White Rice Good or Bad?

by Barbara. M
(Auckland)

Hi, is white rice bad for you and if so why do Asians eat it almost every day?


Matthew's reply: Hi Barbara, white rice is quite stodgy and can clog up your digestive system and bowels, so eating too much (say, every day) is probably not a good idea for Western people.

While here in Southern China it's THE staple food (in the North it's noodles), people tend to eat a lot of vegetables (especially leafy greens) with their meals and this helps to sweep the rice through the digestive system. So, if you like white rice, make sure you eat plenty of bulky, fibrous vegetables too.

In China white rice is also commonly used to make a rice porridge (Zhou or Jook in Chinese), which is usually eaten for breakfast. Zhou is simple to make - the rice is boiled in water for several hours until a soft, creamy porridge remains.

Often other ingredients are added, such as thin strips of meat, vegetables, peanuts or medicinal herbs. Chinese people also often eat zhou when they are sick as it is highly nutritious and very easy to digest.

Barbara: I'm sorry, I did not ask question correctly. I know that experts recommend brown rice to white rice. I want to know if rising the white rice until it's clear will remove the starch that makes white rice bad for you.

Matthew's reply: Hi again, I'm not sure if rinsing will remove the starch from white rice. I usually eat white rice in the form of congee. Congee is basically a rice porridge or gruel that is made by using a lot more water than if you are cooking rice normally. Congee is slow cooked for a longer time too so that the rice breaks up and mixes with the water.

When you make congee then let it sit to cool, a thickish, sticky layer forms on top and this, I believe, is starch, which I scoop off and throw away. I have also heard that the long, slow cooking of rice to make congee dissolves the starch. I also make brown rice congee too, but this takes longer to cook.

The reason I eat congee most days (for breakfast and if ill) is that it is very nourishing and soothing, as stated in traditional Chinese medicine. Matthew

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White Rice, Obesity, Exercise

by Dilip
(Chennai, TamilNadu, India)

Hello Matthew,

Greetings. I am an Indian who grew up in North India over a basic wheat diet and was slim and nimble because of it. I have been settled in South India for over 10 years now and here the diet involves more of white rice, which even though I have limited quantities, I think has precipitated weight gain and a "visible tummy." Can you suggest exercises/diet to help reduce weight and make me more fit.

Thanks.

Matthew's reply: Hi Dilip, yes white rice can be a bit stodgy when eaten in excess. I mostly eat it as a congee - a thin, watery porridge that has been cooked for a long time and is very healthy.

As far as exercise goes, you need to find something that is enjoyable and that will get you huffing and puffing so as to burn off excess fat overall. Here in China I do 50-meter hill sprints for about 15 minutes, 3 times a week at a local park. Sprint up, walk down and repeat maybe 8 or 10 times. This type of exercise really gets you huffing and puffing and is enough to burn off excess fat - no need to run marathons or do hours of cardio exercise every day.

If you have any hills nearby I suggest you do a bit of online research into how to do hill sprints. If you live in a flat area you'll obviously need to find another way, such as running up steps in a building, or skipping or using an exercise bike, etc. There are many ways - find one(s) you enjoy or you'll quickly lose interest.

In addition to exercise for burning fat overall, you should do some specific exercises to firm and tone your waist. For this I have a waist exercises program on video.

All the best,

Matthew

Reader's comment:

Rice, it really depends on how you use it. The quantity also may play a role. Although brown rice may be more advantageous to our health, white rice requires less cooking time. Many cultures rely on white rice as their main dish.

If you use white rice with an abundant amount of fiber such as veggies, you should be able to digest it quite easily. The idea is to not let it sit there in our tummy. A handful white rice on a tomato, carrots and celery soup can make a great meal that's easy to digest. White rice is also known, in some cultures to absorb acid from the digestive system.

In the end, it's the quantity that matters. If we consume everything in moderation then we should be okay.

Matthew's reply: I agree, moderation is key, and what's okay for one person may not be for another. Any food or drink when consumed excessively can cause an imbalance. The thing with the traditional Chinese way of health is that it recognizes that everyone is unique and has their own dietary needs, depending on such things as the current state of their health, their age, whether they live in a hot or cold or humid climate, etc, etc. A visit to a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can let you know what types of foods and drinks best meet your needs. Matthew

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