By now you're probably well aware of why grains are harmful to our health and why we should make an effort to avoid them all, and especially gluten containing grains, like wheat, barley, rye, and even oats (which are almost always contaminated with gluten). However, you may have seen or heard something about white rice being Paleo-compliant (is it or isn't it?!), so we're going to discuss the reasons why rice can be an okay addition to your diet occasionally, and why white rice is actually the better option than brown.
WHITE RICE VS BROWN RICE: WHICH IS HEALTHIER?
Brown rice is less processed and therefore has more nutrients than white rice, right? Not entirely. Brown rice is less processed, yes. The reason it is brown is because it still has the bran and germ (husk) attached to the grain, vs white rice that has those components stripped away during milling.
But the nutrient profiles come out to about the same between the two versions of the grain when you take into account that the husk itself contains loads of antinutrients that actually prohibit nutrient absorption, like phytates, which bind to nutrients like magnesium and calcium and prohibit their absorption. (Soaking your grains can lessen these but will not remove them entirely, but removing the bran/husk altogether will). Lectins are also present in the husk of brown rice, though not as potent as the lectins found in gluten, they still inhibit nutrient absorption and can do big damage to your gut lining. Another class of antinutrients found in the husk of rice are trypsin inhibitors- trypsin is an enzyme that is essential for protein digestion, and when trypsin isn't present (or it is inhibited), we can't digest any protein consumed with the rice properly. Between all the antinutrients and gut irritants found in the husk of a grain of rice, you can begin to see why brown rice might not be the better choice after all. But what are you left with when you strip the grain down, and what good could it possibly be to your health? Read on.
WHY IT MIGHT BE AN OK ADDITION
So now that we've explained the nutrient issue with brown rice, it's important to note that no form of rice is a nutrient dense food! (If you are looking for healthy, nutrient dense starches, sweet potatoes, plantains, bananas, and other tubers are all great options). Rice does not offer much by way of vitamins or minerals, period. But what it does offer is a pretty simple, easy to digest, easily absorbable form of glucose, which is perfect after an intense, tough workout to replenish depleted glycogen levels. Between convenience and availability, white rice can be a great replacement for more nutrient dense options occasionally, and especially post-workout. We recommend eating it with a little fat and some protein which will help balance out the potential rise in blood sugar.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE
Although white rice is certainly a better choice than brown rice, it can still affect your gut and blood sugar levels in unfavorable ways, making it unsuitable for some. It shouldn't be consumed too frequently, and more nutrient dense carbs are always the best option when available. We still recommend cutting it out of your diet entirely for a few weeks and slowly adding it back in to be able to see how your body reacts, since everyone is different.
And! If you are at all: Insulin resistant, have any autoimmune condition, have a leaky gut, are trying to lean out or lose weight, or just very sensitive to grains, rice just isn't for you.
White rice is the clear winner in the brown vs white rice debate because it lacks the gut irritating and anti-nutrient compounds found in brown rice. For some people, white rice can be a happy occasional addition to their post workout re-fueling, and a not so guilty treat on non-workout days! It's not for everyone, and a more nutrient dense option is always the best choice, but in a pinch, white rice can be an ok addition to your varied diet and training recovery.