We’ve heard a lot of rumors about rice. Don’t do this to it, cook it like that. Sometimes it feels like we should stop eating the stuff altogether. Although more than half the world would probably disagree with that.
Rice is the staple in many cultures because of its tastiness and versatility, but there’s a plethora of contradictory evidence that tells us we should and shouldn’t eat it. So who do we listen to?
Well, from a nutritional standpoint, white rice pales in comparison to its wholegrain cousin, brown rice. It gets digested quickly, is rapidly processed into sugar, and only fills you up for a short period of time. In comparison, brown rice is processed slowly, churning out a steady stream of fuel to power your muscles and keep you feeling sharp.
White rice as we consume it is a refined carbohydrate similar to those found in white bread, flour tortillas, and most breakfast cereals. So inferior is it to whole grains, that Clinical physician Roxanne B. Sukol, says people should completely rid it from their diet it and refer to it as a “stripped carb” because “it’s been stripped of all its nutrition”. Savage I know, but hear her out.
In the book Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, Sukol told author and chef chef Michael Ruhlman that these “stripped carbs” were her chief nutritional concern. In rice they can be easily avoided by choosing brown over white, but refined carbs lurk in dozens of processed foods.
Refined carbs can be found in granola bars, baked goods, pizzas, and pastas. Diets high in refined carbs have been tied to weight gain and obesity, as you may or may not know. A review of 50 studies on diet and weight gain published in the journal of Food and Nutrition Research found that on average, the more refined carbs someone ate, the more weight they gained over the study period.
Your “stripped carbs” start out just like their whole-grain cousins. In the factory however, food makers remove the grains’ nutritious, fiber rich outer shells, like germ and bran, and as a result refined grains have less fiber, proteins, vitamins and whole grains. Another problem is that they’re super easy to overeat.
Cara Anselmo, a nutritionist, says: “It’s definitely easiest to overdo it with drinks, refined carbs, foods that have added sugar or are highly processed — those are things that we just tend to keep going.” This doesn’t mean all carbs are bad.
Instead of telling clients to ban things like bread and rice from their diets, Anselmo suggests swapping foods with refined carbs for whole grain alternatives, like brown rice and whole grain bread. She and Sukol say: “People need to understand there are nutritious carbohydrates.”
There are plenty of diets out there that can be based around whole grains and veggies that can be super delicious. Add some lean protein, and you are onto a true winner. If you’re looking to make a simple healthy change to your diet, this might be one to try.