Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Oct

How Bad is Rice, Really?

riceThe cereal grain family prides itself on its powerful, expansive arsenal of lectins, phytates, gluten, and other antinutrients. A single seed of its patriarch, wheat, can punch holes in gut linings with ease, and cousin oat has managed to obtain official recognition as being good for the heart even as it doses you with gluten. As healthy whole grains, they hide their armaments in plain sight; they cloak their puny bodies in the very poisons for which they are lauded and applauded. We Primals have got a heated feud going with the family as a whole, but should we paint all its members with the same brush?

Let me draw your attention to rice – diminutive member of the cereal grain family, frequent component of anti-low-carb advocates’ arguments, and the source of much consternation among grain abstainers. Is white rice the proverbial black sheep of the grain family? Does it deserve our full and unwavering opposition? Or, perhaps, can we treat rice like that crazy uncle who drinks a bit too much at family gatherings – occasional visits of short duration are fine and mostly harmless so long as you keep the hard stuff (scotch/soybean oil) locked up?

I’m starting to think it’s not quite so bad as we sometimes portray it. Sure, rice is nutritionally bereft, but it’s not all that offensive when compared to other, more heavily fortified grains.

As a seed, rice does employ a number of anti-consumption deterrents, most of which are located in the hull and bran. Let’s take a look…

Phytate

Phytate, or phytin in rice, binds to minerals, rendering them largely useless to any animal that consumes it. Well, rats can break through the phytate and get at the minerals fairly well, but they evolved that ability – we did not. Heat does little to phytate, but, since it’s located in the bran, physically removing the bran removes the phytate. That’s why brown rice eaters tend to have poorer mineral balances than white rice eaters.

Trypsin inhibitor

Trypsin is a digestive enzyme produced by mammals to cleave protein peptides in twain and reduce them to their constituent parts – amino acids – for easy absorption. Without trypsin (or with it inhibited), we’d be hard pressed to digest all the protein we eat. Luckily for rice eaters, trypsin inhibitor is located primarily in the outer embryo of the rice seed, with a bit in the bran, and none in the polished, milled seed. Bran-free white rice has no trypsin inhibitor. Steaming rice bran deactivates it, too.

Haemagglutinin-lectin

While rice doesn’t have something as pernicious as the gluten lectin agglutinin, it does feature haemagglutinin-lectin, which can bind to specific carbohydrate receptor sites in the intestinal lining and impede nutritional absorption. Again, though, it’s only found in the bran, and standard steam cooking inactivates its toxicity.

The common thread is that white, milled, polished rice is basically pure starch. All the chemical negatives are found in the hull, husk, and bran, and those are easily removed or negated. It is essentially a blank slate, nothing all that bad about it, but nothing all that great, either.

Well, wait: there is the fact that rice contains potential allergens, which cannot be neutralized by processing. Rice allergy isn’t necessarily common, but its incidence rises in countries that eat a lot of rice. Wheat-sensitive individuals and others with food-related autoimmune disorders seem more susceptible to rice allergy, too (big surprise there), and allergic reactions generally manifest as atopic dermatitis, eczema, gastrointestinal distress, or asthma. If you’re sensitive to food in general and grains in particular, rice could pose a problem. And even if it doesn’t cause an immediate reaction, there remains the question of latent, hidden damage. As I’ve mentioned before, gluten is damaging even to supposedly wheat-resilient individuals. Is rice doing similar damage on a lesser scale, even to asymptomatic people? It’s certainly possible.

Varieties

There are tons of different rice varieties. Check out this exhaustive list of dozens upon dozens for an idea. Now, if this were a post about dozens upon dozens of strains of cattle (note: I’m actually not sure how many different types of cow exist; perhaps this would make a good future post), I would go into each and every variety with exquisite detail. Beef, after all, is a staple food for us. We’d do well to know everything about it. But rice? Rice is not a Primal staple. I’m not very interested in which Cambodian variety contains the most magnesium, or whether Bangladeshi ultra-short grain is superior to Indian red rice. It’s all very interesting, I’m sure, but I don’t want to become a boutique rice guy. I’m just interested in whether or not having some sushi or Vietnamese rice porridge with pig blood and organs now and then will derail efforts – and I think most of you are in the same boat. Here are some of the basic rice varieties you’ll come across.

Brown Rice

It’s the “healthier” choice because it still has the bran, with all its nutrients. In a 100g dose, raw brown rice contains:

  • 77 g carb
  • 3.5 g fiber
  • 3 g fat
  • 8 g protein
  • 0.4 mg thiamin (Vitamin B1)
  • 5 mg niacin
  • 1.5 mg iron
  • 143 mg magnesium
  • 223 mg potassium

I mean, even the most ardent zero-carber would have to admit that brown rice sports an impressive nutrient profile (to clarify, that’s 100g raw; 100g cooked is far less impressive). But most of it is bound up with phytic acid and mostly useless to humans. Rats and other rodents produce phytase, which breaks down phytic acid and releases the bound minerals, but until we engineer rat-human hybrids, we’re not enjoying the full potential of brown rice. Another option is to soak and ferment brown rice, as Stephan details here. To me, though, this just sounds like a ton of work, and I worry that the newly unbound minerals will just leech into the soaking/fermenting liquid along with the phytate and the other antinutrients. If you toss the liquid, won’t you be tossing the nutrients, too? Hopefully Stephan can chime in with some clarification.

White Rice

Mostly neutral. A 100g dose (raw) contains:

  • 80 g carb
  • 1 g fiber
  • 0.6 g fat
  • 7 g protein
  • 0.07 mg thiamin
  • 1.6 g niacin
  • 0.8 mg iron
  • 25 mg magnesium

Pretty meager, right? Not many nutrients, pretty high in starchy carbs – eating white rice and nothing but will lead to nutritional deficiencies fast, but not because white rice is leeching nutrients from you. It’s simply a matter of displacement. White rice replaces other, more nutritious foods, and in some cases, it acts as a vehicle for negative foods, like rancid oils and sugar.

Parboiled Rice

Parboiled rice is interesting. Parboiling involves partially boiling the intact rice seed – husk, bran, and all. This, in theory, is supposed to incorporate some of the bran’s nutrients into the interior. The parboiled rice is then dried and milled, producing a white rice with greater nutrient content than regular white rice. How does it pan out? A 100g raw dose contains:

  • 81 g carb
  • 2 g fiber
  • 1 g fat
  • 7.5 g protein
  • 0.224 mg thiamin
  • 5 mg niacin
  • 0.74 mg iron
  • 27 mg magnesium

It kinda works. There’s very little mineral change from white rice (perhaps even a reduction), but some of the vitamins seem to increase by parboiling. Interesting.

Wild Rice

Wild rice is pretty high in nutrient content, but, as with brown rice, the antinutrients are present and the minerals are mostly bound by phytate. In a 100g raw dose of wild rice:

  • 75 g carb
  • 6 g fiber
  • 1 g fat
  • 15 g protein
  • 0.115 mg thiamin
  • 6.7 mg niacin
  • 2 mg iron
  • 177 mg magnesium

If you’re willing and able to figure out a way to soak and ferment wild rice while retaining all nutrients and minerals and discarding the antinutrients, it’s probably not such a bad option for a post-glycolitic workout carb.

The Peril of Categorization

Wheat is not awful because it’s a grain. It’s awful because it contains gluten (among other things). “Grain” is simply a valuable linguistic tool to promote better dietary choice-making. Rice is a grain that happens to be not so awful in certain circumstances – on the occasional dinner plate of a lean, insulin-sensitive individual; after a glycogen-depleting workout; underneath a massive slab of yellowtail prepared specially by a sushi-chef in appreciation of your enthusiasm for his creations. It’s a cheat that almost isn’t, that neither necessitates eventual pangs of guilt nor causes – for most people – pangs of gastric distress.

There is nuance to all things. Though categorization is a valuable, essential data management tool, one that helped propel us to the top of the food chain (grouping bits of data together into categories allows us to handle more mental “stuff” at once), we run the risk of forgetting that these groups are made up of individual, non-homogenous bits. There is danger in missing the trees for the forest. Rice is a grain, yes, but it’s not the same as wheat, barley, oats, or corn. Avoiding grains as a general rule is good for your health, and that goes for rice, but be realistic. A bit of white rice with a restaurant meal is not going to kill you.

Don’t take this as blanket approval for immediate regular rice consumption, however. It’s not black and white. Rice exists on one end of the “grain suitability” continuum. You know how I’ve discussed the dairy continuum? Raw, grass-fed one on end and low-fat, homogenized, ultra-pasteurized on the other. It’s the same for grains. High-gluten wheat on one (very bad) end and rice on the other (don’t lose sleep if you eat it) end. Do I recommend ditching the entire group altogether, just to make things easy and avoid any possible irritants? Sure, but if grain consumption presents itself, or you literally are hamstrung by finances and simply need some calories, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it just because you ate some white rice.

Rice can even be a vehicle for the good stuff – for butter, ghee, coconut. It can also be a vehicle for the bad stuff – for vegetable oils, for sugar. In fact, it’s the essential neutrality of rice that makes it what it is. The problem with rice in most people’s diets is twofold: it serves as a vehicle for processed fat and sugar; and overweight, insulin-resistant folks with damaged metabolisms can’t handle the glucose load.

Rice fried in rancid corn oil? Avoid.
Rice fried in homemade ghee? Not so bad, necessarily.
Rice if you’re trying to lose weight? Avoid.
Rice if you’re lean and active? Not so bad, necessarily.

The Asian Paradox

This probably deserves a full post, but I’ll briefly discuss it here. I’m not going to sit here and claim that Asians don’t actually eat rice. They do. And they have for centuries while maintaining pretty good health and staying fairly lean. That’s changing nowadays, though, with the Westernization of their food. They’re eating more sugar and using vegetable oils for cooking, rather than traditional animal fats. These factors are deranging their metabolisms, turning the relatively benign rice starch into an enemy. It just suggests that carbs, in and of themselves, are benign in a metabolic vacuum. If you have everything else going right – insulin sensitivity, regular activity, absence of metabolic deranging foods like fructose, lectins, and excessive linoleic acid – pure starchy carbs aren’t going to be a big problem. But, especially in the States, we live in anything but a nutritional vacuum. We aren’t starting from ground zero. The overweight perimenopausal wife and mother of three working 50 hours a week is not starting from square one. She has an issue with glucose, one that might not be cured in a lifetime. For a person like that, avoidance of rice is recommended and probably necessary.

We have to face facts. Deranged has become normal. Glucose intolerance – or perhaps “mishandling” is better – has become standard. Where rice belongs in your life depends on where you fall on the metabolic derangement continuum.

What are your views on rice? Do you avoid it like the plague? Have a little in certain dishes? Let me know in the comment board on Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Woohoo! Sushi tonight!

    SuperMike wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • me too but sashimi and green mussels not carbs

      DThalman wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Oh but you forgot that sushi rice is made with vegetable oil (often) and white processed sugar (almost always).

      Ali wrote on February 20th, 2012
      • My wife is a sushi chef and I know for a fact that there is no vegetable oil used to make sushi rice. I don’t dispute the sugar statement, as the vinegar used for binding the rice is sweetened, hence the flavor of the rice. Sweetened by what, however, I’m not sure. I’d have to check the vinegar container label to find out. Pretty much the rice is just water in which it is steamed, and when fully cooked is mixed with an appropriate amount of the sushi vinegar.

        Luke wrote on February 28th, 2012
        • Many brands of shoyu contain sugar.

          Kayu wrote on June 19th, 2013
        • I’m Japanese, my dad is a Japanese and European trained chef and to boot, my parents own Japanese restaurants… there shouldn’t be sugar in shoyu. At least not in traditional Japanese shoyu, but its soy so it’s not really primal or paleo. I still use it because its one of those things I can’t break from, but also I use it in small quantities. My mom would cry salty shoyu tears if I totally gave up on soy sauce…

          Sushi rice has no oil in it at all (unless you are making some unusual variety that sounds unusual and would ruin the stickiness of the rice causing it to crumble). Traditional sushi rice is mirin (rice wine seasoning which totes has sugar in it) and sue (rice vinegar) blended in a large bamboo tub (it adds to the flavor). Chef’s make variations on this, my dad makes his own rice vinegar and it’s pretty fantastic. Some people do add sugar, but my parents do not, the mirin should be sufficiently sweet.

          Annie wrote on August 1st, 2013
      • if you look at the soy sauce, a lot sold in us have sugar added,but you can find ones that do not.they are made for us consumption.its funny,at kroger the one with the oriental names had sugar,but the store brand did not.it supposed to be fermented soy,but you know its faster to add sugar.it really hard to find anything in the us without added sugar.

        charles pilcher wrote on April 4th, 2014
        • I make my sushi with apple cider vinegar and honey, and we can’t use soy so we use coconut aminos, there are ways around everything ;)

          Amelia wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Sounds like the folks from the Middle East and Asia were on to something. Well for one, white rice soaks up flavors — and go better with heavy meat dishes — brown rice and meat is like woah. Plus they must of figured out how hard it was digesting the grains all whole.

      Sanaz Ebriani wrote on July 28th, 2013
  2. You know, of all the different grains, rice actually raises my blood sugar the most! I check my BS levels after most meals, and when I cheat with rice, it shoots up around 140. When I cheat with sourdough or pastry then it goes up around 120. So I’m still avoiding it :).

    rebecca wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • The difference is probably in the glycemic load. The pastry has fat that will slow down digestion and thus result in a lesser blood sugar spike.

      AlyieCat wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • yeah i’m with you. it makes me feel like *&^%, as the Tourette’s guy would say. my body seems to know (and let me know) what’s not primal

      DThalman wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • BS levels, i like that

      DThalman wrote on October 12th, 2010
  3. I indulge in rice 3-4 times a month – either with Thai food or in my Chipotle bowl. I don’t seem to experience any negatives from having it occasionally. I need to get more finger stick thingies so I can test my blood sugar after some of these “20%” items.

    With my almost-on-board-with-primal hubby, I don’t argue about rice. I’d rather him eat that than just about any of the other “stuff” he normally wants to eat.

    kennelmom wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • I also indulge in my Chipotle bowl and when I eat Asian foods. I think that if you’re lean and in good metabolic health, rice can be a good thing on occasion. We probably eat it about once a week.

      FoodRenegade wrote on October 12th, 2010
  4. Yes- I avoid it like the plague. The carb overload is too much for me.

    StoneAgeQueen wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • agreed. rice is no good- it’s actually more glutonous (as in, turns into tough glue in your stomach) than wheat. think of a mochi ball in your stomach, comparred to a pate, purreed soup or smoothie.

      libby wrote on February 25th, 2014
  5. Interesting post, answers a lot of questions for me!

    One of my favorite treats since I was little has always been white rice with lots of butter on it. Having spent years avoiding it first because of the butter, then because of the carbs, maybe I should just relax and have some now and then. :p

    Kris wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • still bad for you! try substituting with egg whites and ghee or olive oil

      libby wrote on February 25th, 2014
  6. I have been (as part of my primal “shift” in diet) avoiding rice as well as all other cereal grains for a number of weeks now. I have gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, as well as trouble with corn and most beans. So I thought I could see further digestive relief by eliminating rice entirely. No real change, truthfully. I do feel better as a whole though, but I think that has to do more with keeping my carbs under control rather than the rice/no rice situation. What I’m wondering – where do the not-really-grains-but-considered-grains fall? Like buckwheat, quinoa, and the like? Yes, they’re higher in carbs and not so nutritionally dense, but are they “inert” like rice, or should they be avoided? Thoughts?

    Alta wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • read about them on wikipedia, etc. From what I’ve read, quinoa & amaranth are seeds from plants more closely related to broccoli, etc. Not seeds from grasses. They are sometimes referred to as “pseudo grains”. I’ve cooked quinoa a couple times in the past couple yrs & think “meh”. I’ve used the flour in a few recipes with mixed results (taste-wise). I have yet to try the amaranth flour.

      Peggy wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • Quinoa in addition to being meh, contains saponins. Ack!

        StephenAegis wrote on October 13th, 2010
        • You need to thoroughly rinse the quinoa several times to remove the saponins when cooking. Quinoa is very good with Indian food!

          Bob wrote on October 19th, 2010
        • You need to thoroughly rinse the quinoa several times to remove the saponins before cooking. Quinoa is very good with Indian food!

          Bob wrote on October 19th, 2010
    • I would be interested to hear more about these grains as well. I’ve been gluten free for quite a few years (and rice was actually one of my least favorite grains) but I used to really enjoy my buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and teff. A post on these would be great? Or maybe a post showing the grain continuum?

      Megan wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Quinoa is not a grain, but a protein-packed seed…the red quinoa has the best flavor…it is great mixed with asparagus slightly steamed then sauteed in Greek Olive oil, sliced into one-inch pieces, mixed with chopped sauteed red peppers…and seasoned with fresh Greek Oregano. I take this with me on my trips, and when my crrewmembers and passengers smell this warming in the oven, they get so envious!

      Cj wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • i used to eat it. i think it tastes pretty bad though–i would rather “cheat” with steel cut oats

        DThalman wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain have touched on quinoa before. Instead of gluten to punch a hole in your gut, quinoa has saponins. Probably best to avoid it. Haven’t heard anything about the others.

      Stefan wrote on October 12th, 2010
  7. I eat basmatti rice about once a month since I’ve gone primal and only a serving or two, no more.

    Before going primal, I ate rice almost everyday and I was quite overweight. I was in LOVE with rice and rice dishes and could hardly pass a rice dish by.

    thelafemmenoire wrote on October 12th, 2010
  8. I used to love the “concept” or rice because of its versatility. I never stopped to realize that I felt like crap after eating it though.
    Now I use “cauliflower rice” whenever a dish would normally be paired with rice, and it’s awesome!

    Michele wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Totally. Considering how nutritious and easy cauliflower rice is, I think the only reason to eat rice is if some else has already cooked it for you, and you’re in a polite mood.

      Dan wrote on October 12th, 2010
  9. If I go out for curry, I allow myself ONE spoonful with dinner. Otherwise, I skip it. (so less than once a month)
    I have some friends who think they are being better by choosing brown over white. I am going to print this out for them to help them rethink that decision.

    Peggy wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • me too, but i use a very large spoon….

      riceguy wrote on January 9th, 2012
      • :)

        Kirk wrote on November 18th, 2012
      • LMAO!!!!

        Jasen wrote on December 7th, 2013
  10. sushi and thai food are not the same without rice. I enjoy them occasionally and I agree that rice is a fairly benign grain.

    Leah wrote on October 12th, 2010
  11. You can always make cauliflower rice. Why eat something that has more negatives than positives?

    Megan wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • For those of us with thyroid issues, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and the like are out of the question because they mess even further with our already screwed up metabolism.

      Add in wheat and corn issues and most foods are off the table. Rice, oats, quinoa and amaranth are a few things I can tolerate in small quantities when balanced with loads of protein and fats.

      Kethry wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • Dr. Andrew Weil has an answer to a question concerning this topic, and it is that goitrogen, the compound that interferes with thyroid activity, is inactivated when those veggies (and other vegetables containing goitrogen) are steamed or cooked, so you might want to rethink sacrificing those nutrients!

        K.c. wrote on July 17th, 2012
        • This comment directly above is incorrect about goitrogens.

          (Also, I know that Dr. Weil is more relaxed about goitrogens than some other experts are, but even so, I don’t think that he has written about goitrogens in *such* simplistic terms.)

          Some goitrogens in some foods are inactivated when they are cooked. However, the typical American cooking techniques and cooking times for MOST foods that contain goitrogens do not eliminate their goitrogens. For example, you have to out-and-out boil broccoli for 30 minutes to eliminate 90% of its goitrogens. Most people these days lightly steam or simmer broccoli for about 6 minutes or something, or even eat it raw. That does not get rid of too many goitrogens.

          The goitrogens in some foods are not eliminated at all with cooking. Millet is an example. Cooking millet actually makes its goitrogens more harmful to people. Millet is in a lot of stuff out there these days – cereals, multi-grain bread and crackers, gluten-free products of all varieties.

          The goitrogens in a food like cassava (from which tapioca comes) are so damaging that some entire populations are basically hypothyroid because cassava is one of their main food sources, especially in lean times. Tapioca flour seems to be in everything “gluten-free”.

          Ditto for flax seed, which has goitrogens in it.

          Almonds do too. Peanuts too. Peaches too. And bok choy.

          The list is very long – I think I have a list of 100 that I compiled.

          Which list I actually posted on Dr. Weil’s website forum about 6 years ago, so it still might be there.

          Celiac disease as an autoimmune disease is hypothesized to be related to other autoimmune diseases like hypothyroidism, yet so many American folks with celiac seem to be scarfing up mass quantities of almond flour, tapioca flour, ground flax, etc., which can’t be good for their thyroid glands.

          Hypothyroid people who think they might get a little healthier if they eat a little healthier may not realize that so much of the celiac-specific recipes and supermarket products are not going to be very good for them.

          One thing I am pretty sure that Dr. Weil still has up on his site about goitrogenic foods is that affected people should not eat more than 1 serving a day of (any) goitrogenic foods, and that one or less serving should be well-cooked, or ideally fermented. When you look at the list of scores and scores of goitrogenic foods, and you consider that even in Dr. Weil’s world (as far as I can remember his position on this), one ought to only have 7 *well-cooked* portions from that entire list in an entire week, that’s a lot of bother, hoop-jumping, and near-elimination of many of the American daily dietary staples from one’s regular consumption.

          Monica wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • … or if you really dislike the taste of cauliflower, even if it’s smothered in flavourful sauce… that taste has a way of sneaking its way through anything! :(

      horseplay wrote on November 25th, 2012
    • Cauliflower is also a problem if you have ibs or fructose malabsorption. I would personally rather eat something that is neutral and will help bulk out the meal and fill me up than eat something that’s going to cause me to run too the loo and spit out all those vitamins my body would otherwise have absorbed.

      I don’t get all the negativity surrounding rice. It seems that nuts have their own issues (namely enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid) yet nothing bad is said about them..?!

      Joey Thomas wrote on March 20th, 2013
  12. Unlike the other grains, sugar, and dairy — which bring the hammer down upon my body — I actually seem to do perfectly fine with some nice sushi once a month or so. (I am of western European ancestry, not Asian.)

    Ginger wrote on October 12th, 2010
  13. I haven’t eaten rice since stopping eating grains in general last November.

    For me it’s all about the carb load that rice would deliver.

    My newly resensitized metabolism that now works in a low carb and consequently low insulin environment doesn’t want that kind of carb load – period!

    Fascinating post, thanks.

    Kelda wrote on October 12th, 2010
  14. Currently I’ve given up rice, as I’m focusing on increasing my overall health, detoxing from grain consumption and processed food doom, and losing weight. It’s nice to know that the occasional dose high quality white rice (koshihikari is great) will not destroy my soul after I have the situation under control.

    Lisa wrote on October 12th, 2010
  15. Hi Mark,

    I usually avoid rice and I only eat it occasionally. I’ve learned to stay away from foods witch contain too many substances we’re not naturally made to digest well. Now that I think about it, I never was a big fan of rice…

    Eduard - People Skills Decoded wrote on October 12th, 2010
  16. No I am no longer partaking in rice. If my husband and I were to go to sushi I probably would not pass up some rolls. But I feel much better without it in my diet. I do indulge in wild rice on occasion, and I don’t have any issues with it.

    MaMaMiA wrote on October 12th, 2010
  17. I had white rice the other night with chinese food – no guilt :)

    I enjoyed sushi rolls a few months back that included white rice and the were awesome! The next time I have an opportunity to enjoy sushi rolls I won’t care if white rice is inside. I eat them for the raw fish – no the rice!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • If you’re really in it for the raw fish, try sashimi. I can only deal with the rice in about 3 pieces of makizushi or 2 of nigirizushi, so I usually stick with plain sashimi and seaweed salad.

      I’m kind of amused by people talking about “sushi without the rice”, because sushi directly refers to the vinegared rice…

      Ginger wrote on October 18th, 2010
      • I also love sashimi and seaweed salad however the seaweed salad is a treat for me, not a regular, as it is saturated with rice wine vinegar (which has a lot of sugar in it!)

        Kea wrote on September 16th, 2012
  18. I’m from Europe and wouldn’t know what to eat rice with besides chicken broth.

    If I cheat with something starchy it’s definately potato!

    Suvetar wrote on October 12th, 2010
  19. I know for me, the thought of eating even a grain of rice strikes fear into my heart. But then, I have ulcerative colitis, and I’m on a diet to cure it that allows absolutely no starches or sugars (except monosaccharides like in fruit).

    What I’m wondering, is if you put rice into this category, would sugar also go there? I mean, doesn’t white rice, being so refined, spike your blood sugar as much as sugar would?

    Either way, even though it doesn’t SEEM too offensive for a certain subset of people, I don’t think it should ever be considered anything more than your ’20′. No matter how you look at it, Grok wouldn’t have eaten rice, and if he did it would be unprocessed, soaked/fermented rice. So while it may be okay on occasion as a ‘sensible vice,’ I definitely don’t think it should be considered Primal.

    Alyssa wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • I am not sure why you think that fruit contains only mono saccharides. They contain all sorts of sugars, including sucrose which are di saccharides. They also contain some amount of starch and fiber which are polysaccharides.

      White Rice is mostly starch, and contains negligible fiber. I wouldn’t think it will be more difficult to digest than fruits, but there might be other things that cause problems for you. It will definitely not be because of starch.

      Sugars as in sucrose contains a fructose, which is difficult to handle by our body in large quantities. And for people who do have metabolic disorders. So sugar will be a worse food compared to rice.

      anand srivastava wrote on October 14th, 2010
      • Just cause it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not super hlpfuel.

        Ebony wrote on August 5th, 2011
  20. A couple of things- the old joke about eating Chinese food and being hungry an hour later is based on rice- It metabolizes so quickly that you really ARE hungry soon after. If you grew up in Asia, where rice was often the only food, metabolically, you are very different from most Americans. I know at my favorite Szechuan restaurant, when I see the owner’s father, at 90 yrs and roughly 90 pounds, consume a bowl of rice the size of my head, I am terribly frustrated. But I didn’t spend my childhood hungry and he did.
    This is also why many forms of Chinese medicine are much less effective on westerners. It isn’t the medicine, it is us- we are not living in the bodies that the medicine evolved to help.
    Secondly, the good stuff in ALL grains was measured in the mid-fifties and hasn’t been updated. Given the power of the USDA and grain lobbyists, it likely won’t. But the soil the grain is grown in isn’t updated either. The occasional chemical spray, but no full spectrum neutrients like compost is par. So all those good things are largely in the past (and in the delta of the Mississippi.)
    In other words, even if you are a person who tolerates grain well, it is empty calories (we now grow up to 20x the grain on the same land we did 50 years ago) that bump out nutritionally dense foods.
    Grok On!

    Zennia wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Agree with every bit, especially the vision of the skinny old fella eating the bowl of rice the size of my head at the next table! Another metabolic difference in Asians from rice cultures is an anatomically larger pancreas. often as much as 50% larger.

      Elaine wrote on October 19th, 2011
      • Could you tell me where that fact comes from? I’ve heard it before, but would like to be able to find the source of that information. Thanks!

        Erica B. wrote on April 26th, 2013
        • There is an interesting free full text paper here
          “Pancreas volumes in humans from birth to age one hundred taking into account sex, obesity, and presence of type-2 diabetes”
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2680737/
          It’s complicated as pancreas volume changes with age, BMI.
          Table 4 compares studies and doesn’t IMO support the claim Asian’s have a relatively larger pancreas than Caucasian’s.

          Ted Hutchinson wrote on April 26th, 2013
  21. Nice article Mark… I do like Rice/sweet potatoes as starchs for re-feeds…great sources

    Ahmed wrote on October 12th, 2010
  22. Fantastic use of “twain”

    stockjohn wrote on October 12th, 2010
  23. I could care less for rice! I was never a big fan even when I believed CW and thought it was an important diet staple. After I got primal I don’t think I will ever intentionally eat a bite of rice again. When I do need those extra carbs I’d rather go for a sweet potato smothered in butter any day!!

    Ashley North wrote on October 12th, 2010
  24. I personally am still in the lean down phase, so I’m steering clear for the most part, BUT I have something to add for those who occasionally indulge in grains or starchy vegetables.

    Tip: Add lots of fats when possible to your grains. The combo of fat like butter, olive oil or animal fats on top and the Gi index drops, having lesser effect on your insulin spike.

    The Primal Pig wrote on October 12th, 2010
  25. I think Sushi Rice was the hardest of the grains to give up. It seemed like such a perfect Primal choice to have hunks of raw fish with avocado and seaweed. That is until you get to the rice….

    Sashimi became the new Primal alternative, but I never realized how much the rice was working as a filler until I ate the Sashimi. I can eat SO MUCH Sashimi (I actually wish they would just cut up the hunk of tuna in the Sushi frig for me). However, this has made Sushi VERY EXPENSIVE, and served as a real deterrent from the whole idea.

    In light of this article I will just treat it like Primal “Junk Food”. It will be my occasional slip.

    Dozer wrote on October 12th, 2010
  26. Fermenting/soaking brown rice will probably lead to the leaching of some of the minerals into the soaking water. Nevertheless, you will still end up absorbing more minerals than you would from either unsoaked brown rice or white rice.

    Stephan wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Would it help to cook rice in the soaking water?

      Jon wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • I was taught in a macrobiotic cooking class that you should discard the soaking water as it has absorbed all the digestion inhibiting chemicals. Wash out the rice after soaking prior to cooking.

        Lulu wrote on November 15th, 2011
        • And now (late 2012/early 2013) Consumer Reports has reported that most rice has arsenic in it, and the traditional Asian method (of boiling it in a large quantity of water and draining it before eating) gets rid of much more arsenic than the typical American way of cooking rice (just using as much water in the pot for cooking that the rice can absorb, and not rinsing it or draining it after cooking, which leaves all the arsenic in the serving).

          Monica wrote on March 20th, 2013
  27. Living on the Texas Gulf Coast, I am used to eating a lot of rice. Good to know that it’s an OK cheat.

    catherine wrote on October 12th, 2010
  28. yay the articles are back!

    noah216 wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Haha, my feelings exactly. And what a well-done one to welcome us readers back! Don’t get me wrong, the primal challenge is great and gets everyone enthusiastic but I missed articles like these!

      Michael wrote on October 12th, 2010
  29. I’ve concluded that starch loads are fine for people with normal metabolisms. The Kitavans seem to do well on a high carb diet and Stephen Guyenet just wrote up some potato eating cultures of S. America who were also quite healthy. Note that most Americans do not fall into the category of “normal metabolism”.

    If you need to add calories to your diet and you are already eating a solid primal diet with adequate nutrients then you can add “untainted” starches such as rice and potato.

    My own personal experience is that too low of a carb load negatively affects my workouts and recovery. Adding in some rice or potato (and I’m talking tablespoons, not cups) did the trick. Gluten and fructose are the real criminals here. Starch just needs to find some better friends so he doesn’t get blamed for their misdeeds.

    Matt Lentzner wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • I totally agree with this. I developed thyroid problems and adrenal gland problems from going low carb (only eating fruit carbs) for a year. My health was never worse. I have been slowly recovering since then. I should’ve listened to my body, but I was kind of brainwashed by all the hype. I felt awful for a year, mentally and physically, like an anorexic, except with normal calories. Funny thing is, when I leave out all starchy carbs and get most of my calories from protein and fats then my calorie intake also really increases because I feel so hungry and weak all the time. I have no insulin problems at all, but I do have stress problems and lowering carb intake seems to make those stress symptoms worse.

      bibi wrote on July 21st, 2011
      • That is interesting. I have thyroid problems and am just starting a paleo experiment with my diet. My instinct has been to leave in some properly prepared soaked grains (Nourishing Traditions style). I think I will stick with my instincts! I’m definitely going to lower my grain intake, though. Or maybe I will eliminate them for a few weeks and then add some back to see how I feel.

        Danielle wrote on November 7th, 2011
    • That’s an interesting point. Interestingly, I am asian and grew up on loads of starch and was never overweight until I moved to the US. Since I moved here, I have been a little overweight my whole life and I find that it always helps when I cut down the starches and sugars (though I have never completely eliminated them). When I intermittently spend some time abroad (Africa, Asia) for a few months, I don’t have as much choice in foods so end eating tons of starches like rice and beans. I didn’t lose weight but I certainly didn’t gain weight eating higher amounts of starch than I would normally at home in the US (physical activity remained the same as well). Had I eaten that amount of starch in the US, I would have ballooned up.

      This is a long winded way of saying that all the preservatives, fructose and other crap American food companies and distributors add to food that should just be served whole as nature intended probably has a significant factor as to why so many Americans are overweight in addition to the whole insulin sensitivity issue.

      Lulu wrote on November 15th, 2011
  30. Spot-on post. I am down with ambiguity and there is plenty of that in managing a primal lifestyle in a modern world. The tri-monthly indulgence in sashimi is too beautiful to be compromised due to paleo constraints toward grains. Again, great job on openning up the perspective on grains and rice in the primal lifestyle.

    Michael wrote on October 12th, 2010
  31. A couple of points:

    1. A little poking around on the web shows it’s not at all clear that oats contain gluten. There are other issues with oats, but gluten may or may not be one of them.

    2. I feel like I’m unusually insulin sensitive, and rice seems to spike it really quickly because I feel very sleepy shortly after a meal that includes a large amount of rice. In that sense, it’s like pasta for me. Now that I’m mostly paleo, of course, this doesn’t happen any more, but I still get a little sleepy after eating rice.

    danthelawyer wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Oats naturally contain no gluten. Usually they pick it up by processing in the same facility as wheat. Does a lack of gluten make it healthy? I am hardly one to properly judge.

      12idylls wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • They contain “Avenin” which by many is considered similar enough to avoid

        StephenAegis wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • I feel like I might have commented on this too the last time he posted about gluten. Oats do not contain gluten in the sense that wheat does. The wikipedia entry is actually scientifically accurate about this. The problem gluten wise is that oats are often grown as a rotation crop with wheat. So you get ‘volunteers’ in the field contaminating the harvest, along with anything it picks up in processing.
      And I also agree, there likely ARE issues with oats, but gluten ISN’T the problem here.

      Alissa wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • What do you think the issues with oats are?

      AlyieCat wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • Well, they’re high in (soluble) fiber, which the CW likes but Mark doesn’t like, and they have the other grain characteristics that Mark deplores — which essentially amount to high carbs/low fat and protein, as I understand it.

        danthelawyer wrote on October 12th, 2010
        • I would think insoluble fiber would be even worse than soluble. The problem with insoluble fiber is that if they are not broken into fine enough pieces, once it absorbs water it is big enough to not easily pass through the celia in the small intestines. There it has a tendency to cause damage.
          Normally this damage would not be severe, but if you eat too much insoluble fiber, and/or your gut health is impaired then they will worsen your gut health.

          I am not sure how soluble fiber causes problem, except causing bloating and gas, due to the fermentation.

          anand srivastava wrote on October 14th, 2010
      • Avenin, Lectins, Phytates

        StephenAegis wrote on October 13th, 2010
        • whatever it is…it makes me feel like CRAP. so i don’t eat it

          DThalman wrote on October 15th, 2010
    • yeah i am really sensitive to carbs (IBS like) and i do worse with rice than oats. maybe cuz i douse the oats with heavy cream and nuts

      DThalman wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • i kind of feel like you with the insulin sensitivity. i wonder if, by eating foods higher in sugar and starch, overeating and not exercising enough, we become more insulin sensitive? like if we had never eaten anything bad in our lives and were highly fit and active, we wouldn’t be so sensitive to sugary foods? i don’t know, just a random thought.

      Olivia wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  32. Now this is the type of post I come to MDA for. Excellent!

    Steve wrote on October 12th, 2010
  33. I agree – so great to have the articles back! I occasionally give my kids a protein powder shake with either rice or oat milk. Does anyone know whether the lectins or anti-nutrients are present in the milk?

    Natalie wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • Why not use unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of the rice or oat milk?

      Nancy wrote on October 12th, 2010
  34. This was a great post! I feel like I learned so much! I have been wondering about this for some time. I would picture Shaolin monks and think “But they eat it all the time!” Thanks for the info Mark! Hey, also, I think you should do One more contest so someone, me I hope, can win a container of your new Primal Fuel!

    Red Foot wrote on October 12th, 2010
  35. I vote YES for a post on all the different breeds of cattle! Our favorite are Murray Grey. Their meat is well-marbled, tender and flavorful, even when raised on pasture only. Yum. Last year we got a quarter MG beef, and the meat was gone in no time (best T-Bone steaks I’ve ever had). This year we’re getting a 1/2 MG beef, so it should last a little longer.
    A post on pig breeds would be great too. Around here most farmers raise Hampshire/Duroc cross (very lean). Last year we got 1/2 of a Glouchestershire Old Spot finished on apples and acorns, and this year we’re getting 1/2 of a Red Wattle finished on hazelnuts.
    I’d rather have good meat and fat than rice any day.

    Nancy wrote on October 12th, 2010
  36. Dear Mark,

    First of all, many thanks for your website. I discovered it 2-3 months ago and it has changed my view on things drastically. I have a question which I have been struggling with and maybe you have time to reply: The CW has it that a diet too rich in animal products/protein/fat is too acidic for the body. How do you deal with that, if at all? Do you think that eating lots of vegetables (and sometimes fruit) can balance this?

    many thanks! Grok on ;)

    Stefanie wrote on October 12th, 2010
  37. Oats don’t contain gluten.

    Most oats are contaminated with gluten traces due to field locations and processing alongside gluten grains in the same facilities. Therefore, celiacs have to avoid oats. This has led to people believing that oats have gluten.

    You can buy gluten-free oats. Normal oats but not processed along with wheat.

    DavidC wrote on October 12th, 2010
  38. Really enjoyed this article! Well done Mark, as usual! I’ve been articulating a very similar take on rice for a while now. I find it to be a very useful food to consume sparingly, at most 1-2 times a week, when I require a lot of starch for refeeds or post-workout.

    Basil Gravanis wrote on October 12th, 2010
  39. When I was pregnant, especially in the first trimester when I was having so many food aversions and nausea, I ate a good bit of rice.

    I’d cook it in homemade chicken stock so it would soak up nutrients that way, and load it up with a ton of butter.

    Sometimes I’d sprinkle in a little soy sauce, and other times I’d add cheddar cheese. It was something I could easily tolerate and a good vehicle for butter, while still filling up my tummy the way chicken stock alone wouldn’t.

    I had also been having a hard time even getting to 1000 calories a day before I decided to try rice. With the rice (and butter, etc), it was easy to get to a more reasonable caloric level for the day.

    Describing it as a “blank slate” is certainly accurate.

    If I were trying to lose weight, I’d avoid it. But I’m not, so I have it now and then. :)

    Joyful Abode wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • PS I also ate a lot of white potatoes for the same reason – loaded them up with butter, cheese, sour cream… they don’t affect my digestion the way gluten grains do, but they’re certainly just a blank slate the way white rice is.

      Joyful Abode wrote on October 12th, 2010
      • Potatoes are not a blank slate. They are more nutritious than many fruits. Just check it out on nutrition data.
        They also have lesser fructose than fruits, as in none ;-).

        anand srivastava wrote on October 14th, 2010
  40. As an Asian I consider rice my birthright, in fact I said so as I put some on my plate the other night when we had didder with friends. What I don’t do anymore is cook a batch in my rice cooker and eat it with every meal until it is gone. It has now become a sometimes treat and I don’t really miss it.

    Matt wrote on October 12th, 2010
    • weird eh? i thought potatoes were my birthright, being Irish. i can’t eat them to any serious degree. I sure miss them. fish and beer, still OK. maybe all the other stuff we ate that we shouldn’t have for years sensitized us?

      DThalman wrote on October 12th, 2010

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