The rice diet is a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-protein diet to lose weight. The diet features calorie deficit, reduced sodium, and mindfulness and may help some people lose weight and achieve better health.
A research scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina created the rice diet in the 1940s.
Read on to learn more about the rice diet, how to follow it, the potential benefits and risks, and what to eat.
Walter Kempner devised the rice diet in the 1940s to treat malignant hypertension and renal failure.
Kempner’s theory was that altering a person’s diet and lifestyle reduced the work the kidneys needed to do and could save lives.
A 2014 article in Hypertension that revisits the rice diet suggests that Kempner revolutionized the treatment of hypertension, obesity, and a host of other disorders.
The Rice Diet Solution by Kitty and Robert Rosati popularized the diet in 2006.
In Kempner’s original cohort, the rice diet did not cure everybody, but 107 out of 192 participants saw a significant improvement in blood pressure, and many saw a reduction in the following:
However, it is important to remember that in these times, people with malignant hypertension usually had a life expectancy of around 6 months.
The Rice Diet Solution authors claim that the diet helps people lose weight quickly and safely, with males losing an average of 30 lbs in the first 4 weeks and females losing an average of 19 lbs.
They also claim that the rice diet makes someone feel more clearheaded and energetic.
The Rice Diet Solution explains that the diet is effective for weight loss for the following reasons:
The book also offers four additional key ways to make the diet work:
In summary, the rice diet may help someone to lose weight by using a calorie deficit, reduced fat and processed foods, and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and mindfulness. It may also have health benefits for some people by reducing sodium and saturated fats.
Some people may find following the rice diet challenging or too restrictive for some people, causing issues when eating out and possible nutritional deficiencies.
For example, low protein may cause some people to lose muscle mass or lack the amino acids necessary to synthesize protein. Additionally, the body needs healthy fats to function correctly, and restricting them could lead to health problems.
In addition, the authors of The Rice Diet Solution note that people who are taking medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, or congestive heart failure should consult their doctor prior to commencing the diet.
A doctor may need to adjust the dose of medications, including lithium and warfarin. In addition, people who have had surgery on their colon, ureteral diversion procedures, or impaired kidney function should not follow the diet.
Anyone who feels unwell or dizzy while following the rice diet should talk with their doctor. The rice diet suits vegans and vegetarians, but someone eating this way may need to take a vitamin B12 and omega-3 supplement.
The Rice Diet Solution updates Kempner’s original guidelines and offers information about the diet.
Kempner’s original rice diet consisted almost entirely of fruit and rice, totaling 2,000 calories a day.
Kempner’s rice diet was dramatically low in salt, protein, and fat, and high in complex carbohydrates.
The rice diet required a person to consume:
A typical diet in the United States, then and now, consists of 25% protein, 25% fat, and 50% carbohydrates.
The Rice Diet Solution, published in 2006, aimed to help readers lose weight by following a similar diet to Kempner’s original rice diet.
It is important to note, however, that Kempner did not develop the rice diet to aid weight loss but to address “malignant hypertension, renal failure, heart failure, and their combinations.”
The authors explain that the diet is a low-sodium, low-fat diet, and people should avoid high-sodium processed foods and adding salt to their meals.
The Rice Diet Solution describes three phases of the diet; detox, losing weight, maintaining the weight loss. The diet involves gradually increasing calories from just under 1,000 to over 1,200 calories per day. However, the authors point out that a person does not need to track calories, as the meal plans define serving sizes instead.
In addition to the 1,000–1200 calories per day, people can also choose from any fruits or vegetables they wish to eat, but should not add extra fat to their meals.
The diet recommends that people consume between 500-1000 mg of sodium daily, with a minimum of 300 mg per day. People who do not consume dairy products should eat 2 slices of regular bread or add 200 mg of sodium from another source to ensure adequate amounts.
However, it is important to note that the book does not specifically state what amount of sodium particular dairy products contain, meaning the exact amount of sodium to supplement may be difficult for someone to calculate.
Anyone who has concerns about their sodium intake should consult with their doctor. They can then work to keep their sodium intake within the range that they and their doctor agree upon while following the rice diet as closely as they feel able or comfortable.
The diet recommends that people consume specific portions from different food groups, including starches, vegetables, and protein. Starches include rice, beans, and cereal, protein sources can include animal products, such as fish and chicken, and vegetarian products, such as beans and eggs.
The diet suggests the following portion sizes:
The following is a guideline to the three phases:
This phase involves cleansing the body of excess sodium, toxins, and water weight. People should follow phase one for a week.

The phase one diet involves:
For 1 day per week follow the basic rice diet. This includes 2 starches and 2 fruits at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For six days a week: Lacto-vegetarian rice diet
An example of breakfast for 6 days of the week is:
This phase aims to help someone lose weight according to their personal goals. The length of phase two depends on how much weight someone wants to lose. The authors advise that coupling this phase with regular exercise may help someone lose on average 3.5 pounds (lbs) per week or 14 lbs per month.
For one day a week: Basic rice diet to include 2 starches and two 2 at breakfast, lunch, and dinner
For five days a week: Lacto-vegetarian rice diet
For one day a week: Vegetarian plus rice diet (this includes protein and is 200 more calories than the lacto-vegetarian rice diet)
An example lunch for 5 days of the week is:
This phase helps a person maintain their new weight. The authors provide guidelines for this phase but advise that once someone has achieved their target weight, they may wish to make some 200 calorie additions to include fish, healthy fats, such as nuts and avocado, or dairy products.
For 1 day a week: Basic rice diet to include 2 starches and 2 fruits at breakfast, lunch, and dinner
For 4 days a week: Lacto-vegetarian rice diet
For 2 days a week: Vegetarian-plus rice diet
An example vegetarian plus rice dinner for 2 days of the week is:
Kempner’s original diet used white rice. White rice is lower in potassium than brown rice, which is why doctors recommend it for people with renal failure, who were the target group for the original diet.
However, because white rice is low in the B vitamin thiamine, Kempner asked his patients to take a supplement.
In newer versions of the diet, people can choose either white or brown rice and other grains. However, brown rice is an unpolished whole grain and contains more B vitamins and fiber.
Additionally, some research indicates that compared to white rice, brown rice effectively lowers the glycemic response, which may help to balance blood sugar.
The rice diet may help some people effectively lose weight because of its fundamental calorie deficit, reduced fat, and whole foods.
Coupled with regular exercise and lifestyle strategies, such as mindfulness, journaling, and community support, the rice diet may help people change their habits and lead a healthier and more focused life.
Reducing sodium and saturated fats can also help people avoid high blood pressure and metabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and obesity.
However, adhering strictly to the rice diet long-term may cause nutrient deficiencies, so people should be aware of this and plan a more balanced diet in the maintenance phase. Additionally, because people’s health and metabolism differ, what suits some people may not suit others.

Shimabukuro, M., et al. (2013). Effects of the brown rice diet on visceral obesity and endothelial function: the BRAVO study.
The rice diet solution (2006).
Last medically reviewed on July 28, 2022
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