Rice Diet: How Does It Work?

The rice diet is a diet that involves the almost exclusive (or in any case prevalent) consumption of this cereal. Currently known as a “trendy” slimming
scheme , the first rice diet was invented in the middle of the last century as a food therapy against certain metabolic disorders . Before proceeding with the description it is therefore necessary to make a fundamental distinction between the two types of diet:

  • Rice diet to purifyand / or lose weight quickly .
  • Rice diet for clinical nutrition.

To lose weight quickly

Food and Strategy

Tratto da “The Rice Diet Solution: The World-Famous Low-Sodium, Good-Carb, Detox Diet for Quick and Lasting Weight Loss”.


The rice diet for weight loss and purification consists mainly, but not exclusively, of the whole seeds of the herbaceous plant Oryza sativa .
The most used types of rice are: black rice , basmati rice, red rice, any brown rice and wild rice (instead belonging to the genus Zizania ).
Other foods allowed are: fresh fruit , vegetables, other whole grains or pseudocereals (better WITHOUT gluten such as quinoa , millet , etc.), legumesNOT in a jar (fresh or dried) and few protein foods , such as very low- fat cheeses , fish and chicken breast . The following are to be excluded: salt , seasoning oils , butter , margarines , fatty foods, alcohol , etc.
The rice diet for weight loss and purification “should” allow a weight loss of 20-30 kg per month.
The program is divided into two or three phases, respectively characterized by an increasing caloric intake ; for example: 800, 1,200 and 2,000 kcal per day.
Below we will report the menu of Phase 1, which can also be reused in the next two phases by increasing the portions and inserting protein foods based on lean meat and fish .

Phase 1

  • First day: basic rice diet.
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner: 2 servings of starchy foods (e.g. rice) and 2 servings of fruit.
  • Second day (extended for another 5): vegetarian lacto-rice diet.
    • Breakfast: 1 serving of starchy foods, 1 serving of lean protein foods (e.g. cottage cheese), 1 serving of fruit.
    • Lunch and dinner: 3 portions of starchy foods, 3 of vegetables, 1 of fruit.

Basic rules for serving :

  • 1 serving of starchy foods = 1 slice of bread, 1/3 cup of cooked rice or beans , or 1/2 cup of cooked pasta .
  • 1 serving of fruit = 1 medium-sized fruit, 1/2 banana, or 1 cup of chopped fruit.
  • 1 serving of vegetables = 1 cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cookedvegetables .
  • 1 serving of milk= 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt or 1/2 cup of cottage cheese .

NB . Cup is the American unit of measurement used in the original book and has a different weight based on the content, while the volume is fixed and is equivalent to 236.6 ml. Thus, a   cup  of water will not necessarily weigh as much as a cup of flour ; while a cup of water is equal to 236.6 ml and weighs 236.6 g, since the weight of one gram of water is equal to one ml ( specific weight equal to 1 gr / ml), the same is not true for the others foods (which have a specific gravity different from 1).

Nutritional implications

The nutritional characteristics that make the rice diet a slimming and purifying strategy are:

  • Caloriereduction .
  • Fat reduction.
  • Reduction of added simple sugars.
  • Reduction of total and especially animal proteins .
  • Sodiumreduction .


The rice diet for weight loss and purification is a drastic and not recommended dietary method .
Other negative aspects of this system are:

  • Poor nutritional balance ( lack of protein, vitamin D , calcium , iron , etc.).
  • It can make low blood pressureworse .
  • It can cause a loss of muscle massin the presence of intense and prolonged physical activity.
  • Boredom and monotony of food.
  • Possible flatulence.
  • High risk of hunger.

If you want to undertake it, it is strongly recommended:

  • Consult your doctor.
  • Be followed by a nutritionist.
  • Do not extend it beyond the recommended period.

For Clinical Nutrition

Invented before hypotensive drugs , the rice diet for clinical nutrition was supposed to cure people with malignant arterial hypertension .
Also called hypertensive emergency ( systolic pressure above 180 mm / hg and / or diastolic pressure above 120 mm / hg), this morbid condition is defined as a form of hypertension characterized by the acute impairment of one or more systems or organs (especially the nervous system central , cardiovascular and renal), which can cause irreversible damage.
The “original” rice diet provided for strict nutritional restriction and hospitalization necessary for monitoring the patient.


The rice diet was invented in 1939 by Dr Walter Kempner of Duke University, a refugee fleeing Nazism.
The doctor mainly followed subjects with malignant hypertension associated with renal insufficiency .
In this regard, Kempner argued that the kidneys have a dual function:

  • Metabolic: regulating.
  • Excretory: elimination of metabolic residues.

Therefore (again according to Kempner’s theory) by reducing the renal excretory load through the decrease of dietary proteins and minerals , it would be possible to optimize the metabolic capacity of the same by treating malignant hypertension.
Thus it was that Kempner began treating patients suffering from malignant hypertension and kidney failure through the rice diet.
The results were encouraging, so much so that in 1946 he was summoned to present his (documented) study at a meeting of the New York Academy of Medicine.
The subsequent invention and commercialization of drugs for the treatment of hypertension drastically reduced the need to undertake the Kempner rice diet.
Kempner retired from Duke’s Faculty in 1974, but practiced until 1992.
In 2002 the original rice diet became independent of Duke University and in 2013 resulted in the Durham Rice House Healthcare Program in North Carolina.

Original Rice Diet

The therapy involved a total suspension from drugs and the exclusive nutritional intake of: rice, sugar , fruit, fruit juices , iron and vitamins .
In all, the nutritional scheme provided 2,000 kcal, of which only 20 g of protein (4% of energy), 700-1000 ml of water (also from other liquids), 250 mg of sodium and 100 mg of chloride.
Only after a few months, if possible, were small quantities of meat and vegetables integrated.
The rice diet was then popularized through several books that proposed lighter and less rigid versions.


The experiment that confirmed Kempner’s hypothesis on the benefits of the rice diet could be summarized as follows.


ATTENTION! Before the discovery of hypertension drugs, life expectancy for malignant hypertension was 6 months.


by Abdullah Sam
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