Alright. I’m just gonna come right out and say it.
There’s Nothing Wrong with White Rice.
That’s right. You heard me. I LOVE WHITE RICE. And I eat it all the time.
I’m getting pretty sick of people lumping together white rice in the same category as other “refined carbs” such as that oh-so-scary white flour and sugar on which people blame every single disease and disorder known to man. In Hawaii, where I was living up until recently, the standard local diet is commonly labeled as being very unhealthy, in large part due to the huge amount of white rice consumed. You put rice on your plate with every meal. Even breakfast. Eggs with spam — oh but it’s surely those two scoops of sticky rice on the side that’s to blame!
“Cut out those refined carbs! Like white rice and bread!” they say.
Well I say, think again, healthy diet dogma-spreaders. That’s nothing but a bunch of dogma dog poo.
Rice is delightful. It’s healthful, it’s nutritious, it’s a great source of energy. And if you ask me, white rice is the most delightful of all. As much as that makes me sound like some sort of weirdo rice-racist, I promise you, I can explain.
White Rice vs Brown Rice
Are you convinced that brown rice truly is superior to white? Let’s look at the differences.
Brown rice is brown because it’s got the bran on it. White rice is just rice with the bran and germ removed.
The germ is extremely susceptible to rancidity, which is bad because of the very high content of polyunsaturated fat it contains, which is easily oxidized, and leads to all sorts of problematic reactions in the body. Great. Leave it out, then.
The bran is good for pretty much nothing but fiber. But, you know what? (Oh, man — brace yourselves! Major violation of politically-correct nutrition advice, coming your way!)
FIBER IS NOT GOD’S GREATEST GIFT TO NUTRIENT-KIND.
Many people eat way, way too much fiber, which can lead to serious digestive disorders, and even colon cancer. Read Fiber Menace for more information on that. I’m not saying we should be afraid of it, but if you’re finding the need to intentionally force yourself to eat more of it, like in fibery brown rice, there’s a bigger issue you’re not dealing with.
So, everyone choking down their Fiber-One cereals and psyllium husks really aren’t doing themselves any favors at all. And the only reason they’re constipated is because their metabolism sucks! (Which you can fix!) Healthy people don’t need tons of fiber, and they generally don’t need to go out of their way looking for it.
Fiber. Check. Don’t need it. What else is there?
Oh, alright, fine. There are some nutrients in rice bran. Some B vitamins, some minerals, amino acids, blah, blah — yes, most naturally-occurring foods have nutrients.
And along with those nutrients, quite a lot of anti-nutrients are all up in your brown rice bran, too!
Stop the Hate! Brown Rice Really isn’t All That Great.
Yeah, so, that other thing that the rice bran has to bestow upon our righteously-healthy-whole-grain-eating selves?
Yes. The primary anti-nutrient we traditional foodies work so hard to negate by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting our grains. Rice bran is very high in phytic acid, which binds to minerals in your body and leaches them out of you.
What’s that you say? Just soak the rice, as you would traditionally prepare other whole grains, and the phytic acid will be neutralized?
Not according to one of the biggest phytic acid haters of all time (and one of the most knowledgable experts on the subject), author of Cure Tooth Decay, Ramiel Nagel. He says that soaking brown rice does very little to neutralize it, and that before we had machines to make white rice, traditional people used to pound the rice up with a mortar and pestle and then sift out the bran, making the available minerals more absorbable since the phytic acid in the bran is removed. Smart!
So, let’s recap. The phytic acid in rice lives in the bran. White rice doesn’t have it. The only other thing the bran is good for is fiber, which you really probably don’t need, and can harm you when eaten in excess. And the germ is filled with easily-oxidized PUFA oils. Also not present in white rice.
Starting to see where I’m coming from with my love for this much-maligned “processed” grain?
White Rice Nutrition: Starch is Super
So, what are we left with when we take away the oily, rancid germ and the mineral-depleting phytic acid from our little friend, the grain of rice? The endosperm. Which is essentially pure starch.
Sadly, this has become somewhat of a dirty word in the world of nutrition. People who advocate low-carb and so-called “ancestral” diets often like to say that starch is toxic because it breaks down into glucose, which raises insulin, which can cause problems like insulin resistance.
Here’s the thing, though, about our bodies. We run on glucose. It’s our primary fuel source, and we need it. And glucose from carbohydrates like starch doesn’t actually cause insulin resistance at all.
In fact, it’s a huge part of the diet of many, many healthy traditional cultures.
There are literally billions of people eating high-starch diets worldwide, and you can find many examples of cultures that consume a large percentage of calories from starch where obesity, metabolic problems and modern, inflammatory disease are rare or nonexistent. These include the Kitava in the Pacific Islands, Tukisenta in the Papa New Guinea Highlands and Okinawans in Japan among others. The Kitavan diet is 69% carb, 21% fat, and 10% protein. The Okinawan diet is even more carb-heavy, at 85% carb, 9% protein and 6% fat. The Tukisenta diet is astonishingly high in carbohydrate: 94.6% according to extensive studies in the 60s and 70s. All of these cultures are fit and lean with low and practically non-existent rates of heart disease and other modern chronic disease.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not advocating low-fat or 95% carb or anything, here (and neither is Chris). It’s just important that we understand that starch is a nutrient in its own right, eating lots of it can be congruent with health and leanness, and it doesn’t have to be eaten only in “moderation.” White rice is an excellent source of healthful starch and supplies the body with needed glucose.
Oh and also? Getting plenty of glucose flowing into your body is a hugely important part of fixing a slow metabolism. My mother, who’s been using Diet Recovery to raise her body temperatures, heal hypothyroidism, and improve her metabolism, says that nothing gets her temperature rising (literally) quite like white rice. A scoop or two of the stuff and she’s one burnin’ hot mama. I’m not surprised. It’s a great source of quick, easily digestible glucose. White rice to the metabolic rescue!
So Which Rice is Best?
Some types of rice are actually more nutritious than others. In general, it’s better to go with the long-grain varieties of white rice. Long-grain varieties are supposed to be nutritionally superior to plainer, short-grain types of rice.
Really though, the differences probably aren’t huge. It’s all basically the same thing — starch. Long grain basmati and jasmine are the tastiest to me, so that’s what I usually eat, but I’m all for some sticky sweet rice now and again, too.
And I guess, along the same lines, if you genuinely, honestly prefer brown rice to white, eat that. But I mean, really be honest with yourself. Does it taste better to you because you think it’s better for you? Kinda like how some people think veggie burgers are delicious… I mean, come on. Have you tried grass-finished ground sirloin?! You just cannot honestly tell me that you prefer genetically-modified textured vegetable protein over that. I’m sorry.
Anyway. Don’t drink the Haterade of the anti-white-rice crowd. Eat the rice you want to eat. Put plenty of butter on it (it’ll help you absorb more nutrients), and enjoy.
Do you eat white rice?
Why or why not?