Paleo Diet: The White Rice Question

White rice. Thing of evil - or not so bad really? Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In my Paleo Diet News Review of Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet a little over a week ago, one of the criticisms I leveled at the book was its suggestion to eat white rice as a ‘safe starch’.

Boring, I thought.  Boring, boring, boring!

Not everyone agreed with me, as can be seen from the comments.  I also found myself wondering about my own strong reaction to the Jaminets’ suggestion.  Why did the thought of consuming white rice trigger such a negative response in me?  I’ve given it some considerable thought since.

I’m reminded of the saying “there’s no-one more anti-smoking than an ex smoker”.  Perhaps it’s also true to say that there’s no-one more anti-rice than an ex rice eater.  And boy, was I the daddy of all rice eaters.  I used to polish off pounds of the stuff every week.  Usually every day at lunchtime, often at dinnertime too.  And sometimes for snacks.  Always healthy wholegrain rice of course!  I actively shunned the white, refined, polished, clearly-no-nutrients-in-the-damn-stuff white rice, and I felt virtuous as hell doing it.

That gave me my first clue to my strong reaction - it seems that it was a combination of habit (white rice is the devil incarnate!”) and my new-found paleo enthusiasm (“grains are toxic!”) Following that, I just found myself thinking “but why would I want to add empty, tasteless carbs to my diet?”.  No wonder I rejected poor old white rice so thoroughly!

I should let you know that the reason I’m re-evaluating my stance is that I’m about to embark upon a fairly intensive strength-training programme using kettlebells.  For the past few months, whilst following a very low-carb version of the paleo diet, I’ve lost some weight and also triumphed over the constant weight fluctuation that I struggled with in the old low-fat days.  In addition, I’ve done that without having to exercise like a demon almost every single day, which is what I was doing.

Given that my activity level and the physical demands on my body are about to significantly increase, I’ve recognised that I do need to add some starch back into my daily eating - and I want to make sure it isn’t all coming from fruit (in order to keep my fructose consumption in check).

So, I’ve stocked up on my sweet potatoes, and I’ve even bought myself a packet of organic white basmati rice.

There was a time when I would have shuddered to type such a thing.  But since then, I’ve educated myself, and here follow some of the articles that helped me to gain some perspective on white rice.

I won’t be eating tons of it. I won’t be eating very much of it at all, in fact - but I also won’t be fearing it and worrying that the “Don’t Eat Rice!” Police are going to break my door down as soon as I touch tongue to one of those fluffy little grains.  It’s a liberating feeling.

The Round-Up On Rice

  • As is so often the case in the paleo world, it’s well worth starting with the great information that Mark Sisson has pulled together.  To find out more about the grain issue in its entirety, read his Definitive Guide To Grains.  Here’s why we should be avoiding grains in the first place, and why it’s the wholegrain part that’s the particular problem.
  • Mark himself views white rice as a fairly “neutral” food.  Not essential in the diet by any means; not to be avoided like the plague.  Find out why, as he asks How Bad Is Rice, Really?
  • Given that my new-found appreciation of white rice was triggered by The Perfect Health Diet, here’s a great summary of exactly why the Jaminets include white rice in their eating.
  • And finally, a terrific guest post from Jonathan over at Primal Toad, in which he ponders White Rice: Friend Or Foe?  (This one includes a particularly interesting discussion on how one can factor in rice - and other safe carbs - based on activity level and exercise choices).

I may well be beginning a little love affair with white rice.  What’s your take?

A spoonful of cooked white rice. Eat up! Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


Brian Cormack Carr is a life and career coach, charity CEO, writer, and advocate of a real foods diet.
His home on the web is where you will find more articles, his free Lifecrafting Newsletter, and information about his online career-creation programme
You can follow Brian on Twitter: @cormackcarr


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6 Responses to Paleo Diet: The White Rice Question

  1. Chris February 27, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Thanks for your article - I enjoyed reading it!

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  5. Amelia June 16, 2012 at 12:04 am

    I came to removing grains from my diet because I am allergic to gluten. I also do Crossfit which is pro-paleo. But I just can’t come at removing rice from my diet altogether and besides, it is a hypo-allergenic grain after all. I probably only eat it twice a week and only a small serving; I certainly don’t see any harm in it especially on days where I train a bit harder and a bit longer. :)

    • Jim June 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Amelia….I am not a PaleoPurist. Each of us has to find what works in our own individual life and body. If a little rice now and then works for you, then I’m all for it!