According to a study by the American Dietetic Association, people who eat rice are less likely to be overweight. They are also less likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes (1). There is a pervasive myth that rice is high glycaemic but the Australian CSIRO says that most varieties of rice are medium or even low GI (2). When eaten together with meat and vegetables, the GI of rice becomes smaller still.
So why do dieters fear rice so much? (And yet turn a blind eye to the refined sugar in sweetened yoghurts, fruit juice, cereals and muesli bars?)
Not as bad as sugar and wheat. But is rice easier to avoid?
Why has rice become the thing that dieters love to hate? Could it simply be that rice is easier to avoid than sugar and flour? For very little effort, dieters can avoid rice, and feel that they have accomplished something. But unless they have also avoided sugar and flour, they have not accomplished much. Sugar and wheat flour are the real culprits.
Why are sugar and flour so much worse?
Refined sugar contains fructose. When fructose is metabolised by the liver, it produces toxic metabolites that cause weight gain (3). Refined sugar is found in sweetened yoghurts (a favourite diet food), muesli bars, cereal, fruit juice, biscuits, and many other refined foods.
Wheat also has fructose. Furthermore, wheat has inflammatory proteins (gluten) and lectins. Gluten and lectin impede thyroid hormone and the insulin receptor. The weight gain from wheat is NOT from its carbohydrate content, but rather from the metabolic damage that wheat inflicts. If you want to lose weight - and especially if you have thyroid disease or are insulin resistant - then you must make the commitment to strictly avoid bread, cereal, pasta, baking, couscous, and other wheat flour products.
Can't get through the day without some carbohydrate? Then let it be rice.
ONCE you are able to successfully avoid all refined sugar, and all wheat flour products, then yes, maybe you can take the next step to avoid rice.
But if you find that you do not feel full from your meals, and if you're resorting to flour or sweet snacks, then consider adding a small amount of rice or potato to your meal. Combined with organic meat and green vegetables, these safe starches will satisfy your hunger, and prevent you from snacking later.
Brown rice is preferable, because it has more B-vitamins, and is better for insulin control, but white rice should not be overlooked. White rice provides substantial amounts of niacin, and most importantly, it provides a slow-burning glucose that will prevent sugar cravings later in the afternoon. Look for menu items that have fresh ingredients, such as green vegetables.
When it comes to rice, go organic
Conventionally grown rice is vulnerable to contamination with arsenic from fertilizers and pesticides. Organic rice costs a little bit more, but it is worth the investment.
Rice is not the absolutely best food out there. But it's certainly not the worst. Rice is a convenient, versatile food. Rice promotes satiety, which goes a long way to prevent dangerous snacking on sugary foods later. This can make sticking with a diet plan so much easier.
All articles by Lara Briden
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Rice eaters are healthy eaters. Oct 10, 2007. Delta Farm Press
Fitzgerald, MA et al. 2011. Identification of a major genetic determinant of glycaemic index in rice. Rice 4(2): 66-74.
Jürgens H, et al Consuming fructose-sweetened beverages increases body adiposity in mice. Obes. Res. 2005. 13 (7): 1146-56.