Confession: I eat white rice.
I’m usually called out by the real food police when I mention this fact via social media so I thought I’d finally tell you all why I’m ok with eating white rice.
As a kid I grew up thinking that the only way to eat rice was if it was covered in white sugar, but I thought that was only something weird that my family did. We didn’t eat it often, but every week or two we’d have some instant white rice with our dinner.
After I got married I began to move away from instant rice and make brown rice on occasion since everyone told me how much healthier it was for me, and it became a regular staple in our home. Once I started moving our diets to more traditional and whole foods we stuck to only brown rice as it seemed a deadly sin to use anything else. I also found that I enjoyed brown rice so it was not a big issue to switch.
But over the last few years I began to notice holes in this theory and silently and secretly began to make white rice (usually basmati) more often. I didn’t want anyone to know lest my real food blogger friends or readers think I wasn’t eating “properly”. (This was around the time I was told by a specific group that they wouldn’t share my blog posts anymore because I ate too many salads and they weren’t nourishing enough…*ahem*)
3 reasons I eat white rice
1. Phytic acid
One of the first things you learn when you begin reading about the traditional Weston A. Price type diets is that all grains have something in them called phytic acid. I like to think of these plant properties as natural preservatives, keeping the grain from going bad before it’s planted under the right circumstances. But when we consume the grains that contain this specific plant property it may also inhibit mineral absorption. By soaking, sprouting, or fermenting these grains we can lessen the amount of phytic acid in them, allowing our bodies to absorb more nutrients.
The phytic acid is mostly stored in the bran and by removing it the rice will contain a lot less phytic acid.
I was taught by many others to soak my rice for at least 8 hours before cooking, but the problem with rice is that it contains less phytase, making it much harder to remove the phytic acid by simply soaking and should be fermented instead.
While listening to Rami Nagel (author of Cure Tooth Decay, available on Amazon) speak last year he also mentioned that whole grains can be detrimental to those who are having problems with tooth decay because of the loss of mineral absorption in the gut. he also mentions that the traditional way of eating rice was to pound it with a mortar and pestle so that most of the bran was removed before cooking.
So this reason for me isn’t necessarily high on the list, and wasn’t the reason I began eating white rice again, though it is important.
While it seems that any plant can take up arsenic during growing, it seems to happen more with rice as it’s grown in water-logged conditions. Arsenic is also thought to be associated with thyroid conditions, miscarriages, and cancer so it’s something we want to be aware of!
Brown rice may contain more arsenic as it is more easily bound to the bran of the rice.
3. It’s easier
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have a meal plan and even if I do, I don’t always remember to soak my rice the night before I need it. Especially knowing about the issues with phytic acid and knowing that I should soak it beforehand, I began feeling bad that my family was eating unsoaked brown rice. On those nights I began to use white rice instead, knowing then that I’d made a decision that hopefully meant we’d absorb more nutrients from our meal.
I also enjoy the lighter flavor of white rice in certain dishes. Cilantro-lime rice just doesn’t have the same flavor with a Mexican dish when made with brown rice, and my family eats less of it when I make brown rice as a simple side dish.
Brown rice still has a place in our home though! I love it with my veggie rice dish and I’ve found that it tastes great when you bake it instead of simmering on the stove, so we always have brown rice in the cupboard right alongside the white.
Still not sure why I seem to be forgetting the “dangers” of white rice? Here are a few of my answers to common questions.
But aren’t you then just eating sugar? After you take away the bran and germ it’s just a simple starch!
Yes, it is. White rice is starch and your body will begin to break it down much like it does sugar. But I’m also not advocating that we simply eat a bowl of white rice for a meal and I don’t advocate for a no-starch/low carb diet either. Starch is a fuel for the body and depending on your activity level, you may need more or less than someone else. We eat white rice in combination with some type of meat and plenty of veggies on the side which creates a balanced meal.
I no longer eat my white rice with white sugar. 😉
For someone who is currently dealing with diabetes or problems due to insulin production, brown rice may be considered a better option. Always eat what your body requires. Don’t let my opinions change your mind if your body can’t handle simple starches.
Where are you getting your nutrients from if you strip them all away?
Another valid concern that comes into play anytime we refine one of our food sources.
I add plenty of nutrients to a white rice side dish! Often times I cook it in homemade bone broth and all the goodness gets cooked right in. We also add copious amounts of healthy fats like butter while it’s cooking or drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil after cooking.
White rice also serves as a side dish and not the entire meal, so we consume plenty of good meats, farm fresh milk, and multiple vegetables at the same time.
But it’s not a whole food!
And they’re right.
But as much as we talk about food and nutrition here (because for me, it was the most important aspect in healing) I have never claimed that I eat 100% whole foods every day of the year. In both my blog and my book I talk about not being consumed with eating the perfect diet. That the stress of trying to eat perfectly will do more harm that just eating the food. (Did you know that? Studies have shown that when eating under any type of stress that it affects digestion and nutrient absorption.)
We should always look to whole foods first and eat plenty of them. But if for any reason that you also include a food that isn’t perfectly whole, chalk it up to the 20% of the 80/20 rule, enjoy it, and move on with your day.
We shouldn’t be eating any grains.
Well, this is always a topic in and of itself! The paleo/primal world thinks that we shouldn’t consume any grains.
In short, I’ve done the whole primal diet thing and it wasn’t for me. Some people find they experience a lot of healing and it works really well for them and that’s awesome. I still eat plenty of grain free meals, but our family does well with grains now and again.
But so and so said…
There is literally a ton of information out there right now from tons of different nutritionists, doctors (holistic and conventional), and opinions from bloggers. But what I’ve found from reading about nutrition for the last seven years is that no one is right all the time. In fact some of them are plain old wrong.
Remember the low carb craze that seemed to overtake real food blogs a few years ago? I felt like I wasn’t good enough/healthy enough for a long time because we never went low carb. And now…the pendulum is swinging the other way. People are realizing that we need carbohydrates in our diets.
So while I am open to new ideas and dietary theories, I am also hesitant to blame one particular food for the downfall of all mankind’s health.
There have also been other bloggers that have “come out” and stated that they eat white rice.
- Kimi from The Nourishing Gourmet,
- Sarah of the Health Home Economist, and
- Emily of the Holistic Squid
I’m definitely not trying to get everyone on board with eating white rice, please follow your own dietary guidelines! But for those of us who do consume white rice I just want to make it known that it’s not “all that bad” and brown rice isn’t necessarily “all that good”.
What’s your preference – white rice or brown rice?
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/