Safe Starches & White Rice

Hi guys! Sorry for the lack of blog post last week… maybe you didn’t even notice but hi, here I am! All is well in Honey Bee land. I’ve been super busy since getting back from Boston: work, study, coach, eat, move, be social, repeat. No complaints at all :)

Today, I wanted to chat about carbohydrates (specifically starches) and white rice because tomorrow (yup, TWO posts in one week!) I want to recap a fun event I had a chance to attend; but it warrants a nutrition rant first…

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If you are a regular reader (thank you!), you know that I’m down with white rice. Some people are surprised to see that I eat white rice and hear my stance on it. At first I was a bit surprised too. White rice? Noooo… “white” foods are soooo bad for you – must pay the extra $2 to sub brown rice. White rice? No way…. carbs are going to make me fat.

As with most things related to health, food and fitness, this is yet another complicated subject in the nutrition world. Low-carbers would still say no way; pure primalists will say that most tribal populations didn’t eat it; others will come up with another argument.

And these arguments certainly have validity: rice is pretty much a pure carbohydrate; it’s not particularly nutritious and other than in Asian cultures, it has not been an ancient dietary staple.

Beef rice snow peas spinach

To over-simplify things a bit: white rice is what I, and many other real-food-ists, call a “safe starch“.

I’ve learned a lot about carbohydrates and starch over the years but without going too science-y on you, let’s break it down:

  • It is an easily digestible food – the milling process removes the bran, which contains the phytic acid. (You know when your stomach hurts and Mom tells you to eat rice? Well, she isn’t wrong).
  • It is a source of carbohydrates – it provides starch (glucose) to fuel physical endeavors.
  • It has a lower arsenic content than brown rice – again because of the milling process of white rice.
  • It is naturally gluten free – and we all know that gluten is the devil! (I kid, I kid).

“But brown rice has more nutrients!” Yes, that is true in theory however the nutrients in brown rice are not bioavailable because of the aforementioned compounds. But no, you’re not eating white rice for the nutrients. You are eating it if you tolerate it and need carbs (because we all need carbs) and are sick of eating sweet potatoes.

I am mainly “grain-free” but like oats, rice seems to work for me. Do I eat it all the time? Nope. Quite infrequently actually. And I certainly don’t think rice should replace more nutrient-dense food choices or be consumed in massive all-you-can-eat-Chinese-buffet portions. But if you are in training, need to recover, looking to increase body composition (muscle!) or needing another easily tolerable source of carbohydrate, then it is a great option (especially in the post-workout period).

Going gluten free is not easy and going grain free is an even harder transition so as much as I wish people are cool with eating starchy veggies 24/7, it’s not always realistic. That’s why I am cool with offering white rice as an alternative.

Beef rice tomatoes spinach

Mark Sisson sums things up quite nicely:

The common thread is that white, milled, polished rice is basically pure starch. All the chemical negatives are found in the hull, husk, and bran, and those are easily removed or negated. It is essentially a blank slate, nothing all that bad about it, but nothing all that great, either.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow for my Minute Rice event recap!

9 thoughts on “Safe Starches & White Rice

  1. All of the people arguing about nutrition is so very tiresome. Its just different strokes for different folks and if white rice works for you, fantastic. I personally eat it a few times a week post workout or if I am on my feet all day. Like you said, it may not be nutrient dense but it provides easily digestible carbs which we all need in our diet!

  2. I do agree with your post , however white rice still contains a high amount of physic acid and ammonia, but has the ancient tribes were doing and are still doing, and many other people in the world , you should soak your rice for a minimum of 8 hours. A very interesting author to read about is Dr. Price, he did a lots of research on the subject. Many children are intolerant to rice but once you soak it, they can have it.
    Fron an scientist in nutrition.

  3. 100% love that you are down with white rice :) If I had a dollar for every time I hear someone say “stay away from white foods” or “white foods are bad”, I mean seriously. People are surprised to learn I eat white rice and feed to it my kids too, but like you said, very digestible and we all need carbs that are not potatoes or plantains sometimes!

  4. I loved this post! I am curious on your view on jasmine rice, as it is in the white rice family. I sometimes have jasmine rice post workout and find it much easier to digest than brown rice.

    1. Jasmine rice (and basmati) are both varieties in the white rice family – the difference being usually where they come from and how they taste. Jasmine is usually from Thailand (and used in Thai cooking) and is said to smell a bit floral. To my knowledge, nutritionally there is really not a huge difference.

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