How to cook rice and potatoes for optimal digestion. Preparing rice (and other grains), potatoes, legumes, nuts and seeds properly unlocks the nutrients and ensures they aid rather than hinder digestion.
There continues to be debate in the health community as to whether or not rice and potatoes are considered “healthy.” Are they pro-inflammatory and raise blood sugar? Do they irritate the gut lining? Are they too full of “empty” carbs?
The paleo community has long debated whether or not either or both are permissible, because while both have been a part of the human diet for over 3,500 years, both contain lectins, which can cause gastrointestinal issues or autoimmune flairs when they aren’t properly prepared.
I wrote an article titled Is Rice Paleo?, where I go into detail about the downsides of various types of rice (white, brown, wild, forbidden, etc), versus the potential health benefits. Check out the article if you want a deep dive into rice and why it could both be considered potentially harmful or healthful.
The heated debate on rice and potatoes goes back to lectins (which are bad) and resistant starch (which is good). Fortunately, the way we prepare rice and potatoes can largely destroy active lectins and also make the resistant starch easier to digest, improving gut health and promoting regular bowel movements.
First, let’s discuss lectins and resistant starch.
What are Lectins?:
Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrate and serve as anti-nutrients. The purpose of lectins is to protect the plant from digestion so that if an animal were to eat it, the plant can survive the digestive process and still germinate after defecation.
Lectins are found in grains, potatoes, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
When consumed raw or undercooked, lectins in their active state can cause interfere with the absorption of minerals, especially calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin found in undercooked kidney beans, cause red blood cells to clump together. It can also produce nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, bloating and gas.
Lectins can bind to cells lining the GI tract, which may disrupt the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. It can also affect the growth of intestinal flora. Because lectin proteins bind to cells for long periods of time, they can potentially cause an autoimmune response and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
The good news is, boiling lectin-containing foods deactivates the lectins, thereby removing the anti-nutrient property from them. The kicker is, they must be properly boiled or cooked, lest some of the lectins remain.
What is Resistant Starch?
Resistant starch plays an important role in digestion. Resistant starch is called such because it is resistant to digestion. It moves along your digestive system and arrives in your colon intact.
Resistant starch may help prevent colon cancer (due to its ability to bind food together to help it move through your body), improves your insulin resistance, makes you feel full and helps you sleep at night. We need both digestible and indigestible foods in order to keep our bowel movements regular and well-formed.
Now that we’ve covered the cons (lectins) and the pros (resistant starch and easy-to-digest carbohydrate), let’s discuss how to cook rice and potatoes for optimal digestion.
Ground Beef Skillet with vegetables, rice stewed with a coconut milk basil sauce is a quick and easy one-pot meal! This skillet is super flavorful, healthful, and filling. An easy dinner or side dish recipe with tons of unique flair.
Homemade rice pilaf is easy to prepare and pairs well with just about any entrée! This post includes instructions on how to make rice pilaf on the stove top as well as in the Instant Pot.
Crispy salmon with basil coconut milk sauce is a fresh, easy, and clean dinner! Serve it up with your favorite side dishes for a well-balanced meal!
Easy Indian Chicken Biryani made in just one skillet. This delicious flavorful meal is perfect for a lovely evening in and is awesome as a meal prep recipe.
Have you ever tried Biryani?
Biryani is a classic Indian dish, which includes aromatic basmati rice studded with raisins, pine nuts, and/or almonds. It typically includes some form of animal protein, such as lamb, chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp.
When I go out for Indian food, I always order a biryani dish – it’s always so difficult to decide between the lamb, chicken or shrimp for me!
While it may seem like a complex dish, making chicken biryani at home is a cinch! It requires a long list of ingredients, most of which are spices, but don’t let that fool you. There is nothing complicated about preparing the meal, and all you need is one large skillet.
In fact, I posted a One-Pot Chicken Biryani recipe years ago, but have since modified it to be even easier wth fewer ingredients.
The dish is often served with a yogurt raita sauce, which I absolutely adore! I don’t often make raita myself, because it contains dairy and I typically limit my intake to certain types of dairy. BUT just know you can absolutely whip some up for your own adventure.
The end result is a flavorful rice dish with a nice protein infusion, which you can either treat as a main dish or a side dish. It makes for a lovely evening in for those times you’re craving takeout.
Let’s make Chicken Biryani!
One-skillet ground turkey Thai yellow curry with rice. This quick and easy one-pot recipe makes a complete meal of lean protein and aromatic coconut milk sauce with vegetables.
Teriyaki Vegetable Stir Fry with Rice is a clean, healthy side dish perfect for serving alonside your favorite entrees. This recipe comes together quickly and tastes amazing!
If you’re struggling to keep mealtimes interesting, I gotchu! I have found the key to maintaining a “healthy” diet AND not getting bored with food is in simply changing up the flavors. Recently, I’ve been on a teriyaki kick. The salty-tangy-sweet-umami flavors really hit your palate in all the right ways!
I make my homemade Paleo Teriayki Sauce (or use this store-bought brand <- not sponsored) and use it as a marinade for meat, or for stir frying vegetables. Let’s face it..sometimes I douse rice with it and call it a day.
This Teriyaki Vegetable Stir Fry with Rice recipe is an excellent clean side dish for serving alongside your favorite main entrees. Pro Tip: if you’re a lover of bowl food like me, whip up this recipe and use it as your base for your bowls!
Orange Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry is a quick and easy healthy dinner recipe, perfect for throwing together any night of the week. This clean recipe is sure to please the whole family!
Stir fry is one of those dishes I can make over and over without tiring of it. With limitless options for vegetable, meat, and sauce combinations, you can never repeat the same stir fry. Or do as I do, and put the same few on repeat over and over, because: obsessive personality.
This Orange Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry is easy to throw together any night of the week for a quick and healthful meal.
Let’s get started!
This dairy-free Rosemary Creamy Chicken Soup with Rice is a zesty, comforting one-pot meal that only takes an hour to make!
Crispy Paprika Salmon Bowls with Ginger Vegetables and Rice are one of the meals I make multiple times per week. They’re well-balanced, quick and easy to prepare, and hit the spot no matter the season!
A deep dive into whether or not rice is considered to be okay for consumption on the paleo diet.
I wanted to take a moment to address a topic that can generate some confusion in the paleo community: rice. Is it paleo? If it isn’t paleo, is it still okay to eat? Is white rice okay? Should I stay away from brown rice? Will rice raise my blood sugar or mess with my gut health?
All great questions.
The answer to all of the above is: It depends on who you are.
Technically, all grains are off the table when it comes to paleo, particularly gluten-containing grains. Rice is, indeed, a grain, though it contains no gluten. Depending on the person, it can be processed easily without issue.
Some paleo purists say no grains, no way, no how. Period, end.
Some paleo folks say white rice is okay because it provides straight glucose for your body, (which your body needs for fuel provided you aren’t keto); however, you should stay away from brown rice because the whole grain contains phytates, lectins, and arsenic which can cause digestive unrest.
…And some folks say, HEY, any form of rice is okay. We’ve been cultivating it for over 3,500 years (SOURCE), which means our ancestors ate it, and the paleo diet is all about ancestral eating, right? If rice has been a major part of our diet for thousands of years, our systems have adapted to consume it. But does that mean we should still eat it? And if so, who is best suited for rice consumption?
I want to point to an article Mark Sisson wrote way back in 2010 stating that, “Rice is a grain, yes, but it’s not the same as wheat, barley, oats, or corn. Avoiding grains as a general rule is good for your health, and that goes for rice, but be realistic. A bit of white rice with a restaurant meal is not going to kill you (SOURCE).”