Bread, the so-called staff of life, is a staple and comfort food in much of the world, especially in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. The one exception is East Asia, where rice has traditionally been the staple cereal grain.
Unlike Western countries, East Asia has remained relatively immune to the obesity epidemic even as their countries have developed into economic power houses with the normal first world problems. Likewise, their lifespans trend higher than those in the West when they have similar levels of medical care, as in Japan and South Korea.
One of the reasons for this disparity may be their diet—in particular, the Asian habit of rice consumption over wheat. The China Study—the biggest epidemiological study ever performed, offers strong evidence that rice is a safe, healthy grain while wheat is not, showing that “the correlation coefficient of rice with heart disease deaths is -58%, almost the opposite of the +67% for wheat.”
There is also the fact that wheat eaters tend to be obese more than rice eaters, even when they ate fewer calories, illustrating that the toxins in wheat, rather than the calories, are leading to inflammatory weight gain: “Wheat eaters are ‘fatter with fewer calories.’ In both China Study I and II, wheat is the strongest positive predictor of body weight (r = 0.65, p<0.001) out of any diet variable.”
The data across the world bears this out, with big wheat consuming countries like the U.S.A and U.K. having high levels of obesity, while South Korea and Japan having very low levels.
Certain diet movements today, such as Paleo and Keto, call for the removal of all grains from the diet, and many people experience success going down this route. However, a much more moderate suggestion is to try switching from a wheat-based diet to a rice-based diet (with potatoes thrown in as well).
It can be very difficult for Westerners to ponder a life without bread, pasta, and wheat-based breakfast cereal. We grow up eating these foods, and they form the basis of our diet. Wheat’s pliability due to gluten is what makes it so useful in creating products that are portable or easy to prepare, such as cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. But as the gluten-free movement knows, the inflammatory proteins in wheat—especially gluten—are the reason why we need to avoid them for health.
When you cook with rice, you still have a ton of great recipes to choose from, both from the West and the East—risotto, fried rice, paella, rice bowls, sushi, jambalaya. These are delicious dishes that don’t break the bank either. If you are experiencing health issues related to chronic inflammation and obesity, or you just want to optimize your health, try switching out the bread for a bowl of rice.