The rice diet is a calorie, protein, and salt restricted diet designed to promote weight loss as well as to prevent or reverse disease. Walter Kempner, a Duke University physician, is credited with developing this diet plan in 1929 while he was treating a patient for high blood pressure and kidney disease. In fact, the rice diet was originally intended to address these conditions specifically. However, many patients who undergo supervised monitoring at the North Carolina outpatient clinic known as the Rice House, also report experiencing lower cholesterol levels, improved glucose metabolism, and reduced severity and frequency of migraines and pain associated with fibromyalgia.
While the name implies that the dieter can look forward to a plate of rice at every meal, this isn’t actually the case. In fact, a variety of foods are encouraged, including fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Moderate amounts of poultry and lean meats are also permitted, as well as nondairy products. Unlike some other popular weight loss diets, the rice diet doesn’t consider carbohydrates to be taboo as long as they’re from whole grains, vegetables, and legumes. However, daily protein intake is limited to a maximum of 20 grams per day, well below the usual recommended daily amount of 46-56 grams per day.
The most severe restriction that comes with the rice diet is sodium intake. Proponents of the diet plan contend that adding salt to foods promotes water retention and stimulates the appetite, which may encourage the dieter to go off track. To deter either from happening, daily sodium intake on the diet is limited to 50 milligrams. Most people, especially Americans, typically consume up to 10 times that amount of sodium each day from processed foods.
As previously mentioned, the rice diet also limits calorie intake. During the initial detoxification phase of the plan, only 800 calories per day is permitted, which typically triggers rapid weight loss right away. Over the course of a few weeks, the patient enters the weight management phase of the plan and calorie intake increases to 1,200 per day. While this limited caloric intake may sustain weight loss, some experts have expressed concerns over the potential risk of setting up a “yo-yo” pattern from the body lowering its metabolism rate in response to the belief that it is in starvation mode. In addition, this caloric restriction is not generally recommended for certain individuals, such as pregnant or lactating women, or those with a metabolic disorder, such as diabetes.