ThePaleoList Answers: Is Rice Paleo?
A grain is a grain and when it comes to a Paleo diet there are no grains allowed. So, right off the hop we can say that rice should not be an active member of your Paleo friendly meal plan. There, that was nice and simple! Or, was it? So is rice Paleo?
The Different Types of Rice
Rice is as complicated a food as you can get starting with the issue that there are over 40,000 different types of rice, though a few of the main ones we encounter in North American diets are wild, basmati, black or forbidden, Arborio, red rice and jasmine we will focus on the breakdown of rice as white and brown. All white rice starts as brown rice but then is milled to remove the outer husk. Sometimes this process is done chemically, which raises a large issue for a lot of Paleo diet enthusiasts. The white rice is what we are left with after the bran and the germ are removed.
Another sticky situation surrounding white rice and the Paleo diet state of mind is that on the diet we are supposed to eat like our ancestors, which is why processed foods are eliminated from the diet. And, white rice is strongly associated with Japanese and other Asian cultures cuisines for as long as they have been recorded.
One of the bonuses brown rice is looked at as having over white is that is slows down the production of insulin which is better for you when you base it on the Glycemic Index. However, white rice will complete the same action when you pair it with fibrous vegetables and protein. White rice can also be looked at as a healthier choice because, unlike brown rice, it will never block vitamins and minerals which can lead to irritations in your digestive system.
So, it’s clear that when we are talking rice, white is coming out on top of brown but it all may still be moot if the true sense of Paleo is that grains are not allowed in any shape or form. Adding to the complex situation is the process that helps turn brown rice into white. While most of the husks are removed via the milling process, however, sometimes the process is done chemically which means there are some people who view white rice as a processed food. A processed grain? Yup, this bad boy can be crossed right off of your Paleo grocery list.
White rice can cause a huge interruption into your Paleo diet as well as cause a massive spike in energy levels that could have you crashing very hard throughout the course of your meal. Rice can be seen as an excellent cheat item for your paleo diet, but with the huge loss and energy shortly after you ingest rice for your meal, it’s really not worth the extra hassle especially if you are going to be training alongside your diet.
White rice does have a saving grace in this world where not everything is black and white … or should I say brown and white?
To understand this gray zone, we need to remember that Paleo is not a no-carb diet or even a low-carb diet. So, white rice’s carbohydrate content is not the issue with the food, at all. That is not why most grains are excluded from the diet at all. Instead, most grains are avoided due to the various anti-nutrient and gut irritants found in them that the human body is just simply not designed to digest. There are some carbohydrates that are not packed with these unsettling tummy bothers are known as safe starches. Some of these include sweet potatoes, plantains and bananas.
So…Is Rice Paleo?
All of this really begs the question of if white rice should be categorized as a grain or as a safe starch for your Paleo cooking requirements. Rice holds a few benefits on its own such as it is easily digestible for those with digestive disorders, it contains no fructose and it is cheap and easy to prepare. A lot of these benefits seem to dress white rice in the clothing of a safe starch.
Basically, when we hit the crucial decision making time, it is clear that brown rice is a non-starter, but white rice can find a home on your Paleo diet grocery list, especially if you are an athlete looking to build strength and mass as you will need many sources of cheap, insulin-raising and easily consumed calories. If weight loss is your reason for jumping into a Paleo diet, then white rice should probably be left in the grocery store and not in your pantry at home. More nutritious starches are preferable.
Of course, you could just say “a grain is a grain” and take the entire rice world off the table when you start down the Paleo diet road.
As we said, the world isn’t exactly brown and white, even in the world of Paleo. Hopefully this answers your “is rice Paleo?” question.
Are you struggling with which foods are Paleo? Do you need help planning some Paleo meals? Check out this great Paleo cookbook: