Carbohydrates are often removed from diets to help support weight loss. Ketogenic diets, low-carb diets, paleo diets and even more specific diets like the no-rice diet, have all had success in helping people lose weight. However, removing carbohydrates like rice, bread and pasta from your diet isn't guaranteed to promote weight loss. In order to definitely lose weight, you'll probably need to modify both your macronutrient consumption and your overall calorie intake.
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Avoiding products like bread, rice and pasta will likely support weight loss. Removing foods like these from your diet eliminates both carbohydrates and medium- to high-glycemic foods from your diet.
Complex Versus Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are an essential part of most people's diets. However, not all carbohydrates are the same. There are two main types of carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are made from whole grains. This means that they are made up of three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm.
Complex carbohydrates include grain-based foods like bulgur, oatmeal, brown rice and products made from whole cornmeal or whole-wheat flour. Complex carbohydrates are generally considered very healthy, as they are rich in a variety of nutrients.
Refined carbohydrates — white rice, white bread and most pastas — are milled, which means that they are only the endosperm of grains. The milling process provides refined grains with a softer texture, but it also removes their vitamins, minerals and fiber. It also tends to give these products a higher glycemic index, which is a value that reflects how quickly a food can increase blood sugar levels. Some grain-based products are then enriched with certain nutrients, but not fiber.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's website, ChooseMyPlate.gov, women should consume between 5 and 6 ounces of grains per day, while men ought to consume between 6 and 8 ounces of grains per day. This is equivalent to about 3 cups of rice or pasta, or 6 slices of bread.
When possible, you should always try to consume whole grain products over refined grain products, so that at least half of the products you eat come from whole grains. If you choose to eliminate foods like rice, bread and pasta from your diet, you might want to consider replacing them with healthy, fiber-rich complex carbohydrates, like bulgur or barley.
Benefits of Not Eating Rice
Many carbohydrates, particularly those that haven't been enriched, could be considered empty calories. This means that if you're trying to lose weight, there are benefits of not eating rice, pasta, bread and other similar products. However such benefits primarily come from avoiding refined carbohydrates. Even strict dietary plans that remove the majority of carbohydrates from a diet still acknowledge the importance of fiber. Diets that remove grain-based foods like bread, rice and pasta include low-carbohydrate diets like the Atkins diet and ketogenic diet.
Regardless of whether you're eating complex or refined rice, bread or pasta, most grain-based foods have fairly high glycemic indexes. According to a July 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming a reduced calorie diet with foods that have lower glycemic indexes can help support weight loss. Such a diet can also help manage glucose and insulin metabolism.
According to the American Diabetes Association, low glycemic foods have an index value of 55 or less, medium glycemic foods have a value of 55 to 69 and high glycemic foods have an index value of 70 or more. Harvard Health Publishing lists the glycemic index values for rice, bread and pasta as:
- White wheat bread = 75 (plus or minus 2)
- Whole wheat bread = 74 (plus or minus 2)
- Specialty grain bread = 53 (plus or minus 2)
- White rice = 73 (plus or minus 4)
- Brown rice = 68 (plus or minus 4)
- Udon noodles = 55 (plus or minus 7)
- Rice noodles = 53 (plus or minus 7)
- White spaghetti = 49 (plus or minus 2)
- Whole wheat spaghetti = 48 (plus or minus 5)
This means that there are additional pros of not eating rice and bread, which have medium-to-high glycemic index values. However, pastas and noodles typically have low-to-medium glycemic indexes.
Carbohydrate Consumption and Healthy Diets
While it's perfectly healthy to stop consuming carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, rice and pasta, you may first want to consider how often you eat these foods and how many calories you obtain from them per day. Making sure that you're consuming a healthy amount of calories is important when dieting. Most people consume about 2,000 calories per day, although this amount may be less when you're trying to lose weight.
However, according to Harvard Health Publishing, women should not consume less than 1,200 calories, and men should not consume less than 1,500 calories on a daily basis. If a large portion of your calories usually comes from grain-based foods like rice, bread and pasta, you may need to replace some of these calories. This is because consuming too few calories can deprive you of important nutrients and even slow your metabolism.
Read more: 16 Diet-Friendly Healthful Carbs
Replacing carbohydrates is surprisingly easy, since most foods contain some amount of carbohydrates. Consider consuming grain-based products with a lower glycemic index. Barley, for instance, has a glycemic index of just 28. Alternatively, other plant-based products can also provide you with nutrient-rich carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates with low glycemic indexes include legumes like chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and soy-based products. These foods have low glycemic index values between 16 and 32.
Vegetables are another type of food that fall into the carbohydrate family. Unlike grain-based foods, vegetables are typically considered healthy, suitable foods for dieters. Vegetables are usually rich in fiber, which is important for the health of your digestive system. According to a June 2014 study in the journal Acta Scientarium Polonorium Technologica Alimentaria, increasing your fiber intake can help to not only support weight loss, but can support your cardiovascular health, preventing conditions like stroke, hypertension and heart disease. Fiber can also help to prevent a variety of gastrointestinal issues, like gastroesophageal reflux disease, diverticulitis and cancer.
- Acta Scientarium Polonorium Technologica Alimentaria: "Health Effects of Dietary Fiber"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Fiber"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Glycemic Index for 60+ Foods: Measuring Carbohydrate Effects Can Help Glucose Management"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- American Diabetes Association: "Glycemic Index and Diabetes"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Effect of the Glycemic Index of the Diet on Weight Loss, Modulation of Satiety, Inflammation, and Other Metabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada: "Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss"
- Atkins: "Compare Low Carb Diet Plans: Atkins 20®, Atkins 40® & Atkins 100™"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "All About the Grains Group"