2

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On the Rice Controversy

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 09, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Rice is questioned quite a bit in Paleo. A friend of mine is going to be adopting a "strict Paleo" diet as part of a Crossfit program, so I decided to prepare some notes regarding the rice issue. Since we both love eating Asian food (especially Thai and Indian), I thought it would be good to REALLY understand the rice issue, instead of just quoting the Paleo Gods.

The four basic grounds for rejecting a food item in Paleo:

  1. The "Paleo Ancesters" argument (if cavemen didn't eat it, then you shouldn't)
  2. Nutritional arguments (nutrient content and pay-off)
  3. The ???inflammation??? (irritant to the body) argument. The argument generally relates to the gluten content of a food item
  4. Insulin response arguments

*As far as I know, the 4 arguments above represents ALL the reasons why a particular food item is accepted/rejected by the Paleo community.8

Some Definitions(Wikipedia):

Grain:

wheat or other cultivated cereal crop used as food

Cereal Crop:

a grass such as wheat, oats, or corn, the starchy grains of which are used for food

Starch:

Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store. It is the most common carbohydrate in the human diet and is contained in large amounts in such staple foods as potatoes, wheat, maize (corn), rice, and cassava. Pure starch is a white, tasteless and odourless powder that is insoluble in cold water or alcohol. It consists of two types of molecules: the linear and helical amylose and the branched amylopectin. Depending on the plant, starch generally contains 20 to 25% amylose and 75 to 80% amylopectin by weight.[1] Glycogen, the glucose store of animals, is a more branched version of amylopectin. Starch is processed to produce many of the sugars in processed foods. Dissolving starch in warm water gives wheatpaste, which can be used as a thickening, stiffening or gluing agent. The biggest industrial non-food use of starch is as adhesive in the papermaking process. Starch can be applied to parts of some garments before ironing, to stiffen them; this is less usual now than in the past.

Glycogen:

Glycogen is a multibranched polysaccharide that serves as a form of energy storage in animals[2] and fungi. In humans, glycogen is made and stored primarily in the cells of the liver and the muscles, and functions as the secondary long-term energy storage (with the primary energy stores being fats held in adipose tissue).

Glycogen is the analogue of starch, a glucose polymer in plants, and is sometimes referred to as animal starch, having a similar structure to amylopectin but more extensively branched and compact than starch. Glycogen is found in the form of granules in the cytosol/cytoplasm in many cell types, and plays an important role in the glucose cycle. Glycogen forms an energy reserve that can be quickly mobilized to meet a sudden need for glucose, but one that is less compact than the energy reserves of triglycerides (lipids).

Gluten Content of Rice, vs other grains (From Wikipedia):

Gluten (from Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.[1]

Gluten is the composite of a gliadin and a glutenin, which is conjoined with starch in the endosperm of various grass-related grains. The prolamin and glutelin from wheat (gliadin, which is alcohol-soluble, and glutenin, which is only soluble in dilute acids or alkalis) constitute about 80% of the protein contained in wheat fruit. Being insoluble in water, they can be purified by washing away the associated starch. Worldwide, gluten is a source of protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein.

The fruit of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination. True gluten, with gliadin and glutenin, is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from true gluten.

NOTE: The question here is whether or not the human body reacts to rice gluten in a similar way as ???true??? glutens. The molecular structure of rice gluten differs from that of ???true??? glutens such as wheat. The research is not yet complete on this issue. Rice may or may not cause inflammation due to a gluten reaction.

Glycemic Index of grains

http://www.livestrong.com/article/267455-the-glycemic-index-of-rice-varieties/

Glycemic index, or GI, is a ranking of carbohydrate-rich foods on a scale of 0 to 100 according to the extent they raise blood sugar levels after they are eaten. High GI foods are rapidly digested, causing a quick spike in blood glucose levels. Lower GI foods take longer to digest, causing a more gradual rise in blood glucose.

GI is not really used in Paleo, but it can be an alternative way of understanding the carb/sugar issue.

white rices Basmati Rice = 57 Risotto Rice = 69 Sticky Rice = 87 Jasmine Rice = 89

brown rices Japonica = 62 Calrose= 87 Generic Brown = 72

wild rices Canadian = 57 Wild Rice Blend(Uncle Ben???s) = 45 Jasmine/wild rice blend = 49

???.these are high (bad) GI numbers for rice.

What is Wild Rice?

(Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_rice

Wild rice (also called Canada rice, Indian rice, and water oats) are four species of grasses forming the genus Zizania, and the grain which can be harvested from them. The grain was historically gathered and eaten in both North America and China. While it is now a delicacy in North America, the grain is eaten less in China,[1]:165 where the plant's stem is used as a vegetable.

Wild rice is not directly related to Asian rice (Oryza sativa), whose wild progenitors are O. rufipogon and O. nivara, although they are close cousins, sharing the tribe Oryzeae. Wild rice grains have a chewy outer sheath with a tender inner grain that has a slightly vegetal taste.[2]

The plants grow in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams; often, only the flowering head of wild rice rises above the water. The grain is eaten by dabbling ducks and other aquatic wildlife, as well as humans.

So wild rice is not "real" rice, because wild rice consists of 4 specific types of plants only.

Reasons why rice is rejected on Paleo:

  1. it's classified as a grain
  2. ???Paleo??? diet is essentially a low carb/high protein diet, and rice is high carb
  3. high carb = nutrition received is low relative to the amount of carb received with it (low pay-off, with carb load being the cost).
  4. rice requires cultivation (the exception being wild rice, which isn't a botanical rice) and cavemen were not farmers
  5. insulin response due to carb load

Potential arguments against the rejection of rice:

  1. it contains fiber, which reduces the carb/sugar response of insulin
  2. cavemen would have eaten some starchy roots, fibers, and wild grain
  3. lack of inflammation response by the body (debatable)
  4. Rice is an aquatic grass, which makes it different from the other "cereal" grains

Ultimately, the point is that Paleo is a low carb diet, and rice doesn't fit that, regardless of how correct (or not) the paleo gods are at classifying rice botanically. Rice may not be AS evil as wheat, but the carb/sugar load is much higher than would be recommended on a strict high protein/low carb diet such as Paleo. Eating rice will not affect your GPA, nor will you receive a citation or fine in the mail if you are caught on camera eating rice. However, there does seem to be a real case against eating rice if you wish to adhere to the Paleo diet.

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on April 10, 2013
at 02:27 AM

nobody cares about asians

5705a803143fea05bfa174422dc7ae1d

(10)

on April 09, 2013
at 04:01 PM

"Paleo argument: Olive oil isn't ancestral, but it's fine. Let's try to move away from that kind of argument." I was not judging the various arguments, I was pointing out all of the various arguments that exist. I like rice. I eat rice. I won't stop eating rice; but I wanted to document the various arguments for and against rice, along with the rationale.

5705a803143fea05bfa174422dc7ae1d

(10)

on April 09, 2013
at 03:58 PM

"Paleo is not a low-carb diet by design or by necessity. That meme needs to die already." This Robb Wolf article demonstrates that low carb and paleo are highly-related concepts: http://robbwolf.com/2012/12/19/carb-paleo-thoughts-part-1/

59fa7cd87fb9d669adf21e5cf3e7ada5

on April 09, 2013
at 02:26 PM

In my version of Paleo rice is not only acceptable, it is required.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on April 09, 2013
at 01:47 PM

^ the paleo meme needs to die already ;)

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on April 09, 2013
at 01:44 PM

Paleo is not a low-carb diet by design or by necessity. That meme needs to die already.

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6 Answers

5
06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

on April 09, 2013
at 03:11 PM

Ah, geez. Are we still having this carb conversation?! Maybe the "Paleo," term needs to migrate into "ancestral," so in that case rice is proper in the case of many Asians as it is what their ancestors have eaten. If you look at things through the lens of what was eaten/done in the Paleolithic you are going to run up against a lot of this mental masturbation. Is it not better (easier?) to just eat things that are whole? To rid yourself of all this "is it Paleo," questioning and just eat whole foods?!

Outside of that white rice is a great platform for nutrient dense things like stews, eggs, fats, etc. I eat rice as a form of carb fuel, not for its nutrients. If I wanted to step up my nutrient intake from rice I would go brown and properly soak it before preparation. Do steer clear of rice from the American south due to arsenic concerns.

5
Dc6407193ba441d1438f6f0c06af872b

on April 09, 2013
at 02:12 PM

Wow! I'll be brief:

  1. Paleo argument: Olive oil isn't ancestral, but it's fine. Let's try to move away from that kind of argument.

  2. Nutritional argument: No, rice is not nutrient dense.

  3. Inflammation: It's probably N=1 whether the proteins in rice are too gluten-like for some people. A lot of the paleo community seems to have decided it's relatively okay. Importantly, white rice is low in (other) toxins.

  4. Insulin response: A meal of primarily rice is possibly an issue for some. A mixed sushi/sashimi dinner probably is fine for non-diabetics.

Sure, have a some white rice every now and then, and enjoy it guilt-free, though do a little N=1 work to make sure it's okay for you. No need to avoid it like the devil, but better to consume the majority of your carbs from other sources.

And, no, Paleo is not low carb. You can eat as many/few carbs as suits your body and lifestyle.

5705a803143fea05bfa174422dc7ae1d

(10)

on April 09, 2013
at 04:01 PM

"Paleo argument: Olive oil isn't ancestral, but it's fine. Let's try to move away from that kind of argument." I was not judging the various arguments, I was pointing out all of the various arguments that exist. I like rice. I eat rice. I won't stop eating rice; but I wanted to document the various arguments for and against rice, along with the rationale.

4
Medium avatar

on April 09, 2013
at 04:37 PM

Heavy rice-eating countries with higher life expectancy than the US: Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan.

Last I checked, the obesity rates in Japan and South Korea at least were under 5% and their carbohydrate intakes were in the 250-300g/day range.

Personally, when I eat a meal, half the plate is covered with steamed basmati rice.

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on April 10, 2013
at 02:27 AM

nobody cares about asians

4
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on April 09, 2013
at 01:56 PM

  • Paleo is not a low carb diet by design. It is often lower carbohydrate than SAD, though. Paleo-ers will sometimes choose to do LC paleo consciously.
  • Rice is not ideologically paleo. There -- done, no more to say about it. If you want to play at being strict paleo, then avoid rice. However, if you like to include rice in your otherwise paleo diet, you're not going to get many people coming down on you here. If you are interested in this more, I suggest reading The Perfect Health Diet by Jaminet/Jaminet - PHD isn't paleo, but it's close, and inspired by some of the same understanding. Having said all that, there are plenty of dense, starchy roots and tubers, as well as starchy & sugary vegetables that are frankly much more delicious than rice. (They just don't go as well with sushi.)
  • There is no "rice controversy".

1
37cc142fbb183f2758ef723a192e7a9d

(1353)

on April 09, 2013
at 08:58 PM

I agree with all those protesting that paleo does not equal LC. As anti-nutirents are not a big issue here I'd say the only semi-compelling argument would be that it is not itself very nutrient dense... but that is valid in practical terms only in relationship to what else is on your plate with it.

0
24c27817ad9ac518946dda4a131737b5

on April 09, 2013
at 09:33 PM

Need a Paleo official manual to avoid such repetition. Must've read this same debate six or seven times by now.

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