Putting Rice on the Radar for RDs

Judging from the rapt attention paid to carbohydrate maven Joanne Slavin, PhD, RD, speaking to weight management nutritionists at this year’s American Dietetic Association(ADA) Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in San Diego in late September, many RDs simply do not think of including rice in their patient diet plans. While whole grain brown rice is generally given a pass, there are misconceptions about the nutritional benefits of enriched, fortified white rice.

In fact, according to Slavin, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, and a leading national expert on the role of carbohydrates in human health, “Whole grain brown and enriched, fortified white rice provide nutritional value as part of a calorie-controlled diet.”  She ought to know.  She served as chair of the Carbohydrates Subcommittee of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) Scientific Advisory Committee.  Her remarks to this influential group of RDs focused on emerging research showing that some carbohydrate-rich foods may enhance satiety and have other effects to help individuals lose and maintain a healthy weight.

To further support rice’s role in weight management, Slavin shared recent research showing that reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss, regardless of which macronutrients are consumed.  She also pointed to research showing carbohydrate intake is associated with lower Body Mass Index (BMI).  She explained, “As 45-65% of calories should come from carbohydrates it’s important for nutrition professionals and consumers to understand that rice is a good grain choice for achieving recommended carbohydrate levels, as it promotes satiety.”

USA Rice Federation, which sponsored Slavin’s presentation, is encouraged about her current research to determine the effects of brown and white rice on satiety.  This human clinical trial is being funded by the Rice Foundation with results expected this year. “Emerging grains research suggests that carbohydrates may contain elements that aid satiety and the effect of undigested carbohydrate in the colon may hold important links to body weight,” Slavin explained.

Judging from the buzz during this session, attended by 25 influential Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group professionals, Slavin educated the group on the good nutrition profile of rice, and its role in the new USDA MyPlate recommendations, which for the first time address obesity.  The group learned that rice is low in calories, contains no saturated fat or sugars and combines well with other healthy foods, including fruits, veggies, lean proteins and beans and legumes.

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