Bean and rice diet healthy?
July 21, 2009 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I was thinking of going on a strictly bean and rice diet. Is this healthy for me?
posted by branvan to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You can't be serious. Of course not.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:11 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Yes. A long time ago I went on a bean/rice/cabbage diet, lost forty pounds and regained my self-confidence.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:13 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Forgot to mention, make sure the rice is organic brown & the beans are not from a can.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:15 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I tried to base my diet around brown rice for a few days some times ago and not only did the taste of rice became boring and tired quickly, I didn't feel that healthy for those few days. I felt heavy and didn't have too much energy.

You're better off basing your diet around fruits and vegetables if you go the ascetic monk route.
posted by jchgf at 9:18 PM on July 21, 2009

A few years ago, a food scientist told me that too many beans can result in some type of buildup of an enzyme or chemical or something in the joints, which can be harmful.

Are you sure you want to eat that many carbs? Can't be good. You may lose weight but you'll certainly be malnourished.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:19 PM on July 21, 2009

Assuming this is not just a prank post designed to attract jokes about flatulence...

You could do a lot worse than just beans and rice as a staple food. Of course, you'll also need to add in leafy greens, vegetable oils, dairy products and so on to avoid malnutrition.
posted by fearthehat at 9:19 PM on July 21, 2009

Lots of people, especially poor students, have survived on beans and rice alone without longterm ill effects. I would suggest adding some roughage to go along with the beans and rice to help, uh, loosen the pipes (torquemaniac's cabbage would do nicely). Also, if you have roommates, they may start offering you corks. Beans, beans, good for the heart and all that.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:22 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this a joke?
posted by pompomtom at 9:22 PM on July 21, 2009

fruits and nuts are the super-monk way, add staples in whatever carb/protein/etc. direction you want to take that.
posted by rhizome at 9:24 PM on July 21, 2009

HotPatatta: that would be purines, specifically, uric acid, the primary culprit in gout. Gout sucks.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:26 PM on July 21, 2009

There's a lot of missing information here.

1) Do you mean strictly beans and rice? With nothing else? Or just heavily favor beans and rice while eating a variety of other foods?
2) Why are you planning to do this?
3) How long are you planning to do this?

If you're planning on incorporating a beans and rice into your diet to a greater degree than you previously have, you'll be fine. I've lived on beans and rice, as have a good amount of the world's population. Beans and rice are incredibly flexible foods, and you won't be running out of recipes any time soon.

If, on the other hand, you're talking about eating nothing but beans and rice, you'll find that you won't be reaping any benefits, especially if you're talking about over a protracted period.
posted by lekvar at 9:32 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Won't do you any harm for a few days but I would expect major vitamin deficiencies over weeks and months as your body's stores run out. At minimum some sort of healthy fat or oil and a varied selection of green vegetables seem like a good idea. Neither rice nor beans on their own have much vitamin C, for example, so if you were really strict, scurvy seems like a distincy possibility.

There is some speculation that such a carbohydrate-rich diet might be implicated in overweight and cardiovascular problems but it's a long way from becoming conventional wisdom yet.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:34 PM on July 21, 2009

You can do this, but I wouldn't advise it. If you do, though, two things:
  1. TAKE VITAMINS, and make sure you're taking vitamins with iron and iodine (basically, get the most complete multivitamin you can find). This can be expensive, but worth it.
  2. Drink plenty of water.
This is such a phenomenally bad idea, but it can be done. If you do it though, I urge you to go looking for vitamins. I know, I already said that, but you need to do it. All that diet is giving you is fiber, carbs and complete protein, and you need far more than that to survive and not start losing your hair and becoming anaemic.
posted by neewom at 9:36 PM on July 21, 2009

Brace thyself for the flatulence and scurvy.
posted by lottie at 9:38 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

neewom - anemia probably won't be an issue as beans* are typically high in iron

*fava beans are the exception, as some people who eat them develop favism aka hemolytic anemia.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:46 PM on July 21, 2009

Cat Pie Hurts: The real problem there is that red wine is known to inhibit iron absorption.

Note to OP: Don't mix fava beans with a nice chianti.
posted by Pinback at 10:44 PM on July 21, 2009

A diet consisting of nothing except legumes and rice will leave you with a deficiency of vitamin B-12.

Legumes and rice are also very poor sources of Vitamin C. And I would tend to think they are lousy for iron, too.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:17 PM on July 21, 2009

Ah, I see I was wrong about the iron.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:19 PM on July 21, 2009

I mostly eat brown rice, lentils and beans plus (mostly green, leafy) vegetables, milk and nuts. My opinion is that if I left just brown rice, lentils, beans and leafy vegetables, it would be a perfectly healthy and cheap diet. And tasty, too. But if I left the vegies out.. First of all, it doesn't even taste right when you're eating just grains and legumes. Second, vitamins and minerals. Anyway you look at it, it doesn't make sense. Why would you want to leave vegetables out? Give us one good reason.
posted by rainy at 1:11 AM on July 22, 2009

Plate 'o' Shrimp effect in action once again (Baader-Meinhof phenomenon) as I was talking with my pharmacist today about this subject. Man, that's weird.

Here's the deal: You will develop substantial deficiencies in iron and B-12 the longer you go along, as others have noted. This is very serious, okay? It won't kill you straight up, but long term nutritional deficiencies will significantly impact your health, and you should go out of your way to avoid that.

You will also run into problems with calcium if you are not drinking milk. I actually didn't find out about this today, so check up on that one.

You can do it with no problems but you MUST take iron supplements and vitamins.

But get a blood test a couple of weeks into the diet before you start taking iron supplements, as taking iron supplements can be toxic without being sure how much you really need. It can fuck your organs up if you aint careful. Especially fortified iron supplements.

See your doctor and run the diet by him/her before you start, please. This is pretty obvious.

Other than that, it is not going to kill you. Not immediately :D Just try and avoid scurvy. :D

You should be aware that the rice is basically nutritionally valueless. It is obvious that you will have problems unless you take these supplements (I assume this must be known to branvan as others have already amply expressed their incredulity).

If you eat a fair amount of sugar in your current diet, you will have major sugar cravings for a little while, too. I would use honey to offset that. Honey is a magic elixir, rely on it. Organic is great.

Depends on what you're trying to do, sounds like you want to cut everything else out, which frankly seems a little unrealistic, but it is doable with a great deal of willpower. You may feel tired and shagged out a lot at first, but you will adjust. You may require more sleep.

There are large segments of the human population who subsist on just such a diet, supplemented with meat when they can get it, so doom and gloom warnings are probably a bit over the top, however these populations are basically the most malnourished ones, natch.

You will lose a lot of weight, but you will defecate epically. Your digestion will take a while to get used to it, so air our your bedroom!

Good luck.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:40 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

A diet of strictly rice and beans would be almost completely lacking vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. It would also not contain nearly enough fat (around 5% of your total calories).

Add vegetables.

And while you're at it, add meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, fruit, nuts, and Big Macs.
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 5:00 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am not a nutritionist. However, together beans and rice provide all the essential amino acids, creating a complete protein. They provide plenty of iron, and lots of other vitamins and minerals. You should still take a good daily multivitamin. You could certainly survive on this diet, if not thrive.

You'd do much better to add several servings of vegetables and a few fruits to you diet. Check-out some vegan cookbooks. I especially like the Veganomicon or the (vegetarian not vegan) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
posted by paulg at 6:41 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could do something radical, like substitute the rice for something with really good nutritional content. Quinoa for example. I'm with everyone who suggests adding fruit or vegetables. Indeed you should research this extensively before doing it so that you understand the shortcomings of such a diet and are able to supplement in a reasonable and healthy way.
posted by ob at 7:32 AM on July 22, 2009

Well, let's take a look at the nutritional profile of a serving of rice and beans. You don't specify, so for simplicity's sake, I'll opt for brown medium-grain rice and black beans, boiled, no salt.

On the macro-nutrient level, the first thing that pops out at me is that you'll be getting very little fat (1 cup of rice and 1 cup of beans is 367 grams, and only 3 grams of fat). Fat is often vilified, but it's a necessary component of human nutrition. You need essential fatty acids, fatty acids which your body cannot synthesize on its own, and you need fat for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K). So you're probably going to want to add some additional source of fat to your rice and beans-- use oil in your cooking, or add some pieces of (not too lean) fish or meat. The meat/fish would also add a little more protein, and off-set the carb-heavy nature of this diet-- although the beans and rice do provide a complete set of amino acids, and you'll probably have enough total protein to live on, presuming you're not body-building or anything.

Moving on to vitamins: some major problems here. You will be getting basically no Vitamin C and no Vitamin A, both of which are pretty major. Without C you will suffer from scurvy, without A you will develop problems like night-blindness and dry skin. Both of these can be helped by adding fruits and vegetables: for C, oranges, lemons, strawberries, grapefruit, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower. For A, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, kale, spinach.

This diet also has no B12, and no sodium, and is low in calcium and riboflavin. B12 is stored effectively in the body, so you probably wouldn't develop deficiency for a while, but if you stick to beans and rice for a while, you'll need to add some animal-foods (meat, dairy, eggs), or a supplement. Sodium is pretty easy: add a little salt to your rice and beans. Good ol' iodized salt will also help you ward off goiter. Get calcium from all sorts of dairy, or sardines, tofu, spinach. Riboflavin from eggs, liver, almonds.

Alternatively, you can get your micro-nutrients from dietary supplements. But you're still going to need some fat in your diet. Beans, rice, oil and pills could probably be a "complete diet", but if I were you, I'd rather have beans, rice, and regular side-dishes of vegetables, fruit, and fish. Beans and rice are great, and they can certainly form the basis of your diet, like they do for many people around the world. But you will need more than just that to have a healthy and fully-functional body.
posted by bookish at 8:31 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Short answer: No, rice and beans alone are not sufficient for a healthy diet.

On the other hand, rice and beans and a good variety of fruits and vegetables ARE a very healthy diet. Contrary to what some others have said, you DO NOT need to add any sort of animal protein (including dairy) to a diet of rice, beans, fruits, and veggies. Rice and beans alone will provide all the essential amino acids for your protein requirements. Vegans used to be told that they had to eat rice and beans (or legumes) together at the same meal in order to benefit from the complete protein but it turns out that's not even true. If you eat rice at one meal and beans at another (on the same day), that's sufficient. You just want to be sure you get a good mix over the course of each day. The only real concern with a vegan diet is that you get enough vitamin B12. You'll need a supplement for that. Also, don't ignore people's advice about getting enough fat in your diet. Very very bad things happen if you don't get enough fat -- often starting with gall stones and getting worse from there.
posted by rhartong at 10:36 AM on July 22, 2009

Can you throw some salmon in there once in a while for the fat (and other good things)?
posted by bz at 11:56 AM on July 22, 2009

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