Rice is one of the ageless cereals ever known to man.
Many people have freely eaten rice without worrying about how bad or good it was, as long as it served the purpose of satisfying them.
In recent times, white rice, in particular, has been on the center stage and has had its impact on humans questioned. Many questions have been raised regarding its impact on heart health as well as its supposed link with diabetes and obesity.
Different schools of thought exist on how white rice affects you. In this article, you can be sure to learn the truth and secrets about white rice and know if it is bad for you from a dietetic viewpoint. Before we start, let’s talk a little about history.
A Little ‘White Rice’ Background Story
Rice was first cultivated locally by the Chinese thousands of years ago. White rice has served as the regular staple not just for the Chinese and most Asian countries, but to over half of the world’s population. Rice is one of the most imported cereals according to a systematic review done at Harvard.
In its real form, rice never always comes as white (hence, the name ‘white rice’). Originally, rice is usually covered by the bran and endosperms.
After many processes including hulling and milling, the outer coverings (the bran and endosperm) are removed, and the rice then appears to be white.
These hulled grains are further polished to ensure that they are not too broken in the process of milling since their coverings are taken off. Now you can say that white rice is a processed and polished brown rice.
According to Indian foods composition table powered by the National Institute of Nutrition, White rice has a series of basic nutrient components including
- Calories: 1471±8
- Carbohydrates: 77.16±0.76
- Proteins: 7.81±0.63
- Fiber: 3.74±0.36
Sometimes, white rice is fortified with zinc and iron as many other nutrients are lost during the milling and hulling process of rice grains. This fortification is done in certain countries like India where there are cases of malnutrition and where cereals like white rice is a staple.
You may wonder: If white rice has these much calories, why do I get hungry just a few hours after eating?
Why You Get Hungry Fast After Eating White Rice
The carbohydrates in white rice are known to be more of starch. When starch is broken down by the body, it is converted to glucose.
This conversion is usually fast and causes the blood glucose level to rise rapidly. And because its breakdown is fast, its absorption is also fast, causing the stomach and intestines to be empty in no time.
Insulin (a hormone that transports glucose into your body’s cells) will be secreted in time to help move glucose into cells all over the body for use.
This process makes the body call for more food to keep the blood glucose steady and provide energy for work. This is what causes one to eat more or feel hungry more often usually after eating simple carbohydrates like white rice.
The Relationship Between White Rice and Blood Sugar
Glycemic load is the degree to which a food consumed is able to raise the blood glucose level of a person in a given period of time.
Glycemic index (GI) is peculiar to each food. Factors that affect the glycemic index of a food include:
- amylose content
- what stage of processing it has undergone preparation methods
- cooking time
According to a randomized control trial carried out by the diabetes technology & therapeutics, the GI values of white rice are estimated to be in between 70-77. This is a relatively high value when compared with other foods, and is the reason why whole grain or brown rice may be preferred.
The glycemic index of white rice is quite high and is able to rapidly raise and drop a person’s blood glucose level. This is why it is not recommended for patients with diabetes to add it to their meal plan as it increases the glycemic load of food.
White Rice and Weight-loss
The first rule for weight loss, which I am sure you probably already know by now, is that “you should eat fewer calories than you expend”.
In the days of old when people lived without cars, technologies, and other machines, people’s lifestyles were much different. Now, machines and other technological innovations have caused a change in human activity. We no longer want to walk one kilometer to schools or workplaces anymore.
In urban areas, not too many people are interested in riding bicycles or even playing sports. We are constantly caught up by the fast moving world.
The use of machines, gadgets, and tech has increased our inactiveness in various ways. Most of us prefer to get our goods and services delivered to us in the comfort of our homes without even lifting a muscle.
All these new behaviors enhance and support a sedentary lifestyle which is a risk factor for a host of health complications like obesity. People tend to gain more weight when they eat more than their body requires and when they are not active for a long period of time.
The effects of white rice consumption vary from one individual to another. The general notion of white rice being the culprit in weight gain may not be true in every overweight case.
Excessive white rice intake when you aren’t doing many physical activities could make you gain some weight.
The key to controlling your weight would be to monitor how many calories you take in every day, ensuring it is not more than what you expend.
If you consume more calories than you expend, you’ll gain weight, and if you expend more calories than you eat, you’ll lose weight.
Is White Rice Okay For Weight Gain?
White rice with all its carbohydrate contents is instrumental for weight gain for those whose goal is also to add weight.
Adding white rice to your diet, along with high protein and vegetables could make you gain weight in a healthy way, as long as you aren’t neglecting the need for physical activity.
Physical activity is essential in weight gain to ensure that the energy is not just getting stored as fats in the body, but that it is used appropriately.
How About Brown Rice?
Some will say the opposite of white rice is brown rice. Have you also ever thought that way?
Like I said earlier, brown rice is the whole grain form from which white rice is produced after the milling process. Brown rice sure has more nutritional values in fiber, fats, vitamin, calorie contents and even protein. But you don’t know what you are not told.
I have seen many nutritionists who tend to give more regards to brown rice, as against white rice. The reasons are obvious- the many nutrients brown rice has. However, there is a little concern, the presence of arsenic in brown rice.
Should you be concerned about arsenic in brown rice?
Arsenic is a toxic element found deep in the ground and present in ground water based on regions. Arsenic can be organic or inorganic. The inorganic form is more toxic and calls for more concern.
Now the shocking thing is that brown rice has been discovered to have more amount of arsenic in it than white rice and contrarily, white rice due to the milling process has been rid of the bran and endosperm which likely house arsenic.
The arsenic in white rice can be further reduced by your cooking methods. The traditional washing of rice reduces the level of arsenic.
Can I Eat White Rice Healthily?
The answer is yes.
The magical strategy to beat the excesses of white rice is “portioning”. When we portion our meals, it allows us to be in control and not overeat.
It is advisable to change the size of your plates. Use some saucer-sized plates in dishing out your meals, it will go a long way.
White rice is as good as every other food type, depending on the way it is prepared and the amount consumed.
Arsenic contents are less in white rice (if any) when compared to brown rice and other foods. Washing and parboiling processes further eliminate arsenic from white rice.
Whether you eat white or brown rice as a regular component of your diet, you should not neglect exercise and ensure that you burn some calories consumed.
This way, you can be sure that there will be no room for excess energy stored as fat.
If you are looking for alternatives to white rice, you can diversify and explore other cereal options like quinoa, wheat, and barley.