation that can be caused by wheat products and by baked or fried (but not boiled) potatoes. In the United States, most "rye" bread is actualy mostly wheat, so you will have to look for "100% rye" products.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Gao Z and collaborators. Butyrate improves insulin sensitivity and increases energy expenditure in mice. Diabetes. 58(7). July 2009. 1509-17.
  • Suzuki T and collaborators. Physiological concentrations of short-chain fatty acids immediately suppress colonic epithelial permeability. British Journal of Nutrition. 100(2). August 2008. 297-305.
  • Photo courtesy of David Prasad by Flickr :
  • Photo courtesy of Patrick Collins by Flickr :

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