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. I’d like to have sushi once in a long while . . . but I hope y’all realize that “sushi rice” isn’t just rice, it also has sugar in it. Part of why sushi tastes good, alas.

    Anne wrote on October 13th, 2010
  2. I think your last paragraph is the most important one. I’ve seen too many people cling to some kind of “magic diet” where they eliminate carbs or fat or everything but shrimp from their diets and claim that they’re healthy. I’d much rather see them adopt a lifestyle where they eat a bit less, consume more fresh vegetables and move around more. If they get to that point, a bit of rice won’t kill them.

    It’s the 80/20 idea. You can spend hours trying to figure out how to cook rice or you can go for a nice walk and then come back to eat a moderate portion of that yellow tail sushi (I’m partial to Salmon myself but hey) without worrying about it with a nice salad.

    Gal @ 60 in 3 wrote on October 13th, 2010
  3. Always avoid rice except for every 2-4 months when I visit the all you can eat sushi bar.

    Murdock wrote on October 13th, 2010
  4. My toddler has weight gaining issues, so I feed her anything that isn’t poisonous or straight up sugary. I’m glad to know that even as I dive deeper into primalhood for myself and my husband, my daughter who is very slim is not poisoning herself with her coveted Chicken Fried Rice (made with coconut oil when at home). Thanks, Mark. I was afraid she’d only have potatoes. Now I won’t feel so bad limiting her “noodle” intakes. (Yes, I try to feed her high protein and veg/fruit foods, but let’s be real, she’s 2 and needs some chub, of which she has none)

    Sara wrote on October 13th, 2010
  5. Great analysis on rice. I’ve always wondered about clean white rice since it seems at that point just a carb.

    One thing to think about regarding fermenting, that does indeed open up a whole door to a few really yummy Indian foods I remember from days past. Right off the top I am thinking of dosas which were fermented white rice pancakes. I suppose on “cheat” days, you can have one…

    Daniel Merk wrote on October 13th, 2010
  6. Great post on Rice. I eat Sushi and hence a small amount (maybe 1/2 cup) of white rice weekly, with no apparent negative effects- I’m gluten and soy intolerant, but as long as I steer clear of the soy sauce and tempura, I can eat sushi and feel good afterwards- and it’s one of the few types of food I can eat safely without getting sick. I basically consider the rice a filler with no real nutritional contribution except the carbs that I don’t need from it, but I do adore sushi, so my Husband and I (both on PB) thoroughly enjoy our weekly sushi date with no regrets!

    Val wrote on October 13th, 2010
  7. Mark, a few points:

    – Oats don’t have gluten.
    – Phytic acid is not just in grains, it’s in paleo nuts and seeds. Almonds have more phytic acid than any grain.
    – You list lectins and then say they are inactivated by cooking. So ergo, unless you eat rice raw, not a problem.
    – You recommend white rice instead of brown rice. This is an odd idea, like saying white bread is healthier than whole grain bread. If people should eat grains, they should eat the healthiest kind, and I do not think that refined grains devoid of fiber and much lower in nutrition are healthier. Whole grain tastes better, too, than bland white bread.

    This has always been my main problem with articles like this. They’re not convincing, and anybody who eats lots of grains and considers them healthy is not going to be won over.

    Grains *may* not be the devil. I think paleo is a good alternative to SAD eating. I refuse to see grains as “poison” like many do.

    Stancel wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • I forgot to add that phytic acid, saponins, are all greatly reduced by soaking and fermenting.

      Nixtamalization (soaking in an alkaline solution) also increases the nutritional value of corn.

      Stancel wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • Actually nuts should not be in a regular paleo/primal diet. They are not available year round. Also if you don’t consume them a lot, you will do fine.

      Grains on the other hand, need to be processed. You cannot eat grains without doing some kind of processing to them. The processing required requires utensils which were not available during paleolithic period. So we could not have eaten them for a very long time.

      White rice has much less poisons, and so is good as an occasional treat. But don’t try to convince people here that grains are not the devil. That will get you nowhere.

      anand srivastava wrote on October 14th, 2010
  8. Since I started Paleo, I stopped eating rice, which I substitute with pressure-cooked sunflower seeds (500mg seed, 1000ml liquid, 20min). Similar texture, great taste. Sometimes I even process 1-2 cups seeds with some liquid, depending on the desired texture, and mix back with the whole seeds, and add some meat and veggies to a “risotto” dish.

    emi wrote on October 13th, 2010
  9. Sorry, I can’t get behind the ‘rice bad’ and neither can Grok entirely based on the post.

    The Rice diet book and plan is over 70 years old. Why haven’t you heard of it? No products to push! (Note how MS also pushes his stuff) Millions of people have eaten ‘carbs’ particularly rice and breads it for thousands of years. It’s not ‘bad’ nor are all carbs. He dodges this but does mention “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. ” So it’s a back-handed compliment.

    If anybody read the Rice Diet by the Rosati’s, they’d see it is more than possible to keep the ‘vacuum’ within reason. Portion control is the biggest problem in America, second only to all the crap fillers put in non-real food.

    Best,
    One who lost 10lbs on the Rice diet recently ;-)

    Expand your minds and your readings folks!

    Sally Sue Voter wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • I think human variation allows people to thrive differently on differently foods. There isn’t a general diet that everyone should follow to be healthy (as far as percentage of fats, carbs, and protein). Being skinny doesn’t make you healthy, and being healthy doesn’t mean you’re skinny. I lost weight eating pretty much fat-free five years ago. Gained it all back and lost it and have kept it off doing high-fat and grain/sweetener free. Portion control does seem to be an issue, but then there is the satiety factor (leptin-resistance) that affect people different which is probably based on the crap in the diet (I think it’s pretty benign in the scheme of things). I doubt the “crap” would be linked to rice , but there is always a possibly.

      Jeromie wrote on October 13th, 2010
      • *I think rice is pretty benign in the scheme of things. Thought I should correct that.

        Jeromie wrote on October 13th, 2010
  10. Rice was what I used when I gave myself a glucose tolerance test. I diagnosed myself with diabetes that morning my sugar rose to 282. I don’t think I could eat it again!

    Anne wrote on October 13th, 2010
  11. I agree with Don’s original post, that white potatoes are probably a better choice. And, as Stephen recommends, should be peeled and not green or damaged. But I do enjoy rice one occasion. It’s probably been over a month since I’ve had rice, but I don’t look at it as such an evil doer like I view wheat. I wouldn’t pass up a bowl of rice to go with a coconut milk-laden curry like I would a slice of chocolate cake.

    Jeromie wrote on October 13th, 2010
  12. Rice just isn’t that good to me, sort of bland. A rare “cheat” is Indian food a few times a year, when I’ll have some rice and naan.

    zach wrote on October 13th, 2010
  13. I eat sushi and bibimbap and other rice dishes on a regular basis. No problems whatsoever and my blood work is good. Maybe its because I’m chinese. Maybe. In the past, I got fat eating too much sugar, fast food, desserts and other processed foods

    Austin wrote on October 13th, 2010
  14. In the real world of nutrition, things are never so simple that one could say x is bad and y is good. The dose makes the poison and health history is very important how nutrients/antinutrients are metabolized. That idea will not likely be accepted on this blog which seems like a cheering section. From personal experience it is possible to go too low on carbs (50gm/d in my case) and suffer joint pains. Constipation and cramps are also issues I have experienced (from going too low on carbs) but which are seldom mentioned. My case is of course anecdotal but not likely unique. It is dangerous to take advice without critical examination and careful experimentation. The takeaway on rice is do not eat too much; find out how much is too much by trial. Doing trials takes work.
    I expect to be flamed for these views but perhaps there is someone else who finds such views plausible.

    Morris wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • Morris, I agree. Especially in our modern food environment, moderation and variety is key.

      At any rate, most of what is being claimed about paleolithic (or hunter/gatherer) diets on this page is utter bollocks.

      I have never dropped my carb intake as low as you have, so I don’t know if I would react the same way, but I do find that I get very constipated on more than a tiny amount of beef. Not eager to get started on the steakhouse diet any time soon. :D I’m also flabbergasted at the suggestion here to replace whole grain starch sources with peeled white potatoes! Potatoes vary greatly in glycemic index, but I find that Russets, Idaho bakers and Idaho Golds, especially without skin, cause me to spike and crash like nothing else. (Even WITH the tablespoons of butter some posters have recommended.)

      Yes, some populations, such as Celts, a historically marginalized people, cannot easily digest wheat. The populations that can are among the healthiest and most successful in the world. (German, Dutch, Chinese…)

      One can make a similar argument with milk drinking… the Mongols were milk-drinkers who smashed up and terrorized most of the known world :P

      Another Halocene Human wrote on January 23rd, 2011
  15. Sushi and bibimbap were already my two favorite “I don’t care what you say I’m not giving ‘em up” semi-cheat meals. And compared to the horrendous bloat of wheat, I always feel GOOD after I eat them (particularly after a good hard row). So, I’m ecstatic to no longer have to feel guilty when I do! Thanks for the thoughtful analysis Mark.

    Alix wrote on October 13th, 2010
  16. There is a way to semi-ferment brown rice that isn’t too tricky – it’s called accelerated fermentation, and the process is a little like a sourdough starter…um…not that you all here would have done that. ;) Check it out here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/01/phytic-acid-in-rice-reduced-96-with-accelerated-fermentation/

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship wrote on October 13th, 2010
  17. I eat brown rice pretty much all the time. Mixed with some lentils, pumpkin seeds, ghee and mustard oil, it makes for a hell of a meal that will leave you full of both nutrients and well, food, for hours.

    Not primal, but then are primal diets really all that cool?

    Steve Thomas wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • Also, the above post suggests that perimenopausal women working 50-hour weeks don’t exist in Asia. Whoa.

      And, if the problem is eating rice in addition to a bunch of other crap, but eating rice with a healthy diet is fine, shouldn’t you just eliminate the other crap?

      The logical fallacies present on this site never cease to amaze me.

      Steve Thomas wrote on October 13th, 2010
      • You should read the post, Steve. Mark clearly states that the problem with the Asian diet lies in its recent adoption of vegetable oils and more sugary, processed foods. He is not blaming rice. His point is that while rice may be relatively benign with a well-functioning metabolism, adding wheat, fructose, and high omega 6 to a rice-based diet is problematic.

        Erik Cisler wrote on October 15th, 2010
        • Yeah, of course. But the article is titled How Bad is Rice Really?

          Is the point of the article actually that vegetable oils and sugary processed foods are bad for you? That one makes a lot of sense.

          The fallacy is that instead of saying, don’t eat sugary processed foods, the article is saying to avoid rice. That’s like saying that if you ate Paleo along with a bunch of sugary, processed foods, then paleo must be bad for you. It’s the exact same logic.

          So maybe the next article should be “How bad is Paleo, really?” And follow the exact same structure to determine that sugary, processed foods are bad for you.

          I just think the extreme views expressed on here can mislead a lot of people. I’m not saying Paleo is bad for you or anything like that, I understand the benefits that it can provide many people, but it is not at all the only way.

          Blogs like this should choose their battles, and mind their logic.

          Steve Thomas wrote on October 21st, 2010
    • i mixed (fermented) brown rice + coix & add a coconut oil or butter. sometimes i throw in some spices (curry powder, or cajun spices), and/or sausage or bacon. sometimes i also make stir fried rice w/ lot’s of meats, eggs & veggies (in lard).
      rice dishes are easy to make, quick & satisfying. (FYI: we’re not diabetes.)

      regards,

      PHK wrote on October 13th, 2010
  18. interesting, a lot of people who are critics of paleo/primal diets showing up around.

    that’s funny, that we have trolls. if at least they were dinos…

    emi wrote on October 13th, 2010
    • Some of them are trolls. Some of them just disagree with the ideas this site presents. There’s a difference.

      Ginger wrote on October 19th, 2010
  19. Good post. Good information.

    My vote is that a little white rice occasionally is not the worst thing. Being willing to eat sushi or Thai gives me something that I can eat with friends without spending too many deviancy credits. It isn’t something I’d want to be doing even weekly, though.

    slacker wrote on October 13th, 2010
  20. Give me a break. Check out the 12BX Formula. Mr. Reeves is older than Mark and has developed a much more impressive physique from pull ups and pushups. He eats Oatmeal every morning BTW.

    Jaques wrote on October 14th, 2010
    • It’s funny to me, all the people sprouting up saying “of course rice (or xxx) is fine, look at me/this expert/this population.”

      The whole point here is finding what works FOR YOU, not what works for anyone else. I can eat white rice without any gastro effects or blood sugar issues, some people can’t. I don’t eat it often, mainly because it’s never been that appealing to me. Potatoes don’t pose any problems for me either, though I don’t eat them often (a few times a year).

      I can’t do cauliflower ‘rice’ at all, because too much cauliflower really irritates my gut. That doesn’t mean I’d say no-one should eat cauliflower, or that it is bad… it just isn’t great for me personally.

      So while it’s super fantastic awesome that so-and-so eats such-and-such every day and is in great shape, it has no bearing whatsoever on my body or my health, or on anyone else’s. If you want to come here and argue a point, have a sound one.

      Tracy wrote on October 14th, 2010
      • Of course, eat what works for you. I wasn’t suggesting anything different, nor do I think Jaques was. The point is, all this primal hoopla is a little out of control. Some people thrive on having entirely different nutrient ratios than others, plain and simple.

        I would agree that white rice is very questionable due to its lack of nutrients and valuable fiber, but the second you start questioning brown rice, come on!

        Just eat good, whole foods and don’t eat things that make you feel like garbage.

        The fact that I react terribly to a Paleo diet may be a single example, but it is worth considering when you have a site like this that so fervently preaches about Paleo as being entirely superior. I get that is his line of business, but don’t start stepping on the toes of perfectly healthy foods.

        Steve Thomas wrote on October 14th, 2010
        • You might be reacting terribly to the particular flavor of paleo that you tried. Paleo is very wide ranging, you can eat very little meat in paleo, or very little carbs, or very high meat, or very high carb. It cannot be slotted into a single category. The only restrictions are no grains, no legumes, and no milk. But these are restrictions for only strict paleo. You can still apply the 80/20 rule to add these stuff to your diet and be primal.

          Which flavor did you try?

          anand srivastava wrote on October 15th, 2010
        • <<don’t start stepping on the toes of perfectly healthy foods.

          That's my point… one person's perfectly healthy food is another person's weight gain/allergies/blood sugar nightmare/overall poor health food.

          I'd hazard a guess (and I may be wrong here) that many people who visit this site have problems with, say, glucose tolerance, gluten intolerance, etc etc and so forth. Many have a problem with weight (or did have) as well. This article speaks directly to the attitude, among the general low carb/paleo community, that rice is a no-no because it is a starchy carb/"new world" type food, and says that if you tolerate it fine (and aren't eating so much of it that it is displacing foods that contain more nutrients) then no big deal.

          Can't see how that's stepping on any toes?

          Tracy wrote on October 28th, 2010
        • <<don’t start stepping on the toes of perfectly healthy foods.

          That's my point… one person's perfectly healthy food is another person's weight gain/allergies/blood sugar nightmare/overall poor health food. As you mentioned, you react terribly to a Paleo diet (though I'm not sure what that means, since there is no one 'paleo diet' per se)

          I'd hazard a guess (and I may be wrong here) that many people who visit this site have problems with, say, glucose tolerance, gluten intolerance, etc etc and so forth. Many have a problem with weight (or did have) as well. This article speaks directly to the attitude, among the general low carb/paleo community, that rice is a no-no because it is a starchy carb/"new world" type food, and says that if you tolerate it fine (and aren't eating so much of it that it is displacing foods that contain more nutrients) then no big deal.

          Can't see how that's stepping on any toes?

          Tracy wrote on October 28th, 2010
  21. Personally I stay away from rice. Being raised in a Cuban household we ate rice everyday, it’s a staple of our cultural diet. Unfortunately, I blow up like a puffer fish when I eat rice or any type of grain.

    I discovered low carb eating in 1995 and have followed the low carb/right carb/Primal eating lifestyle since then with great results.

    Maybe I’m engineered a certain way but I do very well on eating mostly beef,chicken, pork and some veggies, and an occasional apple here and there. Everyday in my gym I train along with my assistant approximately 50-60 people per day (we train groups) and you can tell who the Primal followers are.

    They tend to be the fittest and the top performers in our gym. My gym is officially an MDA follower and we recommend all our clients to buy The Primal Blue Print. Thanks mark for improving my life and that of my clients.

    Jorge Angulo
    Garage Gym, Miami, Fla

    Jorge wrote on October 14th, 2010
  22. Your posts ar always heavily commented on Mark but this is a topic we all want to read about!! Great in depth coverage.

    Personally I can go without rice and replace it on a plate with squash, sweet potata or green veg to soak up a sauce or stew and fill me up. That said, I think some people miss rice like they miss bread at first. The key is just to stick at it and then the craving will ease off.

    As for the economic argument, good rice isn’t that cheap. Why not go for a tin of green lentils instead?

    Luke M-Davies wrote on October 14th, 2010
  23. SO, that means that I can have Asian rice noodles/vermicelli then too? Yay!

    Mia wrote on October 19th, 2010
  24. I dumped most grains out a while back (special occassions excepted), especially after doing a bread experiment and finding that wheat made me tired, achey and fat. However, last year I visited Korea and Japan and had no option but to eat rice in a lot of places. I actually felt great and went home the same weight, with a waist half an inch smaller.
    I don’t include rice regularly but I won’t turn my nose up either – I enjoy sushi and other asian foods on occassion.

    Indiscreet wrote on October 20th, 2010
  25. I eat rice now and then, but I’ve made it into a treat once or twice a month instead of having it as a regular side dish. If it’s sushi I’ll mix up rolls with sashimi and rice-less rolls. If it’s Chinese/Thai/etc. I add only about one tablespoon to the food. Tastes the same, so why have oodles when you can have a little? This approach seems to be working just fine for me. :)

    Maria wrote on November 7th, 2010
  26. I have been trying to move myself and family toward a more Primal diet. Being in Japan we are surrounded by rice of course. I have made efforts to get organic, brown rice, thinking it is the healthier choice, but become more confused the more I read (see below). Getting kids to eat just protein and veggies is impossible, so it seems like rice is one of the lesser evils.

    Replacing White Rice With Brown Rice Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
    http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20100614/brown-rice-vs-white-rice-which-is-better

    KobeTony wrote on November 12th, 2010
  27. Raised in an asian household for my early years, I was fed a diet of rise with a side of sauteed beef and veggies or a soup made from pork broth, tamarind, and salmon. I was somewhat healthier back then. Unfortunately, my diet at the time also included the classic sugary snacks like gushers and lays potato chips. Some time ago, during the summer, I went back to my old rice and side dish diet but this time the only sugary snack I had was a smoothie. Not the best diet, but better than the canned foods and oven pizzas that I was on. I had lost 10 pounds that summer, with absolutely no exercise whatsoever. Mind you, the meal of rice was my only meal the entire day, but yet I didn’t feel hungry. Rice may lack any measurable nutritional value, but it is certainly a gut-stuffer when coupled with your usual plants and animals. With that said, if you found yourself stuck in a metropolitan asian city, or you eat rice as a comfort food. Don’t beat yourself up for it. It’s not that bad.

    E. Allen wrote on December 6th, 2010
  28. I noticed years ago that white rice never gave the bloated, dizzy, tired, irritable -generally horrible – feelings that other carbs did. It’s damn convenient, since sushi has been a deep love of mine since I started eating solid foods.

    I’ll have it with sushi alone now, and while most of my meal will consist of sashimi and soup, the few nigiri pieces I have never lead to guilt. It also helps that I love it so much that I’ll take time to savor it; if I were eating wheat products, they’d probably be scarfed during a rushed breakfast or in front of the TV.

    The point, I suppose, is that context matters. :)

    Thank you for a great article on something I’ve been wondering about for a while.

    Anonymous wrote on December 21st, 2010
  29. Wish I could post/share your articles on FB.
    You’re confirming everything I’ve been idependently studying lately about nutrition and the causes of obesity.

    Keep it up and thanks!

    Lisa Clibon

    Lisa wrote on January 4th, 2011
  30. Being of asian descent, I think my ancestors have evolved well enough to survive on rice for generations. I do know that eating white rice spikes my blood sugar, but that doesn’t go the same for brown rice. In fact, brown rice is the perfect neutralizer when I overdo veggies or overdo meat. I don’t adhere to keeping portions as much as I should, and I end up feeling bloated, lethargic, or still hungry. If you experience those effects, it’s a sign of an unbalanced meal. Thus, I cave to eating some brown rice restore my energy.

    There is a presoaked brand of rice I purchase that suggests further soaking on the package to detract more phytates. Soaking rice has been in my ancestral heritage for centuries to soften the grain, but it is only now scientists realize the extent of this method.

    Jen wrote on March 23rd, 2011
  31. I’ve read in Fiber Menace that white, polished, milled rice is the lowest in fiber, making it move through your bowels without effort and eliminating quickly.

    If I ever cheat with a grain on my primal diet it’s white polished rice, because of that fact.
    Some do tubers…I just do a handful (not even that much) of rice, and always boiled in bone broth, not plain water…so the minerals and saturated fat from the bone broth are left behind in the rice when done.

    Quick elimination is what’s important, too….you don’t want to literally sit on your grains for weeks =P

    Suvetar wrote on April 14th, 2011
  32. Hi Mark and fellow Applers! Quick question re: vegetable oil, which was mentioned in one of the comments above: My very favorite snack in the whole world is Salt & Vinegar Almonds (manufactured by Blue Diamond), and on the canister it lists vegetable oil as one of the ingredients. Is this horrible, or do you think maybe the amount of vegetable oil required to get the salt and vinegar to stick to the nuts is negligible? Thank you for your help!

    Carrie G. wrote on May 22nd, 2011
  33. Asians are generally very lean and rice is the basis of almost every meal. Have you ever been to an Asian country? They are only getting fat when they adopt western practices eg lots of meat and processed crap. Things are not as simple as the readers of this site would believe.

    David wrote on June 14th, 2011
  34. I live in South China, and so I can say that avoiding rice, or even significantly decreasing consumption of it, is wholly impossible. Even if you went to lengths to eat a Primal diet, you would create a very real cultural rift between yourself and ANY Chinese people you interact with. In the Chinese language, the same word is used for rice and food. If a meal does not contain rice, then it is not considered a meal, but rather a snack (obvious exceptions exist if you’re going out for an exotic American or European meal). Moreover, convincing Chinese people that rice is in any way bad for you is many times more difficult than convincing an American that animal fat is actually good for you. To that extent, skipping rice or even just skimping on it can 1) be considered offensive or ignorant and 2) drastically increase personal food costs.

    Tyler wrote on June 16th, 2011
  35. And are the Chinese who eat rice near you fat?

    David wrote on June 16th, 2011
  36. What about shirataki noodles and rice (also known as Miracle Noodles and Miracle Rice)? They are derived from plant material, contain no nutrition and are pure insoluble fiber. Would this rice substitute fit into the primal plan when a starch substitute is needed, as in sushi? Anyone tried them?

    Linda wrote on June 27th, 2011
  37. In this article, under the heading “the peril of categorization,” Mark says that rice isn’t bad for you because it’s a grain, it’s bad for you because it contains gluten — however, pretty much every source that I’ve checked says rice is gluten free. Can anyone weigh in on this?

    Joey wrote on June 30th, 2011
  38. Does anyone know if the nutritional makeup of Japanese rice is distinctly different to others?

    Chris wrote on July 4th, 2011
  39. Cool.. this guy tells me that everything I’ve ever been taught regarding food is wrong. Sooo what next? Water is bad? Fruits are bad? Vegetables are bad? Give me a fucking break..

    Man wrote on July 12th, 2011
  40. Almost all foods have some toxins to defend themselves. Leafy greens have alkaloids, grains and legumes lectins, nuts and seeds high omega 6 to 3 ratios, etc.

    Humans can become allergic to virtually any foods so my interpretation is that almost all foods may trigger silent inflammation. It seems that the only way of avoiding phytotoxins is IV nutrition.

    Would vaccinations, pesticides, dysbiosis, GMO’s, etc be a more important cause of food intolerance than eating grains?

    According to the bible, people did eat grains in the form of breads, and the universe is estimated to be 6000 years, not billions of years old. Evolution would contradict the scriptures. I understand that people would not believe this.

    brian wrote on July 17th, 2011

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