On the day his new book, Headstrong, hit the NYTimes best-seller list (and several days before he announced NYC’s first Bulletproof cafe!), we sat down with Bulletproof phenomenon Dave Asprey to pick his brain about all things food, from how he orders when he eats out to what country in the world had the best diet to the single healthiest food on the planet (Hint: He doesn’t actually like it all that much). Here’s what he had to say.
Do you ever stray from the Bulletproof diet?
You're always on the Bulletproof road map somewhere; it's just a matter of what neighborhood you're in. I flat-out reject cheat days because cheat days are bad for you on so many levels, but the biggest one is psychological. If you're depriving yourself every day until you get to your cheat day, you will run out of willpower. For me, there is no deprivation on the Bulletproof diet. There is no hunger, no cravings, I am so satisfied, and I love what I eat. That means if I want to deviate from that, I'm not going to eat a Twinkie and wash it down with beer. What I will do is say today, I'm not going to be in ketosis, or today, I'm going to have more carbs than I'd normally have. It's about—where do I want to be? Not was I good or bad or on or off or whatever. I don't eat things that make me weak. I'll never eat at a fast-food restaurant again.
Do you eat out?
Yeah, I travel 125 days of the year, so I don't have much choice about it. One thing that I made a commitment to is I'm not going to eat antibiotic-treated mystery industrial animals. If the meat isn't grass-fed, I won't eat it. There's almost always fish on the menu—you can always order fish. I'll also ask for steamed veggies instead of the Brussels sprouts deep-fried in whatever. I'll tell them I'm not here for the flavor; I'm here for the feeling when I'm done with the food. One thing almost all restaurants do is they have spice mixes, and many of these are 74 percent MSG by weight, but they don't have to call it MSG. So the chef will look you in the eye and tell you there's no MSG, but he doesn't know it's there. So I usually also tell them, unless it's a whole herb, don't use it on my food. Make it simple. Ask them to cook the food gently, give me more vegetables than you think a human can eat, and don't add a ton of unnecessary seasonings. The most important thing is to be nice.
What if you go to a friend's house for dinner?
I never judge anyone for what they eat, and I always want people to eat whatever makes them feel food. I will tell people that I'm allergic to nightshade vegetables because I'm one of the 25 percent of us that have that. Generally, friends are really cool about it. If they offer me gluten, I say no thanks and have another helping of salad or something. There's always vegetables; there's always something to eat. And because I'm not dealing with starvation-level cravings, I've never offended a friend that I know of.
What do you think about the environmental ethics of the Bulletproof diet?
Food is a system that starts in the soil. Every time someone switches to grass-fed butter or grass-fed meat, they're making healthier soil. Anytime we can keep acres of prairie or rain forest from being turned into monoculture corn, soy, or wheat, we are helping our environment. If you eat a whole pound of red meat a day—which is way more than you should—you still kill 0.7 animals a day. If you eat a bowl of any sort of chopped-up grain, you're killing at least a hundred animals—and that's not counting habitat destruction. You have huge amounts of transport, and you also have field kills, where they chop up snakes, turtles, ladybugs, mice...and they're usually spraying everything with toxins as well. If you're eating fresh local greens from healthy soil, and you're using organic agriculture, and you're eating grass-fed, you are killing the fewest possible animals and making the healthiest possible soil, which our entire ecosystem is based on. When people say that an all-vegan diet causes less suffering, they do not understand that the soil from a vegan diet will not work after two generations, because you have to have poop to have vegetables, and poop comes from animals.
How much money do you spend on food in a week?
When I'm at home, we grow all of our own vegetables in our garden. Those are essentially free, and I use child labor—I have two children who help out. We pay about $4 a pound for our grass-fed meat, with a cow from a neighbor. If you wanted to eat grass-fed meat in the United States, you're talking about $6 a pound if you order it online, or $10 bucks a pound in person, but the average person in a day might eat, at most, about a half a pound of meat, so you're talking about $5, max—and maybe less than that. So excessive high-protein consumption is bad for you, and a lot of paleo diets make that mistake. The Bulletproof diet is all about clean fat, and guess what? A pound of grass-fed butter is $3. Or pastured eggs are a buck an egg. So if you shop at a farmers market or you go to Whole Foods and shop intelligently, it shouldn't be that expensive. You're swapping out 2 or 3 pounds of low-quality meat for a pound of high-quality meat. When you eat meat, vegetables, some rice, and some sweet potatoes, it's not that expensive. It's processed food that's expensive.
What would you tell someone who wanted to do the Bulletproof diet but didn't feel like they could afford MCT oil or collagen or even organic food?
Skip the MCT oil; if you can't afford it, just get coconut oil. It doesn't work that much worse. But if you put a tablespoon of Brain Octane oil on your food, it's worth the expense—about a dollar a day—because it will suppress your appetite so much, so you'll make it up elsewhere. But if you're really on a budget, add grass-fed butter, add coconut oil and avoid some highly processed food whenever you can. So you might not eat organic. You might buy a big bag of frozen mixed veggies that aren't organic, and you'll be so much better off than when you were eating fast food. And fast food isn't as cheap as you think it is because it leaves you constantly craving.
What's in your fridge?
Grass-fed butter, avocados, wild-caught fish—usually sockeye salmon, grass-fed beef or lamb, and a drawer full of vegetables, usually from our garden. Maybe a whole young coconut. We keep olive oil in the fridge, so it doesn't oxidize. My kids will drink raw, grass-fed milk, so we sometimes have milk or cream in there. I drink kombucha sometimes. Kombucha makes a bunch of different probiotics that aren't well-studied, and it also makes histamine. I know some people who drink kombucha, and it doesn't make them feel good. If it does make you feel good, it's fine, as long as it's not filled with sugar.
What's in your pantry?
White rice. Brain Octane Oil. Bulletproof collagen bars. Dark chocolate. Sun-dried almonds. Unopened olive oil. Cans of sardines or anchovies. Almond butter, cashew butter. A ton of fresh herbs and spices—we usually dry those ourselves. Coconut flakes, coconut flour.
What country in the world do you think eats the healthiest?
If you're eating a traditional Japanese diet, you're doing pretty well. If there's a diet that's high in seaweed, high in fish, moderate amounts of rice, lots of green tea, that's not a bad way to go. Sweden does a pretty good job; they actually switched the entire country to a high-saturated-fat diet based on evidence.
What do you think is the healthiest single food a person can eat?
It's probably liver, but I don't like liver. Grass-fed beef or lamb liver has all sorts of good fat and good nutrients. The high-polyphenol foods, dark chocolate, coffee, and tea, those would also be very high on my list. Also, butter is on my list. If you are living a life with no butter, you are not going to like how your body makes hormones. You need saturated fat in there.
Do you worry at all about advocating a high-fat diet in the face of so many epidemiological studies that promote low-fat, plant-based diets?
What I advocate is a diet that's high in vegetables and high in undamaged fats. It's not about plant-based diet or an animal-based diet—it's about which plants and which animals and how they are prepared. When you eat the way I'm talking about, you have more energy than you ever had before. Plant toxins inhibit your energy production, animal fat and animal protein can inhibit your energy production.
Finally—what's the next Bulletproof coffee?
What Bulletproof coffee did was made people realize that fat makes you feel good. But not all fat makes you feel good. I dare you to take street-grade coffee and add corn oil or canola oil, and blend it up and drink it. Bulletproof coffee proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's not about how much fat; it's about what fat. The next big trend is eating more food that comes from healthy plants and healthy animals instead of Tofurkey and fake meat and more junk food.