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Is There Room For White Rice In The Paleo Diet?

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It’s not a secret that I eat white rice. Not a lot. Not very often. But I do.
In the paleo circles this is often met with a few raised eyebrows and a healthy debate. Is white rice ok to eat in small amounts? Why? And in what context? These are the questions I will try to answer in this post. I explain why white rice is actually pretty safe and why some individuals could tinker with including some white rice in their paleo diet.

Before I get into why I include some white rice in my diet and whether you should or shouldn’t, let’s recap why rice, and grains in general, are not part of the paleo diet.

There are three main reasons why grains are typically excluded from the paleo diet:

  1. Grains, especially refined grains, are high in carbohydrates. Over-consumption of carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance, various metabolic dysfunctions, and weight gain. I must point out, again, that the paleo diet is not about cutting out carbohydrates completely, but instead it focuses on moderate-to-lower consumption and on getting them from more nutrient dense sources like veggies and fruit.
  2. Grains, and legumes, contain a variety of toxins and gut irritants (also referred to as anti-nutrients) that can compromise the integrity of our gut lining and gut health in general (aka lectins), prevent certain nutrients from being absorbed by the body (aka phytates or phytic acid), and inhibit the production of certain enzymes that we need to digest the protein in the food we eat (aka trypsin inhibitors).
  3. On top of that, grains contain little nutrition when compared to meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, and fruit.

So why do we see white rice appearing on the dinner plates of many paleo advocates, like myself?

Unlike brown rice, and I will explain this in more detail in just a second, white rice is actually the most benign grain of all. And although it lacks nutrients and is high in carbohydrates, it is a very accessible, affordable and convenient food. It can be safely eaten in small amounts in the context of other nutrient dense foods such as healthy fats, protein and vegetables, and when eaten by lean and active individuals.

10 Comments
  1. I eat both rice, fermented dairy, white potatoes, and soaked beans/lentils (except peanuts & soy – tamari is ok). That’s basically the relaxed Chris Kresser Paleo version. I have absolutely no problem with these foods AFTER I’ve waited more than a year to eat them using Robb Wolf’s strict Paleo version in order to heal first. In fact, I found that I react to coconut flour instead rather than these not-so-strict-paleo foods.

  2. I’ve read that brown rice is a no go but white is go in moderation, which poses another question now as barley in a no go but pearl barley which is in principle is the barley with out the husk is a lot like white rice and is high in Lysine and has less starch, couldn’t this be a yes in moderation.

    1. The main issue with barley is that it still contains gluten so not great for anyone sensitive to it or just trying to avoid it for other reasons.

  3. I cook white basmati rice in homemade chicken broth using the absorption method. The rice soaks up all the nutrients from the broth and tastes amazing!

    1. As with other types of white rice, ok in moderation. Not 100% sure where its glycemic index is on the scale in comparison to Basmati though.

  4. Thank you sooo much for this. I have been feeling so guilty about adding a small amount of rice to my dishes.
    Like you I too like it with fish and I too like the rice noodles and wraps!

    It seems to help me sleep better when I get stressed out from work, or just life in general also!

    Thanks again, I will rice on!!!!!!

    Carol

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