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I'm a nutritional therapy practitioner and mindful eating coach who's mission is to make good health accessible to everyone. I'm a foodie, reader, podcast junkie, family adventurer, and expert chocolate chip cookie baker. 

Hey, I'm liz.

The Tale of a Rice Bowl (and carbs)

rice bowl

The first week of every month, I’ve been on a mission to create fast, simple meals using one main ingredient. It started in March with greek yogurt bowls. (If you didn’t catch it, I wrote a blog post here.) Last month was a rotisserie chicken challenge. I created a tasty soup, a caesar wrap, greek chicken pasta, and a rice bowl and finished the week with a snack plate. (Still working on getting all that on the blog and will link you to it when it’s available.)

I never expected a rotisserie chicken rice bowl to be the most engagement I’d ever received on Instagram to date!

I try to incorporate leftover rice in a meal or two per week because when you eat cooked and cooled rice, it contains resistant starch, which feeds the bacteria in your microbiome. And you want nothing more in your gut than to increase and feed that beneficial bacteria for digestion and immunity.

But that dang rice bowl hit with my followers. I fielded responses ranging from celebrations because rice is a favorite food to detailed questions about different types of rice and preparation techniques.

I always knew fear and confusion over food existed, especially about carbs. But black or white thinking prevails these days, so my priority is to show you the “gray” regarding nutrition, health, and wellness.

Fact: All food releases energy as it’s broken down in the body. Including a rice bowl.

What differentiates food is:

  1. How long it takes for the body to break it down.
  2. The type of nutrients your body gets from the food.
  3. How your body gets rid of what it doesn’t use from food.

There are two forms of carbohydrates.

  1. Simple carbs (i.e., sugar and white starchy foods like said rice) are quick to digest and hit with a short burst of energy, signaling a rush for insulin to come and move that energy to your cells. When your cells are full of this energy, insulin moves the excess to your muscles, liver, or fat cells for storage (mainly in the stomach area.)
  2. Complex carbs (i.e., veggies, beans, whole grains, fruit) require more time to break down, so their energy lasts longer. Your body also gets vital nutrients from these carbs. So you’re using more nutrients with less excess or waste. Insulin has the same job, but less is needed, and it can take its time.

Simple carbs are like a blow torch, and complex carbs are a slow, kindling fire.

And simple carbs get a bad rep.

From a gut health perspective, I disagree with the advice to give them up entirely.

I disagree even more with this advice from a mindful eating coach’s perspective.

But because I disagree doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the science.

The gray.

Yes, large and frequent spikes of insulin cause inflammation and put you at risk for insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes.) It can also increase fat storage in your liver and stomach area, linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Sugar in excess can inflammation and cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. All of those things are true.

BUT. Most people don’t have to cut out or count simple carbs for good health. And that includes your beloved white rice.

Because I approach health from a digestive experience, I look to their resistant starch properties when considering foods like rice and potatoes. Resistant starch is just that: resistant to digestion. It survives in your colon, where the microbiome lives and feeds on the starch. Another name for foods that provide your microbiome is prebiotics. Other foods offer the same microbiome feeding benefit (onions, garlic, asparagus, green bananas, roasted root veggies are a few.)

A study in 2015 looked at white rice in particular and compared both the effects on blood sugar and its resistant starch content in freshly cooked rice versus cooked and cooled white rice at both 10 (room temp) and 24 hours (refrigerated and reheated). The results showed that the cooked and cooled rice had more resistant starch (the 24 hours cooled and reheated beat out 10 hours at room temperature), producing a lower glycemic response.

Labeling carbs as “good for you” and “bad for you” is a slippery slope.

It ignores benefits (like above), but it also ignores cultural foods. Rice and beans, Indian dishes, sushi, paella – all contain white rice, something many Americans have been warned against. Cultural meals pair rice, potatoes, corn, yucca, and other simple carbs with complex carbohydrates, proteins, and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices in a way that makes them not only supportive to your health but so damn delicious, too.

It also ignores your body’s natural ability to detoxify when given the proper support through vitamins, minerals, fiber, hydration, and rest.

Is everyone going to fair well eating simple carbs like rice and potatoes? No. Those with Type 1 or 2 diabetes will need to be mindful of how these foods hit their blood sugar. Sometimes hormonal imbalances can be sensitive to these types of foods as well.

But here’s how you can experiment with rice and potatoes and see how they feel to you:

  1. Use them as an accessory to your meal instead of the base of your meal
  2. Cook and cool them for 24 hours before consumption for maximum resistant starch (reheating is ok!)
  3. Eat them with complex carbohydrates like beans for that slow kindling kind of energy
  4. Eat them with protein for maximum energy

There are no superfoods. So although rice will give you some resistant starch, it’s not the end all be all. It’s one tool in the resistant starch box to pull from. Eat it, or don’t eat it! But base your decision on how it feels to you, not a restrictive diet rule.

Let’s start moving away from all or nothing thinking because they’re a whole gray world waiting for you to be curious about.

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Real Life

Stress

Exercise

Food

Gut Health

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Learn more

I'm a nutritional therapy practitioner and mindful eating coach who's mission is to make good health accessible to everyone. I'm a foodie, reader, podcast junkie, family adventurer, and expert chocolate chip cookie baker. 

Hey, I'm Liz.

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