Is Rice Paleo?

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When it comes to adopting a Paleo diet, one of the biggest shifts can be removing all grains from the diet. But then you see that some Paleo people are eating rice. What gives? Is rice Paleo? How can you know if it’s really Paleo or not, and most importantly, should you be eating it?

Nutritional Value of Rice

While there are many different varieties of rice, in this article we will focus on two kinds: white rice and brown rice.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
White Rice:

  • Calories: 121
  • Calories from Fat: 2
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 2.2 g

Brown Rice:

  • Calories: 108
  • Calories from Fat: 8
  • Fiber: 1.8 g
  • Protein: 2.5 g

White rice is practically void of all nutrients, and the body reads it as nearly straight glucose. Brown rice, which is packed with more vitamins and minerals, is also high in anti-nutrients known as phytates. Phytates can aggravate the digestive lining and cause malabsorption of nutrients. These phytates, which produce phytic acid, are why the Paleo diet excludes grains.

Health Benefits of Rice

Many health websites, doctors, and medical studies tout the health benefits of whole grain rice and explain how white rice is causing diabetes, hypoglycemia, and is nutritionally bankrupt. So why are some who follow a primal lifestyle choosing to eat white rice when so many claim it is bad for you?

While it’s true that the person who is diabetic or who has insulin resistance rice-2-300x163.pngshould not regularly consume white rice, white potatoes, or other high-starch foods, there can be a place in the primal diet for them. Athletes in particular have high carbohydrate needs to have fuel for workouts and for post-exercise recovery. Individual body types respond to glucose and carbohydrates differently. Some thrive well on a 50% fat diet, but others need significantly less fat and many more carbs. White rice, while not a nutrient dense food, can fill a void within the Paleo diet for quick carbohydrates. Because white rice is almost entirely comprised of glucose and contains no fructose, it is also a good starch for those who experience fructose sensitivity and need to limit fruit intake.

rice-3-300x198.pngBrown rice differs greatly from white rice in both nutrient profile and genetic makeup. Brown rice, along with all other whole grains, contain the aforementioned anti-nutrients (phytates) that were the plant’s built-in defense system, meant to ensure their survival against the elements and predators. These same defenses are what cause them to wreak havoc on the human digestive system. They can become gut irritants and, when consumed regularly and in larger amounts, can spark digestive problems like leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome. White rice doesn’t have this effect on the body because it is the inner kernel of the plant, and therefore, does not have a defense system.

Brown rice can be equally as irritating to the intestinal lining as gluten when a sensitivity is present. Sensitivity can develop from frequent consumption or from a genetic predisposition or both. While brown rice contains many more vitamins and minerals than white rice, these nutrients likely aren’t getting absorbed because the phytates hinder their absorption.

Should I Eat Rice? Is Rice Paleo?

rice-4-300x224.pngMany confuse the Paleo diet with other low-carb diets. Paleo can be low-carb for some, but there are many others who follow a primal lifestyle and are not counting carbs. The decision to eat rice on a Paleo diet is one that is largely individual. There is no right or wrong answer. Paleo purists will avoid on principle since it is a grain and Paleo eliminates all grains. But others allow for the occasional bit of white rice because it is a food that is easily prepared and can ease some of the constant need for food prep and cooking.

Whether you eat white rice as part of a Paleo diet or not, it is clear that it should never be anything more than an occasional side dish. When a Paleo diet begins to revolve around a nutrient-poor food, even one that isn’t damaging to the gut, the principle of the primal life has been lost once more in favor of the fast food, nutrient-poor standard American lifestyle.

Aimee McNew

Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, and fertility. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Healing Plan for Managing Symptoms Naturally (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.