Despite its name, this diet is not just about rice. It's been around since 1939, and got a new wave of popularity when The Rice Diet Solutionwas published.
You'll lose weight by slashing calories, sodium, fat, sugar, and protein, according to the plan, which also says it will "cleanse and detox your body," without making you feel hungry.
How much weight? Everyone is different, but during the first month, women lose 20 pounds and men lose 30 pounds, on average, according to the book.
But there's more to it than your weight. The plan also recommends exercise, keeping a food journal, and meditation to help achieve balance and manage stress. As the book says, "it's a physical, emotional, and spiritual program that will change the way you live."
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
The plan is quite restrictive. It includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-salt beans, and other lean protein.
Every day, you get servings of starch, nonfat dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
The diet has three phases, and the first phase allows only 800 calories per day. Calories gradually rise to 1,200 per day.
Alcohol is off-limits.
Level of Effort: High
You're going to cut way down on calories, salt, fat, and sugar -- all at once. The Rice Diet got its start as an inpatient way for clinics to help treat diabetes and hypertension. If you're on a very low-calorie diet of 1,200 calories or less, you should be monitored by a health professional.
Limitations: All the food groups are fair game, but portion sizes count. High-fiber foods -- like fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains -- should help you fill up.
The food on the plan doesn't give you enough calcium and vitamin D, so you will need supplements. Also, the plan provides much less protein than what's recommended for healthy people. If you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting this diet.
Cooking and shopping: The recommended foods aren't costly and are available at any grocery store. But the recipes included in The Rice Diet Solution do take time to cook and prep.
Packaged foods or meals: No.
In-person meetings: No.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Vegetarians and vegans: The Rice Diet could work for you, since beans and eggs are acceptable sources of lean protein. If you're vegan, you can substitute soy-based products for dairy.
Gluten-free: Rice doesn't have gluten in it, so you're fine there. But gluten is in many products that you might not know it's in, so if you're going gluten-free, you'll need to read food labels.
Low-salt diet: Good choice, since the plan limits sodium.
Low-fat diet: This plan is low-fat, since all the dairy is low- or no-fat, and all the protein is super-lean.
What Else You Should Know
The Rice Diet got its start as a way to help treat heart disease and hypertension. The limits on sodium can help lower blood pressure, and it's a low-fat diet, which could help you lower high cholesterol.
Costs: None apart from the food you buy.
Support: This is a diet you can do on your own.
What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:
Does It Work?
This 1,200-calorie, whole-food diet, including exercise, tips to lower stress levels, and advice for making healthy lifestyle changes, will help you lose weight.
But following an inflexible and low-calorie diet like this one is going to be hard. It would be a real challenge to stay on the plan at social events or when eating out. Plus, it has the potential for nutritional deficiencies.
Restricting protein to less than half the recommended amount may lead to loss of muscle mass and won’t help keep you feeling full.
And while the plan claims to detoxify your body, there is no evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
The plan is low-calorie, low-protein, low-fat, low-sodium, and can work for anyone with heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes.
But be sure to talk to your doctor before starting the diet.
The Final Word
Following The Rice Diet Solution will definitely result in weight loss due to the very low calories allowed, but it may also take away some of the pleasure of eating, with all the strict rules and limited food choices.
This program may be a good kick-start to your healthy eating efforts, but it’s probably too strict to do over the long term. Strict diets tend to be better short-term fixes.
If you have a medical condition or need to drop pounds quickly for health reasons, this plan may work for you, provided you get the OK from your doctor first. But it's preferable for you to follow a medically-supervised low-calorie diet that contains adequate protein instead.
Be sure to supplement your diet with calcium and vitamin D, and possibly a multivitamin, to fill in the nutritional gaps.