Carbs are necessary

The amount of carbohydrates one should consume for optimal health is a widely controversial topic. Potatoes and rice can throw your blood sugar out-of-whack and this makes for an interesting debate…

Dr. Rosedale [1] believes there is no such thing as a ‘safe starch’ and that all starchy carbohydrates should be avoided, which of course includes all grains. Dr. Jaminet [1,2], on the other hand, is a little more forgiving of some of the ‘safer starches’, such as potatoes and rice. He believes some people need a small amount of these in their diets.


Most people will need some starchy carbohydrates for optimal health; the optimal amount appears to be about 20 to 30 percent of your total caloric intake, or approximately 200 calories per day for the average person. It shows us, that grains should represent a small part of your diet, regardless of your age. I personally seek to avoid most grains and now for almost two years I eat a grain free diet for my optimal Thyroid Health.

Which should I choose?

Consuming starches, especially potatoes and rice, will raise your blood sugar to some extent, which ultimately means that it will be detrimental to some degree in everybody. The higher the blood sugar rise [3], the more damage is done. When you ‘starve’ your body of sugars and starchy carbs, your body starts to acclimatize itself to burn fatty acids and ketone bodies.

Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy – a beneficial process that appears to promote longevity. So where do I get my carbohydrates? Vegetables and berries. But if you don’t have medical condition and your body can tolerate grains, lets see what healthy alternatives to rice there are.

I am not saying you can never eat rice, but most of the time, try to make a healthier choice and pick something better for you, like quinoa or a non-grain option like cauliflower, celeriac, jicama, parsnips, sweet potato, sago.


rice substitutes_quinoa

Quinoa is a pseudocereal, rather than a true grain. It is use as a grain, taste, texture, versatility and rich fiber content are what qualify it as a suitable high-fiber alternative to rice. Quinoa is high in protein and contains all the essential amino acids, making it a good protein source for vegans. It is also a gluten-free food and a good source of many important nutrients.

A 1-cup serving of cooked quinoa provides 222 calories and 5.2 grams of fiber. Whether it’s mixed with herbs and spices for a simple side dish or served with milk and honey as an alternative to oatmeal, quinoa offers a wide range of nutritious options.


Yields 4 to 6 Source:

•1 cup Quinoa grains (*red quinoa recommended)•2 tbsp. olive oil
•1/2 – 3/4 cup minced onion•1/4 cup finely diced celery•1-2 tsp. minced garlic
•1 lb. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
•1 1/2 cups water or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth•1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
•3 tbsp. minced parsley
•1 tsp. fresh thyme
•1/4 tsp. black pepper

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions, celery, garlic and mushrooms. Saute five minutes until slightly browned. Add quinoa and stir for a minute to coat with oil. Add water or broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer approx. 20-25 minutes until all water has evaporated and quinoa has slightly “puffed”. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

CAULIFLOWER is an easy grain-free, gluten-free and nutrient-dense way to substitute the white rice on your plate. A good source of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin K and fiber, it provides numerous antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and digestive health benefits. To turn your cauliflower into rice, blend with a food processor or blender. Top with your protein and veggies of choice and you’ve got a healthy  ‘cauliflower rice’ that tastes just like the real thing. One of my favourite recipes is ‘Spanish cauliflower rice‘.

Or another one of my favourites – quiche with cauliflower rice crust

Similarly you can use parsnip to make a healthy rice alternative. You are going to fall in love with parsnip rice for so many reasons.  It is flavorful, healthy, nutty, veggie-packed, allergy-friendly and sturdy (not mushy!). It has the texture of rice is absolutely perfect for the autumn and winter seasons and the holidays


rice substitutes_celeriac

Celeriac makes a great alternative to rice and it is a healthy choice, because it is low calorie (42 vs 130 for rice), has way more sodium, potassium, magnesium and fiber; and only 9 grams of carbohydrates vs 28 grams in rice. Celeriac has a very neutral taste, so it makes easier to use in in variety of recipes.  You can even make a celeriac fried rice or I love this celeriac risotto recipe!


rice substitutes_sago

If you are looking for a dessert recipe and you like rice pudding, you may want to consider sago as a substitute for rice. Sago is a starch extracted from the spongy centre, or pith, of various tropical palm stems [4]. Sago is used not for it’s nutritional benefits, but for reasons of allergies to grains like rice and people who live in areas unsuited for other forms of agriculture. Pearl sago closely resembles pearl tapioca so it would be a good pudding alternative to rice pudding.


rice substitutes_jicama

Jicama is naturally sweet and crunchy and is a great substitute for recipes that call for sushi rice. Jicama is tuberous root known as Mexican turnip. Spaniards spread cultivation of jícama from Mexico to the Philippines, from there it went to China and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Jícama is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber [4] which is a healthy resistant starch. It is composed of 86–90% water; it contains only trace amounts of protein and lipids. Its sweet flavour comes from the oligofructose inulin (also called fructo-oligosaccharide) which is a prebiotic.

Jícama is a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. I haven’t made sushi yet, but this recipe looks great, so please let me know if you try this spicy tuna with jicama rice.

Whatever diet choices you make please remember ALWAYS listen to your body as it will give you feedback if what you are doing is right for your unique biochemistry and genetics. Listen to that feedback and adjust your program accordingly.

Would love to hear your thoughts.  Please send them my way.

Connect with WatchFit Expert Dr. Brunhuber. 

[1]  Safe Starches Symposium, November 1, 2011
[2] Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb
[3] PLoS Genetics 2009

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