While it’s tough to find much agreement on what foods are good for us and what foods aren’t, I feel most confident when it comes to refined carbohydrates.
When I eat them, I gain weight. Both Dr. Atkins, who favored a nearly exclusively animal-products-based diet, and Dr. Ornish, who favors a nearly exclusively non-animal-products diet, agreed that refined carbohydrates are terrible for you and will make you gain weight (and lead to diabetes, if not heart disease and certain cancers).
And yet refined carbohydrates remain out and about in full force in our society. They’re present in pizza (the crust and the tomato sauce), hamburgers (the bun), hot dogs (the bun), beverages ranging from soda to sports drinks to energy drinks to many people’s coffee drinks, the bread that’s served at restaurants and the bread on nearly any sandwich. They’re also in nearly every pasta dish you may find at a deli, cafeteria or restaurant, and many sauces and dressings found on salads, meats and veggies.
And when people talk to me about how they can stay (or get) slender, they often doubt me when I say to strip refined carbohydrates. But maybe the biggest doubts I receive are about one of the most common of these refined carbohydrates: white rice. But white rice is prepared the same way white bread and white pasta are: the nutrients and fiber are stripped away, and you’re left with nearly empty calories.
Now we have some new hard evidence that white rice is harmful. A study conducted in China, Japan, the U.S. and Australia found that eating white rice increases the risk of diabetes; and that eating additional servings of white rice each day correspondingly increases that risk.
This effect was found in all four countries. When white rice enters our system, it gets broken down very quickly. This is because it’s already been stripped of its fiber and other nutrients. There’s little left for our body to do. And so what’s left of rice in its white form hits our system all at once and causes an insulin spike out of proportion to what whole grain rice would cause. If we do this over and over, it tends to cause insulin resistance, whereby our muscle and tissue cells don’t take up as much energy in response to a surge of insulin. Where this energy goes instead is to our fat cells, which tend not to develop insulin resistance. And so we gain weight on the one hand and see diabetic type malfunctions in the insulin system on the other.
Not a good combination. So lay off the white rice.