According to many studies, grains form a vital part of a balanced diet. But many researchers are now focusing on the negative effects, and paleo diets that advocate no grains. One conclusion that most agree on is that gluten-free grains are superior to gluten grains.
Rice is a naturally gluten-free grain yet it can be difficult for people with IBS, digestive issues and diabetes as it can cause bloating and insulin spikes.
I found the information contradictory and confusing so I have been researching further about rice, which I’m sharing here. There are 4 main areas I have researched 1) Starch in rice 2) Phytic acid in rice 3) Nutrients in rice and 4) Arsenic in rice.
Starch is a carbohydrate, and when it is digested glucose is produced.
There are three types of starch:
- Rapidly digested starch = quick rise in your blood sugar levels.
- Slowly digested starch = controlled rise in blood sugar levels.
- Resistant starch (isn’t digested in the small intestine but fermented by bacteria in your gut) = gas to build up in your gut can cause digestive issues but minimal impact on blood sugar.
Starch contents of rice: all rice contains some resistant starch
- Brown rice – less starch – higher fibre = beneficial when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels and preventing insulin spikes.
- White rice – more starch – less fibre = digested quickly and good for quick energy, but causes insulin spikes. Types of white rice: Short grain rice – more starch (why it clumps together more) / Long grain rice – less starc
- Wild Rice – a grass not a grain with less carbohydrates, high fibre = beneficial when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels and preventing insulin spikes.
Tip: If rice causes you to bloat try not having it with proteins, as starch doesn’t digest well with proteins.
My starch conclusion
Wild and brown rice are the better option for blood sugar regulation particularly for health conditions (like diabetes, bacterial overgrowth, glucose intolerance, candida yeast infections).
Phytic acid is found in rice and it is known as an anti-nutrient because it binds to minerals in the digestive tract reducing the absorption of minerals, particularly calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. It can lead to mineral deficiencies, most notable iron causing anemia.
Research has shown that phytic acid can cause more problems for vegans and vegetarians as a lot of food that contains phytic acid is eaten in these diets. Research shows that because of the phytic acid we need to consume more iron than meat-eaters in order to absorb enough.
It’s not all negative as phytic acid is reported to prevent some chronic diseases acting as an antioxidant. I will be doing a more detailed post on this in the future.
Phytic acid content of rice:
Brown rice and wild rice contains more phytic acid than white rice. The process of milling brown rice to make white rice removes the bran and almost all of the phytic acid.
My phytic acid conclusion:
Monitor the amount of phytic acid you consume, and depending on your health needs, either reduce or possibly increase consumption. There are ways to reduce phytic acid in your food that don’t involve cutting out phytic acid containing food. I will be creating another post on this shortly.
Nutritional value of rice:
White rice = fewer nutrients, the process of milling removes the majority of the nutrients and the dietary fibre.
* Types of white rice: Short grain rice – less nutrients, Long grain rice – more nutrients.
Brown rice = more nutrients, rich in manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, vitamin B3 and dietary fibre. Unfortunately the phytic acid in the bran limits the absorption of these nutrients.
Wild rice = very rich in nutrients, magnesium, protein, folate, zinc, manganese, iron and omega 3 fatty acids. Alkaline forming, high fibre, easiest to digest.
My nutrient conclusion:
Wild rice is the winner as it’s easier to digest and it has more nutrients than other rices. Brown rice is next nutrient rich choice, but remember phytic acid does interfere with nutrient absorption.
Arsenic is a chemical found naturally and man made. Arsenic gets into food through the soil and water. Most foods don’t absorb much arsenic, but rice is different as it grows in water and absorbs it more readily. Brown rice has more arsenic than white due to the bran of white rice being removed.
High levels of arsenic can cause cancers and heart diseases, and we do not know yet the effects of having low levels of arsenic over a period of time. The FDA has though stated that the amount of arsenic in rice is too low to cause ‘any immediate or short term adverse health effects’ and they advise to continue eating rice as part of a balanced diet.
My overall rice conclusion:
There isn’t a conclusion as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your body determines what is the healthiest option for you.
Wild rice and brown rice are considered the healthier choice on the face of it. They have more nutrients and dietary fibre and less starch, but consider the phytic acid issue for your personal health conditions.
Perhaps the best option if you eat grains is to ensure you have a variety of them and opt for those that can be soaked to reduce the phytic acid levels (see my future post on Sprouting and Soaking.