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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 12, 2010

How Bad is Rice, Really?

By Mark Sisson
442 Comments

The 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!

TAGS:  is it primal?

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442 Comments on "How Bad is Rice, Really?"

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SuperMike
SuperMike
5 years 11 months ago

Woohoo! Sushi tonight!

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

me too but sashimi and green mussels not carbs

Ali
Ali
4 years 7 months ago

Oh but you forgot that sushi rice is made with vegetable oil (often) and white processed sugar (almost always).

Luke
Luke
4 years 7 months ago

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.

Kayu
Kayu
3 years 3 months ago

Many brands of shoyu contain sugar.

Annie
Annie
3 years 1 month ago
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… Read more »
R
R
1 year 8 months ago

I am Japanese and I can’t eat all kind of grains, rice wheat buckwheat etc. I can’t digest any kind of grains at all!

charles pilcher
charles pilcher
2 years 5 months ago

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.

Amelia
Amelia
2 years 2 months ago

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 😉

Isaiah
Isaiah
1 year 8 months ago

Then use coconut aminos instead.

Charles
Charles
23 days 18 hours ago

And wheat flour to make it sticky and bind together!

Sanaz Ebriani
3 years 2 months ago

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.

Jaz
Jaz
2 years 1 month ago

Absolutely love rice, but was heart broken to learn that grains are excluded on the Paleo diet. White rice will be a treat now and then, instead of a regular staple.

rebecca
5 years 11 months ago

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 :).

AlyieCat
AlyieCat
5 years 11 months ago

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.

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

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
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

BS levels, i like that

kennelmom
kennelmom
5 years 11 months ago

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.

FoodRenegade
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Candice
Candice
5 years 11 months ago

The only thing that worries me about Chipotle rice that it’s covered in soybean oil – as are most of their non-salad items.

Rip City
Rip City
5 years 11 months ago

They even have a specific page showing what is and isn’t prepared using soybean oil: http://www.chipotle.com/en-US/menu/special_diet_information/special_diet_information.aspx

PHK
PHK
5 years 11 months ago

wow, looks like Chipotle uses soy oil in _everthing_ (except Cheese)

so i’ll not eat there, as i’m trying to avoid soy. (i only eat @ Chipotle occasionally anyway)

thanks.

Nick
Nick
2 years 5 months ago

It seems that Chipotle cooked with soybean oil in the past, but as of now, Chipotle uses mostly sunflower oil. See:

https://www.chipotle.com/en-us/menu/ingredients_statement/ingredients_statement.aspx

StoneAgeQueen
StoneAgeQueen
5 years 11 months ago

Yes- I avoid it like the plague. The carb overload is too much for me.

libby
2 years 7 months ago

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.

Kris
Kris
5 years 11 months ago

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

libby
2 years 7 months ago

still bad for you! try substituting with egg whites and ghee or olive oil

Alta
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
Peggy
Peggy
5 years 11 months ago

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.

StephenAegis
StephenAegis
5 years 11 months ago

Quinoa in addition to being meh, contains saponins. Ack!

Bob
Bob
5 years 11 months ago

You need to thoroughly rinse the quinoa several times to remove the saponins when cooking. Quinoa is very good with Indian food!

Bob
Bob
5 years 11 months ago

You need to thoroughly rinse the quinoa several times to remove the saponins before cooking. Quinoa is very good with Indian food!

Megan
5 years 11 months ago

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?

Cj
Cj
5 years 11 months ago

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!

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

i used to eat it. i think it tastes pretty bad though–i would rather “cheat” with steel cut oats

Stefan
Stefan
5 years 11 months ago

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.

thelafemmenoire
thelafemmenoire
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Michele
Michele
5 years 11 months ago

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!

Dan
Dan
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Peggy
Peggy
5 years 11 months ago

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.

riceguy
riceguy
4 years 8 months ago

me too, but i use a very large spoon….

Kirk
Kirk
3 years 10 months ago

🙂

Jasen
2 years 9 months ago

LMAO!!!!

Leah
Leah
5 years 11 months ago

sushi and thai food are not the same without rice. I enjoy them occasionally and I agree that rice is a fairly benign grain.

Megan
Megan
5 years 11 months ago

You can always make cauliflower rice. Why eat something that has more negatives than positives?

Kethry
Kethry
5 years 11 months ago

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.

K.c.
K.c.
4 years 2 months ago

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!

Monica
Monica
3 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
horseplay
horseplay
3 years 10 months ago

… 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! 🙁

Joey Thomas
3 years 6 months ago

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..?!

Ginger
Ginger
5 years 11 months ago

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.)

Kelda
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Lisa
Lisa
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Eduard - People Skills Decoded
5 years 11 months ago

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…

MaMaMiA
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Primal Toad
5 years 11 months ago

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!

Ginger
Ginger
5 years 11 months ago

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…

Kea
Kea
4 years 12 days ago

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!)

Suvetar
Suvetar
5 years 11 months ago

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!

Alyssa
Alyssa
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
anand srivastava
anand srivastava
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
Zennia
Zennia
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
Elaine
4 years 11 months ago

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.

Erica B.
Erica B.
3 years 5 months ago

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!

Ted Hutchinson
3 years 5 months ago

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.

Ahmed
5 years 11 months ago

Nice article Mark… I do like Rice/sweet potatoes as starchs for re-feeds…great sources

stockjohn
stockjohn
5 years 11 months ago

Fantastic use of “twain”

Ashley North
Ashley North
5 years 11 months ago

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!!

The Primal Pig
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Dozer
Dozer
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
Stephan
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Jon
Jon
5 years 11 months ago

Would it help to cook rice in the soaking water?

Lulu
Lulu
4 years 10 months ago

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.

Monica
Monica
3 years 6 months ago

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).

catherine
catherine
5 years 11 months ago

Living on the Texas Gulf Coast, I am used to eating a lot of rice. Good to know that it’s an OK cheat.

noah216
noah216
5 years 11 months ago

yay the articles are back!

Michael
Michael
5 years 11 months ago

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!

Matt Lentzner
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
bibi
bibi
5 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Danielle
Danielle
4 years 10 months ago

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.

Lulu
Lulu
4 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Michael
Michael
5 years 11 months ago

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.

danthelawyer
danthelawyer
5 years 11 months ago

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.

12idylls
12idylls
5 years 11 months ago

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.

StephenAegis
StephenAegis
5 years 11 months ago

They contain “Avenin” which by many is considered similar enough to avoid

Alissa
5 years 11 months ago

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.

AlyieCat
AlyieCat
5 years 11 months ago

What do you think the issues with oats are?

danthelawyer
danthelawyer
5 years 11 months ago

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.

anand srivastava
anand srivastava
5 years 11 months ago

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.

StephenAegis
StephenAegis
5 years 11 months ago

Avenin, Lectins, Phytates

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

whatever it is…it makes me feel like CRAP. so i don’t eat it

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

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

Olivia
Olivia
4 years 4 months ago

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.

Steve
Steve
5 years 11 months ago

Now this is the type of post I come to MDA for. Excellent!

Natalie
Natalie
5 years 11 months ago

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?

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 11 months ago

Why not use unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of the rice or oat milk?

Red Foot
Red Foot
5 years 11 months ago

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!

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
Stefanie
Stefanie
5 years 11 months ago

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 😉

DavidC
DavidC
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Basil Gravanis
Basil Gravanis
5 years 11 months ago

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.

Joyful Abode
5 years 11 months ago
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… Read more »
Joyful Abode
5 years 11 months ago

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.

anand srivastava
anand srivastava
5 years 11 months ago

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 ;-).

Matt
Matt
5 years 11 months ago

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.

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 11 months ago

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?

cathyx
cathyx
5 years 11 months ago

Wild rice is not related to white or brown rice. Totally different genus. It also doesn’t contain gluten, and has much more fiber. I would choose wild rice over all the other choices.

Tess Gleason
Tess Gleason
2 years 9 months ago

I agree that wild rice is a grass and not in the same family as rice and from the Canadian Journal of Plant Science it would seem that when cooked, it lowers lysine values when cooked . The cost though of this grain is prohibitively expensive to eat every day it proves to be a good additive to ground beef.

http://pubs.aic.ca/doi/abs/10.4141/cjps81-059
http://books.google.ca/books?id=ifUkaCTmqpMC&pg=PA249&dq=Phytate+analysis+of+%22wild+rice%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=bDW3Utj6I6ms2wXoi4G4Aw&ved=0CEkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Phytate%20analysis%20of%20%22wild%20rice%22&f=false

jon compton
jon compton
7 months 17 days ago

that I’ve read rice doesn’t have gluten. ‘Glutenous’ rice is just that marketing name for rice that sticks together. Only ‘processed’ rice sprayed with wheat water would have gluten. my $.01

Rodney
Rodney
5 years 11 months ago

I just started a month of no grains in my diet to see how I feel off them completely. However, it would be nice to be able to tell my kind and generous friends that occasional rice in the meals they invite me over to share would be ok. They have been very understanding in my dietary changes, though they don’t practice similarly…yet! We’ll see how my month goes before I offer up rice as a viable option!

naiadknight
naiadknight
5 years 11 months ago

Sushi. I never eat it otherwise. Come winter, I may do a variation on po’ man’s rice pudding, but likely not.

Dave Fish
Dave Fish
5 years 11 months ago

So you’re saying Rice Krispy treats are OK? 🙂

Seriously rice was one of my favorite grains before going Primal. I travel to Asia a lot and it is hard to avoid there. Still I rarely eat it at home and since I don’t eat out often when not traveling, I do enjoy it when I have Asian cuisine.

Now please come out with a post saying naan is good for you!!!

musajen
musajen
5 years 11 months ago

Ooo, naan. This would definitely be a part of my 80/20 if I could get near an Indian restaurant. So yummy.

Tess Gleason
Tess Gleason
2 years 9 months ago

I agree, hot off the tandoor!

PrimalJapan
PrimalJapan
5 years 11 months ago

I’m an English teacher in Japan. At my schools we have school lunch. Two days a week, it is bread-based, the other three days it is rice-based. I eat the rice on rice days. And, luckily for me, the bread comes in a nice package that I can take home and feed to the deer.

PrimalPro
PrimalPro
5 years 11 months ago

Delicious Copy Pasta

Nan
Nan
5 years 11 months ago
David, I have read on several celiac sites that all grains contain gluten, just different types. The gluten protein in wheat, barley & rye that celiacs react to is gliadin. Researchers suspect that some celiacs are sensitive to all glutens. However, you are correct about the cross contamination point. Still, it doesn’t mean that some folks won’t react to oats. I happen to be one of them. So, celiacs need to proceed with caution even with GF oats. —– I react to rice too and decided to avoid all grains (and soy.) Before switching to grain free I used to… Read more »
katie
katie
5 years 11 months ago

haha, I’ve been saying this in the forums for a while. I totally feed my skinny family members white rice with dinners sometimes and I don’t feel bad about it at all. It’s fairly benign as far as grains go. I don’t indulge much since I have weight to lose but I do love it! I would go bankrupt trying to feed the 4 of us completely primal so rice is a perfect cheap filler. “The Peril of Categorization”- exactly! nice post.

rik
rik
5 years 11 months ago

as I was educating myself regarding type 2 diabetes..I was astonished as to how highly glycemic rice was..even brown rice..! since then…as I made all the primal changes..I avoid it completely. once in a while a eat a tablespoon..

CyberGrunt
CyberGrunt
5 years 11 months ago

Speaking of diabetes, didn’t Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories mention that diabetes came to India when Indians started eating rice imported from Thailand etc. I am away from my copy of GCBC, so please confirm.

janu
janu
4 years 6 months ago

That is totally untrue. I’m from southern part of India where rice is our staple food. Our ancestors had been eating only rice based foods and I cannot remember a traditional recipe from our region that is wheat based. In fact rice is considered so divine, it is offered to God for worship as well. So if Taubes is right, then all our ancestors would have been suffering from Diabetes.

Christine M.
Christine M.
5 years 11 months ago

I love rice, but it actually seems to be the most problematic grain for me in terms of bloat/water retention/overall ickiness. So, I’ve come to avoid it mos of the time, though I will splurge for sushi.

Benjamin
Benjamin
5 years 11 months ago

I’m an Overseas Chinese and I -DESPISE- rice. And all other large carb sources for that matter. Haven’t touched it in two years and there are no plans to restart on it, now or in the future.

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