The Rice Diet, first developed in 1939 by Duke University medical researcher Walter Kempner, has been used successfully to treat obesity ever since. The diet was based on Dr. Kempner’s observation that people around the world who consume rice as a main source of food tend to have fewer issues with obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.
The Rice Diet Solution is a book written by Kitty and Robert Rosati. Kitty Rosati, MS, RD, LDN, is a dietitian, and Robert Rosati, MD, is associate professor emeritus at Duke University and director of the Rice Diet Clinic in Durham, N.C. The book adapts the Rice Diet Program, as practiced at Duke University, to a weight-loss plan that you can follow at home.
The Rice Diet: How It Works
The Rice Diet is based on healthy carbohydrates. High-fiber vegetables, fruits, and grains make up the bulk of the diet; on “detox” days you will eat only fruit and grains. The Rice Diet is also low in salt and low in fat.
“You lose weight in the first phase of the Rice Diet because you are limited to about 800 calories per day, which is very low,” says Yvette Quantz, RD, a sports and lifestyle nutritionist at Food Therapy LLC in Lafayette, La. “The American Dietetic Association says that you should be taking in 1,600 calories per day to maintain good nutrition.”
After the detoxification stage, you stay on about 1,000 calories per day until you achieve your desired weight. In the final phase, which is maintenance, calories go up a little more, but the diet continues to be low on calories, fat, and salt and high on fruit, vegetables, and grains.
The Rice Diet: Sample Menu
The Rice Diet menu is divided into starches, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. In this sample menu, a starch serving can be one slice of bread, one-third cup of rice, or one-half cup of pasta. A fruit is one whole fruit or a cup of fruit. One vegetable is one cup uncooked or one-half cup cooked. Dairy is one cup of milk or yogurt or one-half cup of cottage cheese. This sample menu is from the phase of the diet that restricts protein. Later on, fish and lean meats may be added.
- Breakfast: your choice of one serving of starch, non-fat dairy, and fruit
- Lunch: three starches, three vegetables, and one fruit
- Dinner: same as lunch
The Rice Diet: Pros and Cons
A diet that is high in fiber like the Rice Diet does have advantages, says dietitian Bonnie J. Brehm, PhD, professor in the college of nursing at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. “Fiber has many beneficial effects such as lowering blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for intestinal health and regular bowel function. Foods that are high in fiber are bulkier and make you feel full. So when dieting, high-fiber foods can help you lose weight,” says Brehm.
Here are other pros for the Rice Diet:
- A proven plan. The Rice Diet Program is not a fad diet. It has been around for a long time and is based on proven results achieved at Duke University.
- Health benefits. Nutrition experts agree that low-salt, low-fat, and high-fiber principles on which the Rice Diet are based can improve blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
- A complete program. The Rice Diet Program includes exercise and basic education about nutrition that you will need to maintain weight loss.
“On the negative side,” says Quantz, “the Rice Diet may not have enough calories for an active person. You will probably be hungry a lot of the time. Protein in this diet is restricted to 16 to 20 grams, which is not much compared to a typical diet that has 46 to 56 grams of protein. This could lead to muscle loss.”
The Rice Diet: Short-Term and Long-term Effects
“The Rice Diet has some good short-term benefits,” says Quantz. “Reducing salt and processed foods, while getting most of your calories from carbohydrates, can be a good short-term strategy. But in the long term, I don’t think the Rice Diet provides enough calories or protein for most people to sustain.”
The Rice Diet Program is a proven short-term weight-loss program. As with any diet, the long- term benefits will depend on how much you have learned from the diet and how you incorporate it into your own lifestyle.
“To understand why it’s better to eat one food than another, you have to learn a bit about nutrition along the way,” says dietitian Donna Logan, RD, of the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. “You have to do this work yourself. No shortcuts here, but what you will have created is your diet —a diet you like, can afford, and can stick with.”