Over the last couple of years, we have seen the rise of a couple more than interesting diet programs, all of which promised the best figure, the healthiest lifestyle, and the highest levels of energy. Some of them lost momentum, some of them stuck with us.
Well, with approximately 1 to 3 million Americans going paleo (that would be 1% of the entire population) we can say that the paleo diet definitely sits at the top of this food chain.
Still, you shouldn’t confuse this popularity with accessibility and much like any other similar nutrition program in the world, paleo features an extensive set of restrictions about the foods you can actually put on the table.
This can be somewhat frustrating especially when the ingredients you want to try out are featured in so many recipes and national cuisines. Like for instance the good old white rice.
That brings us to the question – can you eat white rice on a paleo?
Quick Guide For The Paleo Diet Novices
For all of you that have just tuned in and are not that sure what is the whole issue here, let us quickly say a couple of words about the paleo diet.
At the very dawn of humanity, our ancestors spent their entire lives as hunter-gatherers eating only the foods they were able to gather or hunt. That’s great you might say, but what makes their nutrition better than the nutrition of Neolithic farmers and us, their distant descendants?
Well, first and foremost, we as a species have evolved to consume the foods we are able to find in nature. Grains, dairy products, spices, and other amenities came with a permanent settlement. Second, recent researches indicate that the forager diet actually featured better quality and allowed for healthier nutrition and better life quality. So, the dietary plan definitely has scientific backing.
So, what can you eat if you want to revisit those fond Paleolithic memories?
- Seeds and nuts
- Lean meats
- Oils (only from fruits and nuts)
On the other hand, the things you should stay away from are as follows:
- Grains (wheat, oats, and barley)
- Dairy products
- Refined sugar
- Legumes (beans, lentils, and peas)
- Highly-processed food like powdered milk
- Wheat bread
If performed devotedly and thoroughly, this type of diet leads to benefits such as more weight loss, better blood sugar control, improved glucose tolerance, better appetite management.
A Couple Of Things You Should Know About Rice
Now, let’s see how rice fits into this whole story. Let us start from the very beginning.
White rice is a type of milled rice that has its bran, husk, and germ removed. In the nutritionists’ circles, white rice is largely considered as a far less healthy alternative to brown rice that features fiber-rich bran, the nutrient-packed germ, and has only its outer hull removed.
Let’s quickly compare the two. We are going to use standard one cup (100g) servings.
- White Rice:
- Brown Rice:
Aside from this difference, we have to mention that brown rice also packs 1g of healthy fiber and as much as 100 mg of potassium – the important mineral that regulates fluid balance, reduces blood pressure, and prevents kidney stones.
So, how did we settle for white processed rice when brown rice obviously represents a more nutritious option?
The answer can be found in the XIX century traders who wanted their rice supplies polished to make them more appealing and faster to cook. And that’s pretty much that. The fact that a large portion of humanity consumes the subpar processed variety of rice is nothing more than a calculated decision made by a couple of traders more than 100 years ago.
Pros And Cons Of White Rice
But, everything we said about white rice up until now was said in comparison to brown rice. Now, we’ll try to assess this popular food on its own merits. For that, we will need to take a look at the complete nutritional content.
- With all the above in mind, we can see that white rice is food that definitely has some appeal to it. First and foremost, being stacked with carbohydrates white rice is an incredibly powerful energy source. If your body is in need of a quick refuel you will hardly find better than this one.
- Second, we would like to point out that rice is very safe for people with various food sensitivities. Since, in this case, the outer layers that feature a negligible amount of arsenic are gone, you can count this as a plus as well.
- Last but not least, we have to mention the solid presence of iron. Although not very rich in this nutrient, white rice packs a decent amount of iron which is incredibly important for the proper transmission of oxygen through your blood flow.
- As we can see above, white rice has some nutritional value which, combined with the affordable price explains its popularity all around the globe. Unfortunately, the list of cons largely overshadows these minor benefits.
- The first thing we would like to point out is that white rice has an incredibly high glycemic index. Although it quickly replenishes your energy supplies, eating white rice can also spike your blood sugar levels and in some cases even lead to crashes.
- The second problem of white rice is that while it’s stacked with carbohydrates, white rice severely lacks other important nutrients like fiber, protein, fats, etc. Basing your diet around this food can lead to malnutrition and even severe diseases. The wide use of British forces in India during the XIX century has led to a wide outbreak of the beriberi epidemic. Of course, consuming the food in moderation won’t cause such severe consequences but this small bit of trivia is definitely worth mentioning.
- So, now that we have dissected white rice and everything it brings to the table let us finally answer the question – can you eat white rice on a paleo diet?
Is White Rice Paleo-friendly Or Not?
If we phrase the question like this the answer is rather simple – no, white rice is not paleo-friendly nor are other grains some of which we have already covered in previous articles. Our ancestors largely stayed away from rice and other grains and in a minute you will see the reasons why is that so.
Can you eat white rice on a paleo? Well, you can. Smaller portions won’t kill you or drastically undermine your dietary goals. But, making exceptions often opens the door for more exceptions. Also, in this case, you should limit the portions to a bare minimum and in mind everything we are going to say below.
Why Grains Are Considered A No-no In A Paleo Diet?
The entire goal of the paleo diet is to bring your nutrition to one of your Paleolithic ancestors that enjoyed the diet completely based around the evolutionary needs of the human species. What do we mean by that? Mostly the meals stacked with protein, healthy fats, ample carbs, and nutritious fibers. These foods made people strong, lean, intelligent, and fit enough to rise to all challenges of foraging life.
Keeping this in mind, grains that became the pillar of human nutrition only with the rise of agriculture and first settlements have three main drawbacks.
- All grains, but especially the processed grains (like white rice) are very high in carbohydrates. The overconsumption of this nutrient can lead to weight gains, metabolic dysfunction, and high insulin resistance. Although the paleo diet doesn’t ditch the carbs altogether it’s much better to get them from more nutritious sources like fruit and veggies.
- Speaking of, white rice and other grains are severely lacking in valuable nutrients especially in comparison with paleo diet staples like eggs, fish, and veggies. You are getting food volume and a sense of fullness but really nothing else.
- Most grains, rice included are filled with various toxins and gut irritants that do very little for improving the overall gut health.
So, to sum it all up – white rice and other grains are not paleo-friendly, nor they should be used in the paleo diet. But, if you want a quick fix for your energy problems a cup of rice won’t undermine your needs. In this case, we strongly recommend that you use brown rice that is far more nutritious than the processed variety and even offers some unique health benefits.
Even so, grains entered human nutrition as a necessity rather than choice (growth of human population, they are easy to grow, etc.) and that is you should always keep in mind if you want to go full paleo.
And we are finally at the very end. As we can see from everything we talked about above the paleo diet is a very demanding nutrition program that pays off and offers numerous benefits but still requires some unpopular compromises along the way. We are sorry to report that ditching the white rice that is a staple of so many popular recipes is one of them. Of course, you are allowed to cheat now and then but rice and grains, in general, are not very healthy. Sticking with the good old paleo diet rules can only do you good.