Rice gets a bit of a bad rap. Plain white rice has been accused of many things. Making us fat, sluggish, bloated or gassy. And most recently, it’s been accused of killing us .

Poor rice. All it wants to be is a humble side dish to family favourites such as curries and stir-fries. Be used as a base for fried rice and salads, and be puffed in our breakfasts. Today let’s look at this gluten free grain and see where it went wrong, and what we can do about.

The original gluten free grain.

Unlike buckwheat and quinoa, rice is NOT a pseudo-grain, but it is a grain. From an agricultural point of view, this means that a grain of rice is a seed from which grass can grow. Unlike other grains, such as wheat and barley, rice IS gluten free. Therefore, for such a long time, many coeliac folks lived on ricecakes, ricecrackers, and plain white rice instead of bread, Jatz, and pasta.

The Paleo push.

When the paleo movement took of in the early 2000’s, rice very quickly got dumped from a lot of pantries.  The reasoning is this:

Plants, like people need to survive, thus over time they’ve developed their own survival and defence mechanisms. Whilst people may use their witty humour, sarcasm, intellect, or in some cases violence and money to survive, plants don’t have these tools. Instead plants use physical and chemical barriers to protect themselves from animals (humans included) so they and their species can survive.

Chemical warfare

When it comes to rice, there are three components which it uses to survive, which renders it difficult for some people to consume. The three components are lectins, saponins, and protease inhibitors. Rice isn’t the only food that has these elements. Gluten, for example is a lectin. Legumes have saponins (saponins ‘make things ‘soapy’, so when you rinse of your tinned chickpeas, all the bubbles you get are saponins.).

Can we breakdown the barriers?

To help make foods that are higher in the chemical compounds, like rice, it can help if we start the digestion process before we eat it.

Huh? What do I mean?

Rinsing and soaking grains. Fermenting and sprouting. These processes all start breaking down some of the anti-nutrients in our foods, so that by the time we go to chew them, they are ready to be assimilated into our body.

Is rice making you fat? The macro breakdown.

But back to this gluten free grain. Say you’re not a paleo and enjoy a nice curry or stir-fry occasionally. Is eating rice as a side really that bad for us? Let’s look at the Foods Standard of Australia and New Zealand, NUTTAB. NUTTAB is an evidence-based data base of many common foods and their nutritional value. I love it because it’s a trusted resource, and because they give data per 100g. This is great for comparison, but not always practical for home cooking info.

If we look at uncooked white rice, we can see that it is a starchy carb. Of 100g, 74g of that is carbohydrate, all starch! There is a small amount of protein, and even smaller amount of fats.

If we look at the same amount of brown rice, we see 69.1g of starchy carb, and wild rice has 68g of carb. So why choose brown or wild rice if it has similar carbohydrates? The fibre content will be higher as it’s a less refined and processed food than white rice.

Do I ditch the ‘devil’s sidedish’?

My Oma used to say, “everything in moderation”, and as I say 80:20. As long as you’re not allergic to it, and your chronic health conditions are being worked on, you may be fine with rice. If you’re doing gut healing work or auto-immune protocols, you may choose to avoid rice for a period.

But remember, the goal of these protocols isn’t to slowly paint yourself into a corner with less and less foods in your diet. The goal of these protocols is to remove troublesome foods, do the recover and repair work, and then slowly build your diet up again.

If you’re doing weightloss, body composition or are an athlete, this starchy gluten free grain is what I call the 4th macro. You can read about it here. Essentially rice, as it is a starchy carb, is best utilised by the body when it is couched around your train9ing.

So, long-grain story short?

Mix it up a lil. If you don’t get tummy trouble eating rice then enjoy it in moderation. Try using wild or brown types, and think about rinsing/soaking before cooking.  If you want to dive a lil deeper into understanding how your body uses your fuel for exercise, training, and getting everything done – reach out to me here for your one on one consult.


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