Are you starving for starches on a Paleo Diet? I’ll talk here about starchy carbs, non starchy carbs, tubers and Arsenic in rice.
There’s buzz lately in the Ancestral Food world about adding back some gluten free starches such as WHITE rice and potato. Why? Two reasons that I see…. Well, maybe three. OK, four!
First is that many of us still ARE eating starchy foods such as grains, beans and potatoes, so why not look at the best choices health and nutrition-wise?
Second is that some non-digestible fiber may be needed in our modern (unhealthy) gut to feed the good bugs that protect us from colon cancer, manage insulin sensitivity and weight gain, and contribute to whole body health. In a purely primitive diet, starches may not be needed at all (Eskimo), or they may play a key role in the diet, depending on an area’s climate and terrain. Tubers, in particular, show up in more than one primitive culture that Dr. Weston A. Price visited. But it may be that tuber-eating was a last-choice option if game reserves were diminished.
Third, it’s difficult for some of us Paleo people to get enough calories with just proteins, veggies, fats and a little fruit. While some feel we can live on fat for 60% or more of our calories, I don’t agree. It’s not our normal evolutionary food, right?
Coconuts, yes. A cup of coconut oil, no. Duck, yes. Pure duck fat, no.
Plus, for me (skinny, fast metabolizer), and for heavy exercisers, some extra calories would be welcome. Carb calories are the hardest to get on a correct Paleo Diet. I eat about 6 cups of cooked vegetables a day but it still only gives me about 40 grams of carbs. I think my health would be better at 90 grams per day. So, I’m trying a little white rice and potato to see how I do. (See below on white rice vs. brown).
Starches on a Paleo Diet
What’s wrong with starches? As a short answer to a big question, it’s the heavy calorie burst found in bread, rice, tubers and beans that contribute to weight gain and blood sugar crashes, as well as gut-damaging problems with the Phytic Acid and Lectins that ALL seeds have. (Yes, grains and beans are seeds). It’s part of their defense mechanism to keep from being eaten (they might taste badly to a bird), or if eaten, they won’t digest and will end up as a new plant farther down the road.
But Phytic Acid binds up minerals, robbing us of key nutrients and affecting our cellular energy pathways. So we MUST reduce it in our food. Here is an excellent article from the Weston Price Foundation on Phytic Acid in various foods. Notice in Figure 2 that BROWN RICE is by far the worse offender. This is why plain, milled, white rice is recommended (not basmati which is a whole grain) if you want extra calories. But beware! White rice has almost zero nutritional value other than calories! DO NOT OVEREAT rice and for sure, if you struggle with Herpes or Shingles, rice is not an option as I write about in this article.
This article from Kitchen Stewardship shows the best way to reduce bad stuff in brown or basmati rice. It goes a step beyond the traditional Weston Price method of long-soaking. If you want brown rice, this is the way to do it. Or try it on other grains and see if they’re more digestible (less gas, bloating, stool change, etc.)
Arsenic in Rice
Rice grows in water and soaks up Arsenic found in that ground water contaminated from mining and pesticides. Rice has a particular affinity for Arsenic and uptakes it readily. This article from the Healthy Home Economist explains and tells us how to remove some of the Arsenic from rice before cooking.
Most of the Arsenic is stored in the bran – the heart of the rice. White rice that has been milled (think Uncle Ben’s) has had the bran removed. White Basmati is a type of rice that happens to be white. It contains the same amounts of Arsenic as brown and red rice.
Unfortunately Uncle Ben’s does not come organically, so basically that leaves strategic soaking and other methods in the Health Home Economist’s or Kitchen Stewardship’s article if you want to prepare rice at home.
Rice for Babies??
Cooked rice in packaged foods for adults and babies has unacceptable levels of Arsenic.
Tubers on a Paleo/Ancestral Diet
I ask my clients to include modest amounts of potato or yam. I think women need a bit more carbohydrate than men, another reason I don’t like KETO for women, or Intermittent Fasting for women. A few slices of tuber is a serving – not the whole tuber… I eat plenty of winter squash too but it is not very high in carbs or prebiotic fiber.
Resistant Starch from Potato
Potato that has been cooked, cooled and THEN eaten is quite high in Resistant Starch, a uniquely useful food for your Probiotics. You can eat “leftover” potato cold or reheat it and it will have that Resistant Starch.
Are Beans OK on Paleo?
The Lectins in beans are damaging to the gut wall. Pretty much every author of Paleo recipes excludes them 100%.
If you do eat beans, you MUST soak them for 24 hours, rinse well, and cook at length to reduce harmful lectins and improve digestibility. Canners and restaurants don’t do this. A few tablespoons a day may be OK (if you don’t get gas from them, indicating they are not digesting well) and they supply the mineral Molybdenum needed to process certain pesticides, enzymes and food additives.