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Good carbs vs. bad carbs

Good carbs vs. bad carbs


The different sources of carbohydrates

If you're following a low-carb diet like the Bulletproof Diet, it is useful to know which sources of food are high and which are low in carbohydrates. Since there are also big differences between types of carbohydrates, it is important to choose good carbohydrates. 

In each of the paragraphs below, I will answer the two primary questions stated above. First, I will deal with various starchy foods, then fruit, followed by vegetables. Finally, sweeteners will be addressed. The distinction between good and bad sources is based on considerations such as the impact on the blood sugar level, nutritional value, fungi, antinutrients, potential food intolerance and negative health effects.

Carbohydrates from starchy foods

Starches are high in carbohydrates.

Category 1: The best carbohydrates from starches

This category consists of:

  • Sweet potato
  • Yam
  • Carrot
  • Pumpkin
  • Butternut squash

As you can see, this first category only contains vegetables. The main reason for this is that none of these vegetables contain substances that could adversely affect mental or physical performance. Furthermore, the chance that you could be allergic to any of these foods is very small. They really are "safe" paleo carbohydrates.

Category 2: Good carbohydrates from starches

The products in this category are safe to eat, but are of lower quality from our point of view, because they contain less nutritional value. This category includes (from good to less good):

  • White rice
  • Cassava
  • Banana or plantain
  • Brown rice
  • Black rice
  • Wild rice
  • Organic maize

The reason white rice is placed higher than the other types of rice is that white rice has been milled to remove the husk, which contains antinutrients. Although brown rice contains more vitamins and minerals, less of these can be absorbed by the body due to the antinutrients present in brown rice. This means that overall, your body will absorb the same amount of vitamins and minerals as with white rice, and potentially less. These sources of food are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction or gastrointestinal issues.

Category 3: Less good carbohydrates from starches

This category contains all forms of the ordinary potato. Common potatoes are, for example, white potatoes, new potatoes, and purple potatoes. Practically all potatoes fall within this category, except for the sweet potato. The reason potatoes are less safe to eat is that they are in the "nightshade" family. Some people are more sensitive to nightshades than others. Nightshades can cause immune responses, promote inflammation and cause joint pain.

Category 4: Bad carbohydrates from starches

This category consists of:

  • Oatmeal
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa

There are a few problems with these foods. Firstly, the antinutrients have not been removed properly. The only way to severely reduce the quantity of antinutrients in these products is by soaking them in water and an acid for a long time. It is not recommended to consume these foods in an unprocessed state. In addition, oatmeal contains glutamate. Gluten in food is converted into glutamate in the stomach. For optimal performance, it is best to avoid this category of starches completely.

There are a few carbohydrates from starches that are even worse for you. This category includes:

  • Wheat
  • Maize
  • Millet
  • Potato starch
  • Corn starch
  • Other cereals

It is highly recommended that you avoid all foods from this category. Modern wheat is a very different product than it was 100 years ago. It does not only contain antinutrients, but also large amounts of gluten. Maize should be avoided because ordinary, non-organic maize is full of pesticides, which are difficult to remove. These foods are certainly not Bulletproof!

Carbohydrates from vegetables

Most vegetables contain few carbohydrates and almost no calories, due to their very low protein and fat content.

Category 1: The best vegetables

All vegetables in the category of "best vegetables" contain very few carbohydrates. It is for this reason that you can literally eat unlimited amounts of these vegetables (except avocado). People rarely have allergic reactions or gastrointestinal problems as a result of consuming any of these vegetables. The avocado is listed as an exception because of its high fat content.

This category consists of:

  • Coriander (cilantro)
  • Pak choi* (Chinese cabbage)
  • Sprouts*
  • Fennel
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Kale*
  • Chicory*
  • Spinach*
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Summer squash
  • Courgette (zucchini)

*An asterisk after the vegetable denotes that the vegetable should be cooked prior to consumption.

Category 2: OK vegetables

This category consists of:

  • Artichoke
  • Green beans
  • Winter squash
  • Leek
  • Spring onion
  • Parsley
  • Onion
  • Shallot
  • Aubergine (eggplant)
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas

The vegetables in this category have been known to cause immune reactions or suboptimal mental performance in some people. Moreover, the chance of gastrointestinal complaints is higher than in the first category. In addition, a few of the vegetables are from the nightshade family, such as tomatoes and aubergine.

Category 3: Less good vegetables

This category consists of:

  • Raw spinach
  • Raw kale
  • Raw chard
  • Beetroot
  • Mushrooms

As you can see, some of these vegetables have made the list for being raw. They are not easily digested in that state. Other vegetables are on this list because they contain more carbohydrates, such as beetroot. You should, therefore, eat restricted amounts of these vegetables.

Category 4: Inadvisable vegetables

This category consists of:

  • All types of maize
  • Pickled vegetables

It is better to avoid maize because it often contains mycotoxins (fungi) and it is difficult to remove pesticides. Pickled vegetables often contain too many additives, such as sugars, which is why it is inadvisable to consume them.

Carbohydrates from fruit

Similar to the chapter on starchy foods, fruit also needs to be subdivided into safe and least safe categories. Fruit generally contains many sugars in the form of fructose. Fructose is the only carbohydrate that is directly converted to fat in the body when the fructose reserve in the liver is full. It is, therefore, unwise to eat unlimited amounts of fruit. Within the Bulletproof Diet, you may consume one portion of fruit in the evening.

Category 1: The safest fruit

This category consists of:

  • Blackcurrants
  • Cranberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Lime
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Avocado
  • Coconut

These fruits contain comparatively the fewest calories and the most nutrients.

Category 2: Comparatively safe fruit

This category consists of:

  • Pineapple
  • Mandarin orange
  • Blueberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Pomegranate

All these fruits are higher in carbohydrates than the fruits from the first category.

Category 3: Comparatively unsafe fruit

This category consists of:

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Cherries
  • Kiwi
  • Figs
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Prune
  • Melon
  • Passion fruit
  • Banana
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Mango
  • Papaya

These fruits contain relatively few nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and are relatively high in sugars (carbohydrates). Be careful, therefore, with consuming large quantities of these fruits.

Category 4: Unsafe fruit

This category consists of:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Raisins
  • Dried fruit
  • Jam
  • Jelly
  • Conserved fruit

All these fruits have a high sugar and fructose level. For good health, I would recommend avoiding these foods as much as possible.

Carbohydrates from sweeteners

In the group of sweeteners, one can also make a distinction between good and bad carbohydrates.

Category 1: Good sweeteners

This category consists of:

  • Xylitol
  • Erythritol
  • Stevia

These sweeteners are safe because they are extracted from plants. They are also not sugars. They do not contain any carbohydrates/calories (Erythritol and Stevia) or very few carbohydrates/calories (Xylitol).

Category 2: Less safe sweeteners

This category consists of:

  • Sorbitol
  • Maltitol
  • Sugar alcohol
  • Raw honey
  • Non-genetically modified dextrose
  • Glucose

Sweeteners from this category are either very high in sugar, such as honey and dextrose, or cause digestive problems, such as sugar alcohol and maltitol.

Category 3: Unsafe sweeteners

This category consists of:

  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Agave syrup
  • Heated honey

All these substances are very high in sugar while they have a very low nutritional value.

Category 4: Inadvisable sweeteners

This category consists of:

  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Corn syrup that contains large quantities of fructose (high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet)
  • Sucralose (Splenda/E955)
  • Acesulfame-K (E950)

It is recommended that you avoid these sweeteners at all costs. They are not only low in vitamins and minerals and high in sugar, they are also potentially carcinogenic.


You should by now have gained insights into the advantages of a low-carb diet. You will know which products contain many carbohydrates and which contain few. You can distinguish between good and bad sources of carbohydrates.

Questions or comments? Write them in a comment on this article.

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