The Shocking Truth About White Rice (And How to Make It Healthy Again)

Views 24951

Discover the shocking truth about this pantry staple and the simple hacks that can transform it into a nutritional powerhouse. From resistant starch to coconut oil, we've got the science-backed tips you need to redeem your rice and reclaim your health.

White rice, a staple food for more than half the world's population, has a complicated history. On one hand, it's a readily available, inexpensive source of calories that has fueled nations for centuries. On the other hand, the very processing that makes white rice appealing to the palette and easy to bolt down without chewing, also strips away vital nutrients, leading to hidden dangers that have plagued populations, from ancient Japan to modern times. But fear not, intrepid rice lovers! We've uncovered two powerful hacks that can transform this dietary villain into a nutritional hero. 

The Perils of Polishing: Beriberi and Beyond

To understand the dangers of white rice, we must travel back to 19th century Japan, where a mysterious illness called beriberi was crippling the nation. From the shogun to the sailor, this condition spared no one, causing symptoms ranging from paralysis and heart failure to death.1 The culprit? The very rice that was a symbol of wealth and power (in Asia today, eating brown rice is still considered 'low brow' relative to white rice, in many communities in Korea and Japan). 

You see, white rice is produced by removing the bran and germ of the rice grain, leaving only the starchy endosperm. While this process extends shelf life and provides a quicker cooking time, it also removes critical nutrients, most notably thiamine (vitamin B1). Thiamine deficiency is the leading cause of beriberi.2

But beriberi is just the tip of the rice-berg. Refined carbohydrates like white rice have been linked to a host of modern health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.3 It's a far cry from the wholesome, nourishing staple we've been led to believe.

Hack #1: The Resistant Starch Revolution

Ready for some good news? What if we told you that a simple change in cooking method could transform white rice from a blood sugar spiker to a gut health superhero? Enter resistant starch.

Resistant starch is a type of starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine, feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut. This not only improves digestive health but also increases feelings of fullness, reduces inflammation, and improves insulin sensitivity.4

Here's the hack: cook your rice with a teaspoon of coconut oil, then cool it for 12 hours before reheating. This simple process can increase the resistant starch content of rice by up to 10 times!5 The coconut oil interacts with the starch molecules, making them more resistant to digestion, while the cooling process further crystallizes the starch. The result is a healthier, more satisfying rice that won't send your blood sugar on a roller coaster.

Hack #2: The Coconut Oil Upgrade

But the benefits of coconut oil don't stop at resistant starch. This tropical superfood is packed with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of healthy fat that is quickly absorbed and used for energy rather than stored as body fat.6

Adding just a tablespoon of coconut oil to your rice can not only boost the resistant starch content but also provide a steady stream of energy, support weight management, and even improve brain function.7 It's a simple addition that can have a profound impact on the nutritional value of your meal.

The White Rice Redemption: Restoring What's Lost

While these hacks can significantly improve the nutritional profile of white rice, it's important to remember that the refining process still strips away many vital nutrients. To truly redeem your rice, consider adding back some of what's been lost.

When enjoying white rice, be sure to include good sources of whole food B vitamins in your diet. A pinch of nutritional yeast, for example, can provide a boost of thiamine and other essential B vitamins.8 Pairing your rice with fiber-rich vegetables and legumes can also help slow digestion and improve gut health.

And don't forget about those healthy oils that naturally occur in rice bran and germ! Drizzling your rice with heart-healthy olive oil or omega-3-rich fish oil can help restore some of the beneficial fats that are lost in the refining process.9

The Bottom Line

White rice doesn't have to be a nutritional villain. By employing these simple hacks and being mindful of what's been lost in the refining process, you can transform this staple into a nourishing, satisfying part of a balanced diet. So go ahead, enjoy your rice - but do so with a newfound appreciation for the power of preparation and the importance of whole food nutrition.

Happy hacking!


1. Bay, A. R. (2017). Beriberi in modern Japan: The making of a national disease. University of Rochester Press.

2. Lonsdale, D. (2018). Thiamine deficiency disease, dysautonomia, and high calorie malnutrition. Academic Press.

3. Sun, Q., Spiegelman, D., van Dam, R. M., Holmes, M. D., Malik, V. S., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 170(11), 961-969.

4. Birt, D. F., Boylston, T., Hendrich, S., Jane, J. L., Hollis, J., Li, L., McClelland, J., Moore, S., Phillips, G. J., Rowling, M., Schalinske, K., Scott, M. P., & Whitley, E. M. (2013). Resistant starch: promise for improving human health. Advances in Nutrition, 4(6), 587-601.

5. Panlasigui, L. N., & Thompson, L. U. (2006). Blood glucose lowering effects of brown rice in normal and diabetic subjects. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 57(3-4), 151-158.

6. Nagao, K., & Yanagita, T. (2010). Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological Research, 61(3), 208-212.

7. Fernando, W. M., Martins, I. J., Goozee, K. G., Brennan, C. S., Jayasena, V., & Martins, R. N. (2015). The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease: potential mechanisms of action. The British Journal of Nutrition, 114(1), 1-14.

8. Lonsdale, D. (2006). A review of the biochemistry, metabolism and clinical benefits of thiamin(e) and its derivatives. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 3(1), 49-59.

9. Friedman, M. (2016). Rice brans, rice bran oils, and rice hulls: composition, food and industrial uses, and bioactivities in humans, animals, and cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 64(45), 8545-8557.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

© Copyright 2008-2024, Journal Articles copyright of original owners, MeSH copyright NLM.