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are tapioca pearls a safe starch (even when they contain no fiber?)

by (1786)
Updated about 9 hours ago
Created June 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM

tapioca pearls, made from yucca root/cassava, are (i think) considered a safe starch, but is eating them safe? 400cals/100g of them a day to fight infection ala PHD... when they contain no fiber? i'm just wondering.

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606 · June 21, 2011 at 3:22 AM

In the podcast he actually recommends a low carb diet for treatment of chronic infections, because glucose is toxic to the body and you need to starve the pathogens of glucose. He also points out that people with metabolic damage, cancer or some kinds of chronic infection can benefit from a ketogenic diet (i.e., zero or v.low glucose).

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 21, 2011 at 3:21 AM

Thanks. I listened to the interview he did on Jimmy Moore's podcast (ep. 453). Some good stuff in there. I didn’t realize that most people have several low-grade chronic infections by the time they reach the age of 40. However, Jaminet doesn’t make any claims about starch being able to treat infections in the podcast nor on his website, as far as I can tell. He does warn about zero carb and very low carb (under 50 grams/day) supposedly damaging the intestinal mucous layer which then increases your risk of infection and cancer.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 21, 2011 at 1:29 AM

Surely the blood sugar surge you'd get from eating that quantity of tapioca starch is going to promote an inflammatory response. Hasn't it been well established that chronic high blood glucose causes inflammation?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · June 20, 2011 at 6:33 PM

LDL receptors are damaged in those with leptin resistance at the hepatic level. I covered that in my Leptin deux post. @Namby the issue about tribes in Africa misses a larger point. Can you do it? sure. But is it optimal for longevity today with our lifestyle? No its not. If you engaged in HIIT and eating well with a low HS CRP I think you can eat it. But that context was no where to be found in the question. When its not given I have to interject with the context. I have a low HS CRP and I still would not touch it because of its effects on lifespan.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 20, 2011 at 4:13 PM

paul jaminet outlines how starch fights infection on his site, happy researching!

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 20, 2011 at 4:01 PM

its not tapioca specifically, but rather there is a short list of safe starches in the world that humans have processed and eaten safely for multiple generations. there's a growing sentiment in the paleo movement that more starch, not less, is healthier long term, in order to manage energy levels, support the immune system, fight chronic infections, and more. i know that i get weirdly depressed if i don't eat starches. i tried lots of fat and just got wicked tired (but not relaxed) and too much protein is an issue too (headaches, irritability).

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 20, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Again, my guess is that sugar/fructose is the culprit: it spikes insulin and leads to inflammation. Not safe starches.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 20, 2011 at 3:08 PM

I'm not aware of LDL increasing after insulin spikes. But I don't believe in the cholesterol theory. The larger issue is whether insulin spikes actually lead to: (1) increased cancer or (2)inflammation which lead to chronic diseases. I don't think so because the indigenous tribes have subsisted on safe starches. Their insulin must have spiked but they 2 hours postprandial, it always came down. Their fasting BG is always as good as the Inuits'. Read Stephan Guillenet who has a whole series on this.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
7324 · June 20, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Perfect Health Diet. Its a book and website by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 20, 2011 at 1:23 PM

I don't agree with the posters who are saying that it's safe to have blood sugar spikes if you're non-diabetic or without pre-diabetes. Don't forget that elevated blood sugar levels also leads to increased production of LDL cholesterol and more than likely a slew of other similarly nasty metabolic processes as well.

8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba
1724 · June 18, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Actually yes, those yucca root eating thirdworlders are not very up on nutritional value. The "staple" foods of most people in the developing world (where I live and work) are notoriously vacant of nutrition. This food is used by poor people to fill their stomachs and provide quick energy, not for its nutritional value.

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18671 · June 17, 2011 at 9:05 PM

I think you're exactly right, Jack Kronk.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5
18412 · June 17, 2011 at 5:22 PM

how does tapioca starch have any negative effects that don't come packaged in potatoes and white rice all the same? if it's basically pure starch, then it would be metabolized almost exactly the same as the other forms of pure starch. Am I somehow incorrect about this?

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM

its true that the dose makes the poison. much of herbal medicine is based on carefully "poisoning" yourself to achieve positive results.

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7967 · June 17, 2011 at 3:39 PM

I usually drink my bubble tea with heavy cream in it, and after I eat a good-sized meal. I've had this problem in the same circumstances each time.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:35 PM

As long as you're healthy (not diabetic), post-meal insulin spike is natural and doesn't need to be avoided. Another story if you're prediabetic and beyond. No indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe became diabetics eating tubers. If you avoid the twin evils of sugar and gluten, you are safe.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:33 PM

If you're worried about the BS spike, you might wanna try less starchy veggies like winter squash: acorn and butternut squash. Boil them and serve with butter or ghee. Also, parsnips are good when fried in bacon grease or microwaved.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Difference is: yuca/cassava has almost no sugar. Hence no fructose. Almost zero fiber also. Truth is all tubers are generally low in sugar, despite the sweetness you taste in sweet potatoes. You simply can't compare tubers to any fruit, especially tropical ones. If you want an energy spike, I would consume organic yams. If you want something with a lower GL, then try fried/microwaved parsnips and winter squash, especially butternut squash.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:11 PM

I recommend some organic yams ... the orange ones you see in most large supermarkets. The GL is somewhat lower than yuca's. It's still high though. It's basically pure glucose with almost zero sugar/fructose (actually yuca is like that, too). Your insulin will spike and you will become hungry 2 hours later when your BG comes down. But nothing better after a workout.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 1:57 PM

yeah i guess all those yucca root eating thirdworlders are stoopid maybe?

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083
2399 · June 17, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Comparing starch to white sugar makes little sense.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 9:01 AM

also raising insulin isnt the biggest deal of all if you want to be athletic.

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1786 · June 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM

what if fat, fiber, or protein is added to the tapioca mix?

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM

um, i need to eat some carbs, whether its starch or not,and i'm looking for the safest with the most benefit. 400cals of safe starch =100g/day, just experimenting with different ones. tapioca is easy, but may digest too fast causing gas/bloating, etc. too many potatoes are also problematic. trying to rotate and not need to go to the grocers so often. perhaps if i add fat and fiber to the tapioca?

A089b683ee0498f2b21b7edfa300e405
3885 · June 17, 2011 at 3:15 AM

@Quilt - what would you suggest as a reasonable substitute for this question..

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24271 · June 17, 2011 at 2:02 AM

I have to agree with the insulin spike from Tapioca. If I eat it in those quantities I'm in a hypo coma on the couch two hours later. I am not diabetic nor pre-diabetic but this stuff slays me and I don't consider it "safe" in any way for me.

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25467 · June 17, 2011 at 1:01 AM

I cant say I buy that logic but respect your opinion.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · June 17, 2011 at 12:52 AM

But, there's no benefit to lower glycemic foods. I'd worry more about whether it's a nutritious source of carbs.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · June 17, 2011 at 12:10 AM

There are many better choices that tapioca Mari! If youre going to recommend something you should point out the counter balance point. It is very stimulatory to insulin spikes. There are tons of lower glycemic options.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · June 17, 2011 at 12:07 AM

Unless you're diabetic, I would ignore Quilt's response.

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12174 · June 16, 2011 at 11:33 PM

I'd be curious to read more studies/cites about tapioca foodstuffs. A 'cheat' at our house is tapioca flour based pizza crust.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
7324 · June 16, 2011 at 11:32 PM

The OP is *looking* for carbs. It's not bad because it has them either...

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7 Answers

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18671 · June 17, 2011 at 12:06 AM

Tapioca is considered a safe starch by the Jaminets, and since they are the coiners of the term, I would call that definitive.

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7967 · June 17, 2011 at 1:46 AM

I don't have any factual answers for you but I will share. I have experienced excess tapioca pearl intake giving me lower abdominal pains followed by gas and diarrhea, several times. My friend has had the same experience once or twice. Maybe it's the fact that it's all carbs, no fiber? Carbs in general seem to speed up my digestion a lot.

In strict moderation, I have absolutely no problem (and I fricking love tapioca pearl! I make bubble tea all the time with the large, chewy black pearl). 100g is a lot of pearl - do you eat a lot of tapioca already? If not it couldn't hurt to start slow.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM

what if fat, fiber, or protein is added to the tapioca mix?

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867
7967 · June 17, 2011 at 3:39 PM

I usually drink my bubble tea with heavy cream in it, and after I eat a good-sized meal. I've had this problem in the same circumstances each time.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f
1
8255 · June 17, 2011 at 2:38 PM

I remember vacationing in Brazil years and years ago. One of the spots we stopped at was a farm where they showed how they made tapioca (touristy type thing). I don't remember much about it now, but the one thing I DO remember was the guy saying that they always had to be careful to process it correctly, otherwise they'd poison themselves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konzo

Never really thought much about it though, until listening to Robb Wolf talking about how the plants don't really want to be eaten, so they have all these anti-nutrients in them. Linking the two, Cyanide poisoning DOES strike me as that plant doing its best not to be eaten. :)

Does that mean Tapioca's bad for you, no. But it's an interesting observation in terms of the whole Paleo outlook.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM

its true that the dose makes the poison. much of herbal medicine is based on carefully "poisoning" yourself to achieve positive results.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
1
25467 · June 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM

Nope. The carb load in them is off the chain. Tapioca raises insulin like you can not believe. Go buy a glucometer and eat it and then check it at 15 min 30 min, and 1 hr. You will be shocked.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · June 17, 2011 at 12:07 AM

Unless you're diabetic, I would ignore Quilt's response.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · June 17, 2011 at 1:01 AM

I cant say I buy that logic but respect your opinion.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · June 17, 2011 at 12:52 AM

But, there's no benefit to lower glycemic foods. I'd worry more about whether it's a nutritious source of carbs.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 9:01 AM

also raising insulin isnt the biggest deal of all if you want to be athletic.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc
24271 · June 17, 2011 at 2:02 AM

I have to agree with the insulin spike from Tapioca. If I eat it in those quantities I'm in a hypo coma on the couch two hours later. I am not diabetic nor pre-diabetic but this stuff slays me and I don't consider it "safe" in any way for me.

A089b683ee0498f2b21b7edfa300e405
3885 · June 17, 2011 at 3:15 AM

@Quilt - what would you suggest as a reasonable substitute for this question..

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
7324 · June 16, 2011 at 11:32 PM

The OP is *looking* for carbs. It's not bad because it has them either...

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM

um, i need to eat some carbs, whether its starch or not,and i'm looking for the safest with the most benefit. 400cals of safe starch =100g/day, just experimenting with different ones. tapioca is easy, but may digest too fast causing gas/bloating, etc. too many potatoes are also problematic. trying to rotate and not need to go to the grocers so often. perhaps if i add fat and fiber to the tapioca?

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:35 PM

As long as you're healthy (not diabetic), post-meal insulin spike is natural and doesn't need to be avoided. Another story if you're prediabetic and beyond. No indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe became diabetics eating tubers. If you avoid the twin evils of sugar and gluten, you are safe.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5
18412 · June 17, 2011 at 5:22 PM

how does tapioca starch have any negative effects that don't come packaged in potatoes and white rice all the same? if it's basically pure starch, then it would be metabolized almost exactly the same as the other forms of pure starch. Am I somehow incorrect about this?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · June 17, 2011 at 12:10 AM

There are many better choices that tapioca Mari! If youre going to recommend something you should point out the counter balance point. It is very stimulatory to insulin spikes. There are tons of lower glycemic options.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · June 17, 2011 at 9:05 PM

I think you're exactly right, Jack Kronk.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:33 PM

If you're worried about the BS spike, you might wanna try less starchy veggies like winter squash: acorn and butternut squash. Boil them and serve with butter or ghee. Also, parsnips are good when fried in bacon grease or microwaved.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:11 PM

I recommend some organic yams ... the orange ones you see in most large supermarkets. The GL is somewhat lower than yuca's. It's still high though. It's basically pure glucose with almost zero sugar/fructose (actually yuca is like that, too). Your insulin will spike and you will become hungry 2 hours later when your BG comes down. But nothing better after a workout.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 20, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Again, my guess is that sugar/fructose is the culprit: it spikes insulin and leads to inflammation. Not safe starches.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 20, 2011 at 1:23 PM

I don't agree with the posters who are saying that it's safe to have blood sugar spikes if you're non-diabetic or without pre-diabetes. Don't forget that elevated blood sugar levels also leads to increased production of LDL cholesterol and more than likely a slew of other similarly nasty metabolic processes as well.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 21, 2011 at 1:29 AM

Surely the blood sugar surge you'd get from eating that quantity of tapioca starch is going to promote an inflammatory response. Hasn't it been well established that chronic high blood glucose causes inflammation?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · June 20, 2011 at 6:33 PM

LDL receptors are damaged in those with leptin resistance at the hepatic level. I covered that in my Leptin deux post. @Namby the issue about tribes in Africa misses a larger point. Can you do it? sure. But is it optimal for longevity today with our lifestyle? No its not. If you engaged in HIIT and eating well with a low HS CRP I think you can eat it. But that context was no where to be found in the question. When its not given I have to interject with the context. I have a low HS CRP and I still would not touch it because of its effects on lifespan.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 20, 2011 at 3:08 PM

I'm not aware of LDL increasing after insulin spikes. But I don't believe in the cholesterol theory. The larger issue is whether insulin spikes actually lead to: (1) increased cancer or (2)inflammation which lead to chronic diseases. I don't think so because the indigenous tribes have subsisted on safe starches. Their insulin must have spiked but they 2 hours postprandial, it always came down. Their fasting BG is always as good as the Inuits'. Read Stephan Guillenet who has a whole series on this.

0028f508004dc7c5dfc0c7adad8bd315
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0 · November 24, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Re glucometer- the Jaminets go to pains to indicate that any safe starches are to be eaten in the context of a fat-rich (and possibly protein-rich and/or fiber-rich) meal with an acid-containing sauce - all measures taken to reduce the glycemic response.

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606 · June 20, 2011 at 1:14 PM

This question is of particular interest to me because my wife is Taiwanese and she freakin' loves tapioca pearls. [geohistorical note: Bubble Tea was invented in Taiwan!] Can the original poster elaborate on the reason for eating tapioca balls? How is that much pure starch supposed to help fight infection? And what does PHD stand for? (I googled it of course but you try filtering out results with "PhD"!) Thanks!

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
7324 · June 20, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Perfect Health Diet. Its a book and website by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 20, 2011 at 4:01 PM

its not tapioca specifically, but rather there is a short list of safe starches in the world that humans have processed and eaten safely for multiple generations. there's a growing sentiment in the paleo movement that more starch, not less, is healthier long term, in order to manage energy levels, support the immune system, fight chronic infections, and more. i know that i get weirdly depressed if i don't eat starches. i tried lots of fat and just got wicked tired (but not relaxed) and too much protein is an issue too (headaches, irritability).

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 20, 2011 at 4:13 PM

paul jaminet outlines how starch fights infection on his site, happy researching!

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 21, 2011 at 3:21 AM

Thanks. I listened to the interview he did on Jimmy Moore's podcast (ep. 453). Some good stuff in there. I didn’t realize that most people have several low-grade chronic infections by the time they reach the age of 40. However, Jaminet doesn’t make any claims about starch being able to treat infections in the podcast nor on his website, as far as I can tell. He does warn about zero carb and very low carb (under 50 grams/day) supposedly damaging the intestinal mucous layer which then increases your risk of infection and cancer.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf
606 · June 21, 2011 at 3:22 AM

In the podcast he actually recommends a low carb diet for treatment of chronic infections, because glucose is toxic to the body and you need to starve the pathogens of glucose. He also points out that people with metabolic damage, cancer or some kinds of chronic infection can benefit from a ketogenic diet (i.e., zero or v.low glucose).

8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba
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1724 · June 17, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Tapioca might be Paleo by some strict definition, but I wouldn't think it would fit the spirit of Paleo. Aren't we about nutrient-dense foods? Cassava has virtually no nutritional value at all, except carb sugars. It can fill you up and give you an energy spike, but so can straight white sugar.

05055dcbf12c81f1cce777ec365870af
1786 · June 17, 2011 at 1:57 PM

yeah i guess all those yucca root eating thirdworlders are stoopid maybe?

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083
2399 · June 17, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Comparing starch to white sugar makes little sense.

8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba
1724 · June 18, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Actually yes, those yucca root eating thirdworlders are not very up on nutritional value. The "staple" foods of most people in the developing world (where I live and work) are notoriously vacant of nutrition. This food is used by poor people to fill their stomachs and provide quick energy, not for its nutritional value.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · June 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Difference is: yuca/cassava has almost no sugar. Hence no fructose. Almost zero fiber also. Truth is all tubers are generally low in sugar, despite the sweetness you taste in sweet potatoes. You simply can't compare tubers to any fruit, especially tropical ones. If you want an energy spike, I would consume organic yams. If you want something with a lower GL, then try fried/microwaved parsnips and winter squash, especially butternut squash.

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