If you have recently started following the paleo diet, you may have questions regarding the foods that are and aren’t suitable for consumption. There tends to be a lot of confusion surrounding rice, although it is generally viewed as a healthy food. This is because grains typically are prohibited on this diet.
Below, we have created a guide covering everything that you need to know about rice and whether or not it is identified as a paleo-friendly food.
What is the paleo diet?
The paleo diet promotes foods that were consumed by humans when they first began to roam the planet during the Paleolithic era 2.5 million years ago.
As such, paleo-friendly foods include fruit, vegetables, eggs, fish meat, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils and fats. Processed foods, salty foods, grains, and items that emerged with farming are not considered paleo-friendly.
Is rice paleo?
Grains are not promoted on the paleo diet and as I’m sure you are aware, rice is a grain. Now you may be wondering why grains are not listed as a paleo-friendly food and there are several reasons for this.
Simply put, grains and other plant-based foods contain a lot of phytates which are often referred to as anti-nutrients. Whilst these anti-nutrients are good for plants, they are not so good for humans. Phytates can make it difficult for your digestive tract to absorb nutrients hence why they are referred to as ‘antinutrients’.
There are conflicting opinions surrounding the suitability of rice for those on a paleo diet. Those following a pure paleo diet, suggest that rice is completely off bounds, whilst others believe that eating white rice is acceptable.
If you have a more flexible attitude towards this diet you may choose to eat white rice. It tends to be the preferred variety because it does not contain a lot of phytic acid. Rice goes through a process that turns it from white to brown. This involves removing the hull so that only the kernel remains.
As such, it does not contain ingredients that are rich in phytates. Whilst the process also removes the healthier ingredients, our bodies can digest them much easier. This rice does not contain any fiber either and this is going to be appreciated by those who suffer from gut problems that can be triggered by foods that have a lot of fibers.
It is worth noting that white rice does not contain micronutrients and this is not completely supported by the paleo diet, though there are several other foods that are permitted that are also lacking in micronutrients. Moreover, white rice is also high in carbs. Whilst this isn’t going to affect the concept of the paleo diet, it may be an issue for those who are trying to lose weight.
What about brown rice?
Now that we have established that white rice is considered to be a paleo-friendly food, you may be wondering whether this is the same for brown rice.
Brown rice is a whole grain that still has its hull, also known as the bran. The bran contains phytates, arsenic, and lectins. Vitamins, minerals, and fibers can also be found in the bran but as the phytates bind them together, they are not available for your body to access.
Typically, brown rice is thought of as a healthy food that promotes heart health and builds your defense against heart stroke. Unfortunately, the phytates act as anti-nutrients making this whole-grain unsuitable for a paleo diet.
If you enjoy eating brown rice and don’t want to rule it out of your diet you can opt for sprouted brown rice. This can be bought from the store or you can do it yourself.
The process of sprouting rice breaks down the lectins and phytates, making it easier for your body to access and absorb the healthier nutrients. It is important to note that the process doesn’t completely eradicate the presence of all lectins and phytates, but dramatically lowers the content.
Are there any rice substitutes available that are paleo-friendly?
You may be wondering whether there are any substitutes for rice available that are suitable for consumption by those who are transitioning onto the paleo diet. As we have mentioned, vegetables are allowed, so there are alternatives available that use popular vegetables to make the rice.
Cauliflower is thought to be one of the best paleo-friendly vegetables, hence why cauliflower rice is recommended as an alternative.
As implied, this type of rice is made entirely from cauliflower, is free from grains, and doesn’t contain any carbs. It is also super easy to make as you simply need to add the cauliflower to a food processor and wait until it develops a rice-like texture.
Broccoli is another vegetable that is approved for consumption by those on the paleo diet. This type of rice is very similar to cauliflower rice and is super easy to make. Aside from this, it is also rich in fiber, gluten-free and it is not a grain.
The answer to this question depends on the type of rice in question. As we have covered, there is more than one type of rice available but not all of them can be eaten by those following the paleo diet.
Many of those who strictly follow this diet, prohibit the consumption of any type of rice, but those who are slightly more lenient, can enjoy eating small amounts of white rice. Because white rice does not contain as many phytates, it is not going to have the same impact on your digestive system as brown rice, which has a high phytate content.
It is important to listen to your body and how it responds to the foods you are eating. If a small amount of white rice is not causing you any harm, then you can continue to eat it. However, if your body does not agree with it, avoid further consumption. Remember that there are also rice alternatives available whose core ingredients are paleo-diet friendly.