In my post with the recipe for Celeriac Rounds I listed the foods upon which my family relies to make sure we don’t inadvertently go low carb. As I mentioned in that post, a common Paleo/Primal pitfall is to skimp on the carbs unintentionally. One commenter asked that I walk you all through my decision to serve my family white rice, which is a grain. I decided to make my reply into a full-blown post.
Before we get started on the rice issue, though, this might be a good time to bring those of you who are not steeped in Paleo- and Primal-speak into the loop on the “carb controversy.”
There are three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbs. We need to consume all three of them. The devil, however, resides in the details, and various experts put forth different ideas on what percentage of each people should be eating.
At least one expert, Dr. David Perlmutter who is the author of Grain Brain, argues that humans don’t need any carbohydrates at all and says, “While we definitely require protein and fat, the human requirement for dietary carbohydrate is none, none whatsoever.”
But let’s put Dr. Perlmutter on the extreme “no carb” side of the conversation. Working along the spectrum, you can find experts who tinker with ketosis personally and for their clients. You can find advocates of very low carb, low carb, carb cycling, carb backloading and oodles of commentary on when it’s best to consume carbs when one is an athlete. Or when one is a shift worker. Or when one is trying to lose weight.
The questions to the experts are endless. The debates have been heated. And with the exception of the Perlmutter quote, because it’s one you may need to see to believe, I am not hyperlinking to any of these because there is so much out there it would take me a week to write this post. (I mean, seriously, just Google “carb controversy Paleo” and then spend the rest of your day with your bum at the computer. Or go for a walk instead.)
Me? I don’t get too worked up about all of this. I believe, contrary to Perlmutter’s contention, that we need to consume all three macronutrients*. And, my goal is to get as many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals and the like) as possible per calorie while I am eating those macronutrients. I also want to be satiated and not be a slave to erratic blood sugar.
So back to that Celeriac Rounds post. In it, I mentioned that I feed my kids white rice. I eat it too, maybe once a week. Usually with raw fish on board. It’s one tool in my starchy carb arsenal.
I reintroduced white rice into our diet when I was about six months pregnant with Little A. I was actually, at the time, working with Chris Kresser on some of my skin concerns and one of the issues that he pointed to in my review with him was that my diet seemed to be accidentally low carb. Given that I was pregnant, that was a concern for him.
“I have to tell you, Chris, I have a hard time figuring out what starchy carbs to eat besides sweet potatoes and winter squash,” I said.
“You can have plantain, taro, yucca, and even white rice if you’re okay with it,” he offered.
If you’re familiar with Chris’s work at all, you know he advocates an initial elimination diet then a gradual reintroduction of foods that may be problematic for some but may be just fine for others. He refers to it as a “Paleo template” and you can read a nice summary of the idea here.
At his suggestion, I brought white rice back into our dining lineup. We didn’t seem to have any ill-effects from either the starch or the rice protein, so we’ve kept it in our rotation.
That’s actually the end of the story. But it gets to a larger issue, and one that I think is key. As I have said before, I don’t believe that there is a universal, one-size-fits-all “healthy” diet. (You may have noticed I generally refrain from referring to any food as “healthy” on this blog.) But, I do believe that there is a tried-and-true path that can benefit most, if not all humans. You see, there are plenty of “non-foods” people consume that are unhealthy for everyone all the time. I think that the truest path to wellness resides in first eliminating the unhealthy non-foods from one’s diet, then eliminating foods that are known to cause inflammation in the body. Giving that effort a little time will reveal much to a person about his or her baseline – it’s like clearing the noise. From there, a more nuanced effort can begin where one tinkers with the macros, reintroduces foods to test tolerance, and adds in superfoods to really amp up the nourishment.
I had been completely grain free for about nine months when I added the rice back into rotation. I don’t know if I will want it or need it once I stop breastfeeding and my calorie demands are lower. But for now, it’s working so we’ll stick with it.
Thanks to the reader, K, who posed this question! And, I’m happy to walk you guys through my thinking on any other issues we’ve discussed before. Feel free to email at krexploringwellness at gmail dot com.
* I wanted to qualify this a bit. While (a la Dr. Perlmutter) it may be biologically possible to live on fat and protein alone, I don’t believe that, for most people, it is optimal. Why? I think our gut bacteria need to feed on carbs and from what I have read, our hormonal health is affected by a lack of them. There is room for debate, of course, but I am not convinced from what I have read that avoiding carbohydrates is necessary for human health. Want to read more? Read up on firmicutes and carbs. But know that we are just beginning to explore gut flora, so there remains much to be known there.