Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rice or Not to Rice..

Rice or not to Rice that is the question? No this is not going to be an eloquent Shakespearian soliloquy, but a haphazard ramblings of a Paleo individual. Rice has been on the no fly zone for most of my paleo journey, but recently I have introduced rice back in my diet and it does not seem to bother me. I eat rice sparingly, sprinkling couple of table spoons in my soups or on curry types of dishes. For most parts I stay away from rice, and tell people to stay away from it as well. For most people giving up rice is hard, my wife has given up grains for most parts, but she simply does not want to part with her steamed rice. This is the case for many folks around the world. Rice is a staple food for nearly half of the world population today, and about 90% of rice is consumed in the Asian countries. A cup of uncooked rice can be steamed and can easily provide ample amount of starch for at least three people. I got this measurement from my wife, who is always consulting with her sister about how many cups she should cook when guest are coming to the house. Usually a cup of uncooked rice can feed three people comfortably. You can add potatoes, sweet peas, or ground beef to give it more bulk. All you have to do is now cook about a pound of meat with some type of vegetable, and presto you have enough food to feed a large family. The starch and the sparing amount of meat fills up the belly but how much nutrition are you getting out of this meal? In Paleo the object is not to fill our bellies with food, but consume foods that are unprocessed, natural, provides ample nourishment, and are packed with calories. Does rice live up to any of the nutritional qualities that a typical Paleo food might have? And that is the real question which requires further attention.

Paleo world is also divided on the subject of rice, many Paleo authors and enthusiasts claim that rice contains benign starches, so it is perfectly ok to consume as a carb. But the truth is that rice like many grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contains phytic acid (phytates). These phytates bind to minerals in rice and make it impossible for humans to consume and absorb. Worse yet, the phytates may even rob your body of some minerals as they make their way down. Human body does not contain the proper enzymes (phytase) to break down the phytic acid and unlock the minerals and vitamins contained in the rice. On the other hand rodents contain phytase in their small intestine and are able to take advantage of the minerals and vitamins bound by phytic acid in rice. The history of rice is about 4000 years old as it was first cultivated in China. So from a Paleo perspective rice played no part when human beings were being developed and our brains were enlarging due to eating animal fat and bone marrow. When modern human DNA and our gene set was being defined rice was not in the picture and hence, the body developed no enzymes to break the phytic acids in rice, legumes, and grains. It is ironic that no doctor nor nutritionist ever mentions phytic acid in reference to rice, but continue to tell their patients that consuming brown rice is healthy for the body.

Does rice deliver the nutritional punch and lives up to its hype, or do the numbers tell a different story? The following table does a side by side comparison of white rice, brown rice, and few ounces of meat to show that in fact rice does not live up to its hype. See for yourself.

Brown RiceWhite RiceMeat (Beef)
Measure1 Cup1 Cup4 Oz.
Weight195 grams158 grams113 grams
Protein5 grams4 grams30 grams
Carbohydrates45 grams45 grams0
Dietary Fiber4 grams< 1 gram0
Fat2 grams< 1gram29 grams
Saturated Fat0.4 grams0.113 grams
Monunaturated Fat0.6 grams0.114.8 grams
Polyunsaturated Fat0.6 grams0.11.2 grams
Cholesterol00112 mg
Calcium19 mg16 mg11 mg
Iron0.82 mg1.9 mg3.45 mg
Magnesium84 mg19 mg21 mg
Potassim84 mg55 mg275 mg
Sodium10 mg2 mg67 mg
Zinc1.23 mg0.77 mg7.57 mg
Vitamin A000
Thiamine0.19 mg0.26 mg0.08 mg
Vitamin E0.53 mg0.08 mg0,26 mg
Riboflavin0.05 mg0.02 mg0.27 mg
Niacin2.98 mg2.34 mg3.54 mg
Vitamin B60.28 mg0.15 mg0.32 mg
Folates8 mg92 mg10 mg
Vitamin C000

As you can see from the above table that other than delivering a large amount of carbohydrates, the rice is deficient in calories, proteins, fats, and many other nutrients when compared to a small piece of red meat. A cup of rice may also contain anywhere from 850-1000 milligrams of phytic acid, which is way more than a body can handle on the daily basis. The human body is able to manufacture about 35-100 milligrams of phytase daily, the enzyme needed to breakdown phytic acid. The extra undigested phytic acid ends up becoming a toxin to our body and robs the body from minerals and nutrients. Red meat on the other hand has a zero phytic acid foot print. The grass fed ruminants also deliver a healthy dose of omega 3 and omega 6 fats. A proper balance of these two essential fats is absolutely necessary for the human body.

The moral of the rice story is that other than filling up the belly with empty calories, rice does not do much for us. The nutrients and vitamins are bound by phytic acid, hence, they can not be used by the human body. Or lets say a very small amount of nutrients are un-trapped from phytic acid and used by the body. A large percentage of nutrients and vitamins contained in the rice end up passing through our digestive system untouched. The carbohydrates in the form of starch are able to give us energy for a short period of time as carbs burn quicker than proteins and fats in the body. The end result is that few hours later you feel hungry and the carb cycle continues. Whereas, a 4 ounces of fatty piece of meat supplemented with few vegetables will provide many more nutrients, vitamins and energy that body can use for several hours. The vitamins and nutrients in meats are available for the body to use and the meat proteins and fats are slowly broken down in various parts of the digestive system. The human body contains all the necessary enzymes to process fats and proteins. Next time when you face a bowl of rice, think about the empty calories it represents and about the phytic acid that binds all vitamins and nutrients. As you politely push the bowl away go for the steak and a healthy helping of vegetables. The steaks and vegetables will not give you the sugar rush, trust me they are much better for you on the long run.