White Rice: Agent of Disease, a Sensible Choice, or Healthsaver?

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At this writing, I don’t really know…that trifecta of question posed in the title.

What I do know is that white rice, in the way I prepare it, gives me no problems at all, as a former fat man with chronic heartburn since I was a teenager. There are opposing views, and I’ll get to them. In the meantime, my last meal. Click the image for the full size and high resolute.

Rice Stuff
Rice & Stuff

Whether you want to do rice or not, it’s up to you. There’s a wide swath. Those Paleo folks will be across the board. The newbies or curious will say “what, I can do rice?” They might even say, “I can do this!” Maybe they’ll lose their taste for rice later, or not. Ever think of that, and does it matter? That’s individual.

You eat this with a big spoon.

  • 1 pound ground grassfed ground beef
  • handful of chopped mushrooms
  • handful of chopped celery
  • half-handful of chopped onion
  • half-handful of chopped carrot
  • coupla tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups Thai Jasmine rice
  • 4 pats of butter

In this instance, I first did the beef, low to medium heat, being patient, then put it in the rice pot with a slotted spoon. I sautéed the mushrooms and onions in the beet fat — not butter, and added that to the pot as well with a slotted spoon. In the meantime, I chopped the celery and carrot. Added them raw. Add the pats of butter. And it all went fine. Previously, I have done Applegate franks sliced up with some onion, Indian curry and other machinations. Godspeed if you need a cookbook and that’s an option, but I’m the guy who encourages you to do otherwise. Don’t fear a fuckup. You’ll learn.

Back to the Neolithic agent…rice. I have this weird aspect to my character. When I drink booze and feel good, I kinda know why, and thus don’t confuse myself that booze is actually healthy. When I go to a restaurant and have eaten the slightest bit of bread, I’m guaranteed to have nuclear heartburn. Since I indulge in the bread so infrequently, it’s a pleasure/later-displeasure I can put up with, now an then. Less and less frequently.

It’s not like I’m going to hell, so newfound Paleos need to dump that metaphor, right now. Yes, if and when you indulge, and if you commune with the community, you will run into purists who will be difficult to differentiate from those you already dumped; those trying to guilt and shame you into fear-based control over dying Right Now, or at least pretty soon, or well before your time. Before, it was saturated fat and cholesterol. Now, it’s rice & potatoes. No amount is safe!

Or, you figure out your own way, apart from priestly pronouncements. Is rice a paleo sin? I don’t even know. I cook mine in various stocks, season them with herbs & spices, do all manner of things.

Moreover, I don’t eat rice all the time. I fire up my favorite cooker, as you see to the right, the Cuisinart “fuzzy logic” cooker that does awesome rice almost no matter what you do. It’s so bullet proof that I have gone far beyond its recipe book. The recipe book does include Risotto, sushi rice and all manner of other things it can do for you, but I’ve found that I like to just go with whatever I do and have it cook on the Mark 1, Mod A setting of “white rice.” And if you’re doing just rice and not other bits like meat and veggies, it will automatically keep it nice and warm and moist for 24 hours to come.

I hate too many variables. Thus I push but one button. It’s not Paleo, but I love it. On the other hand, I don’t eat it every day, ever meal, or even every week. I tend to eat it one or two meals for a few days, then go meat & veggies or salads for a while, then maybe some potatoes, even a corn tortilla or two, then back to rice. Other times, most often even, I eat very little carb. Go figure. I’m just not a macronutrient purist. I eat zero carb, low carb, moderate carb and high carb. Depends on the meal, and the day, or even the week. Never do the same thing all the time. That’s my motto.

…So that was last night.

Are you locked into a catechism?

Anyway, there you are: plusses and minuses, so let’s just be honest: put it all out there…because…even though I know exactly what’s right for you and you family in every single situation — I knew it 1,000 years ago, before you were born or wished for — maybe you can have other ideas. [/sarcasm]

I’m gonna link Paul below for the substantive thingy that he does so well, but I loved his Bi Bim Bap. We have native Korean friends, I have been to Korea about 15 times, and I lived in Japan five years and other than sushi and yakatori, loved going to Korean restaurants. I love Korean food and most particularly, their foresight — yes, foresight and that’s it — in fermenting vegetables of all sorts (there is probably more variety of kimchee than cheese in France, and even Napoleon recognized it was impossible to govern a country that made so many cheeses.)

Paul Jaminet: Jimmy Moore’s seminar on “safe starches”: My reply

Andrew Badenoch: Rice, Potatoes, Wheat, and Other Plants Interfere with Human Gene Expression

Choose wisely.

Here’s my general take. After about 4 years at this thing, I know that limiting myself to a Wendy’s Triple once every 2-3 months and a large pizza from Pizza Hut (Pepperoni and onion) even far more infrequently does me no good, but never crashes my spirit for this thing. I simply love some Neo-Foods, sometimes, and that’s that. On the other hand, there are certainly degrees and I think that rice and potatoes of any sort come down on the very safe side of things. They’re not in the same league and Hot Pockets and Pop Tarts.

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  1. Mike C S says:

    I love white rice. I’m a hard gainer eating modified paleo so I use it for calorie supplementation when I need it. White rice cooked plain, drowning in butter as a side is good. I’ll definitely try your recipe above. It sounds delicious!

  2. i have integrated white rice back in my diet with no ill effects. been at this for almost 5 years and in the last year, i have gotten off the very low carb kick. now i don’t care as much, just eat quality carbs that are low in toxins. i don’t eat a ton of white rice but it is a cheap, benign source of glucose.

  3. I never cared much for rice in my pre-paleo days, but now I love it! Especially dol bap, Korean stone pot rice plain and simple with nothing on it, as a companion to meats and veg. I am amazed at the depth of flavor that plain rice has.

  4. I commit one of the biggest Paleo sins: I eat polenta about three or four times a year.

    I love the stuff, especially the way I make it: lots of butter, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheese, and some sea salt added to the cereal. Delizioso!

  5. Hi Richard, thanks for the link love! We’ll have to make you our Bi Bim Bap sometime … or Korean barbecue.

    • Paul, I wish I had taken the time to mention some of the meals we do with Korean friends. I have come to believe that fermented are simplly the very best tasty and digestible and flexible way to eat vegetables.

    • Dr Jaminet knows how to slice and dice a research paper. I would like to see him put the MiRNA study on the chopping block and have a go at it with his Ginsu!

  6. xtrocious says:

    I am Asian and we love our rice – maybe a bit too much…

    It’s quite easy to over-eat rice here – it goes well with almost everything and even on its own…

    As such, I would still prefer to go easy on the rice – a sushi or two is probably fine for me but once I start eating what Richard did (fantastic recipe by the way), I don’t think I can stop :(

  7. I generally do okay with rice, I just don’t eat it that much except when I’m out for Indian food (not a big fan of the glop they call Chinese food in this part of the world).

  8. Wow, that Perfect Health Diet article is a hell of a read..

  9. Galina L says:

    I am glad, folks, for you that you are enjoying the rice. Doesn’t work for me, unfortunately, – sends me right into some sort of a low-energy coma. Potatoes are better somehow. I hoped to eat sushi again some day. I feel and function better on low-carb .

    • Paul Jaminet has a 150g serving of cooked white rice which is 200 carb calories or 50g carb. Would that amount be too much for you? I looked at Paul’s serve and thought I could usually eat 3 times that amount of rice because I like it (particularly basmati) so I need to portion control.

  10. I make my white rice on the stove, and substitute homemade chicken stock for the water. It’s cheap, nutritious (pastured chickens) and my kids/wife eat it up.

  11. I’m glad to see this post, Richard, in that strict adherence to anything can lead to disaster, even with the primal/paleo/ancestral health set . I’m one of those who simply can’t eat rice, especially the brown organic variety. Chronic heartburn, racing heart, swollen joints that hurt like hell happen when eating many vegetables, and most fruits, so rice of any sort is out of the question. But it just goes to show that dogma need not apply, and common sense and strict listening to what your body tells you reigns.

    Although people automatically say, “but Will, that paleo stuff of yours is not for everbody(!)”. I retort with “EXACTLY!” It simply amazes me that many people take offense when others tell them of something they are interested in, and have implemented into their lives. But it shouldn’t surprise me, seeing the amount of “experts,” and control freaks out there telling others what to do, or not to do. My philosophy is this: Eat whatever in hell you want. It’s no skin off my ass. I’m in this for me, if you don’t like it, don’t get pissed off, just don’t eat this way. Simple! I believe in a voluntary society it is called, “live and let live.”

  12. You are so going to paleo hell.

  13. Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?
    I thought that was Charles de Gaulle :)

    -Fellow rice & cheese eater

  14. I have begun eating rice, potatoes, yams and other starchy vegetables and fruits again. I haven’t gained any more weight or noticed any other ill effects. I will say this, last evening I eat potatoes and I was hungry later on, so that is something to investigate.

    I think as long as you don’t go overboard on these tasty starches nothing bad is going to happen.
    After all plenty of H/G tribes ate starchy vegetables and fruits and they lived long and healthy lives.

    When I just began with paleo I did the low carb thing and lost a lot of weight. So low carb may be the thing for weight loss.

  15. Hi, may I ask you why the emphasis on “white” rice? Is wild and brown rice out of this for some particular reason?

    Thank you,

    • Andre

      Brown rice is the whole grain, i.e., the bran & germ. Apparently, most of the phytic acid that binds to minerals and prevents their absorption is in the bran. I believe the germ is ok, and there are some white rices that leave the germ intact.

  16. I’ve been eating rice every day with dinner, 2-3 cups. I mix it up with brown and brown & wild combinations cause white got boring after a while.

    I sleep good and have more energy the next day with the big serving of carbs with dinner. I’m just not that big on potatoes so rice is about the only game in town for me.

    Also I’m a lazy chef and rice is easy to prepare.

  17. I’m another occasional rice eater. Sometimes sushi, a cup of rice in soup, or even Paul Jaminet’s Cambridge Rice recipe, tweaked to our liking.

    But Pizza Hut? Really, Richard? As a once a year treat? That hurts. And even though I don’t eat pizza anymore, apparently I’m still a pizza snob. :)

    • Ha ha, I’m such a 70/30 kind of guy. Rice and potatoes are the least of my “sins”. I buy flour and yeast to make pizzas with my kid and batter meat. If I’m meeting someone in a pub I will indulge in beer and even bum a cigarette. I don’t do this stuff that often but way, way more than once a year. And then there’s the kid who’s developing way too much of a sweet tooth thanks mostly to Grandpa and my lack of an iron will.

      The point for me, at least, is to mentally put these things on a scratch-pad health curve, eat this, avoid that, batter that liver or pork cutlet if the kid will eat more of it instead of just filling up on mashed potatoes. Oh yeah and since I grew up in New Mexico I can’t resist scarfing down some corn chips and homemade salsa, and making burritos when I can get ahold of flour tortillas.

  18. Paul Verizzo says:

    Polenta = grits spelled with three unneeded extra letters. Funny how so many people turn their noses up at grits but grub for polenta because it is foreign and exotic.

    Forget white rice, make it yellow! Arroz amarillo, Cuban yellow rice. Vigo is the best store brand. And since we are paleo sinning, through some peas on top. Traditionally “pidgen” peas, not sweet, grow in the tropics, natch.

  19. yum, this was a STAPLE meal in my household growing up!

  20. Hey Richard, it’s me again. I don’t get the emphasis on “white”. Should I not take all your excitement when the rice is brown or wild or similar? Is it the refinement process that makes the rice free of the stuff you don’t want in your diet?


    • Yep, in this case, processing = better.

    • Check out the Perfect Health Diet site, linked above. They do a very good job explaining the benefits of white versus brown.

      My basic understanding is that brown rice my contain poisons/anti-nutrients in the bran, and it doesn’t provide anything vital that you can’t get in other parts of your diet, so it’s best to avoid it.

      So while technically, white rice is more processed (which is a knee jerk Paleo no-no), the processing in this case actually improves the safety.

      • Oops, sorry Richard, I missed your response while I was writing my reply.

        Good thing I didn’t disagree with you!

      • “…more processed (which is a knee jerk Paleo no-no)”

        Yea, this makes me laugh. Show me a home assembled and cooked meal that’s not “processed.”

  21. rice enthusiasts should try the Nourishing Traditions recipe that includes coconut milk — yum! i like a cup of this rice with additional coconut oil, sea salt and pepper for breakfast.

  22. Late comment, I know, but…look and you and look at Jimmy Moore. I’d say that about sums it up. :)

  23. Hilton King says:



  1. […] Andrew Badenoch of Evolvify downgrades potatoes and rice to “sneaky untrustworthy bastards” and bok choy to “I’m not making out with you if you eat that.” This was in response to that interesting miRNA study I mentioned in a previous Around the Web. Richard Nikoley offered his thoughts. […]

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