Brown or White Rice – Which Is Healthier?



Have you noticed that the only thing that is definitive in nutrition is that nothing is definitive? In other words, we are often told that something is good for us, then it turns out to be bad for us. Or we are told that something is bad for us and then we are told that it is good for us.

The most glaring example of this would be all of the warnings about eating fats. “Fats make you fat” resulted in a boom of high carbohydrate foods and sky-rocketing obesity and diabetes rates. (If this is news to you, see “Are You Making These Nutrition Mistakes?”)

Today, let’s talk about rice. This simple dietary staple is a great example of nutritional science total confusion. As you read on, you will see what I mean…

Brown Rice

You have probably heard that brown rice is healthier than white rice because it is a “whole grain.” This means that its outer hull is intact – where most of the grain’s nutrition resides – fiber, vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is often recommended due to the fact that it has a low glycemic index, meaning that it does not cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. This has led to some evidence that eating brown rice can lower your risk for diabetes.

Sounds good, right? However, there is a whole other health risk to consider – arsenic. All rice contains arsenic, but brown rice contains significantly higher levels than white rice. Processed foods made with brown rice, such as brown rice crackers, also contain increased levels of arsenic. And arsenic is as bad as it sounds – it increases our cancer risk, along with other health problems.

White Rice

When you add arsenic into the equation, white rice does look like the healthier choice. White rice also poses the advantage of being easily digested. Without the bran, white rice can be less irritating to a sensitive gut.

The downside to white rice though is does offer the potential for raising blood sugar levels and causing insulin spikes. Foods that do this are associated with weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

How to Make Sense of It All

Here is the bottom line – whether you choose to eat white rice or brown, you are at least eating real, whole food. In other words, they are a better choice than deep-fried French fries!

Some recommendations:

1. If you choose to eat white rice, make sure that you pair it with some healthy fats and protein. This will help to slow down the rise in blood sugar levels.

2. Whichever rice you choose, you can lower the arsenic levels by thoroughly rinsing the rice before cooking. Another tip for lowering arsenic levels is to cook the rice with lots of extra water, which you will drain off before eating.

3. Skip the rice altogether. (A recommendation you will hear from the Paleo and other grain-free people.) Cauliflower rice makes a very nice substitute as long as you are not reactive to the FODMAP mannitol. It is super easy – just grate the cauliflower or chop it in a food processor until it is the consistency of rice. Heat up a little olive oil in a flat pan and saute the “rice” for approximately five minutes.

What Do I Do?

Bearing in mind that every body is different, I have learned to eat all my rice-favorite meals without the rice. The only exception is if I am out socially and my food options are limited – in other words, when there are not a lot of gluten-free items to be had.  I can tolerate cauliflower, so in the cooler months I will enjoy cauliflower rice. What does my husband do? He runs to the Chinese restaurant and picks himself up some rice!


Soup, Squash & Slow Cooker Season

Here are some of my faves!



At the time of this writing, the only winter squash that has been tested for FODMAPs is butternut squash. A 1/4 cup serving is considered low in FODMAPs. The following squashes have not yet been tested, so start with a small serving to assess your tolerance.

Slow Cooker

Do you need someone to make sure you eat more veggies? To get your health where it needs to be? You need a health coach! Click here and let’s talk!

Dr. Bolen Talks IBS

I hope you have been enjoying my video blogs. Unfortunately, I was unable to publish a new video this week due to technical difficulties (no shower = bad hair days!)

In place of something new, I thought you might enjoy the following video, in which I am interviewed by Sabrina Khan, of Fuel Yourself Fabulous TV. Sabrina is also a graduate of my Low-FODMAP Diet Training Program™. In this video, Sabrina picks my brain about all things IBS, including how to get through a bad IBS attack. Enjoy! (The video, not the attack!)

Are you ready to talk to me about your IBS? Let’s connect and get you started on the road to a happy belly and a happy life. Click here to get started!

How Not to Be Like Everyone Else

Let’s face it. The average American is not the picture of health.

emergency roomI recently had the fortune/misfortune to be in the Emergency Room of one of the world’s most prestigious heart hospitals with my elderly father.  Although I am very grateful that we have access to such amazing medical care, I was very disheartened by what I saw that day. What made my heart sink was that there was not such a big difference between the looks of the patients lying sick in their beds and their visitors. The visitors looked bloated and overweight, there skin was dull or broken out, and their bodies were hunched over and moved stiffly. In other words, it was only a matter of time before they were the ones lying in the beds hooked up to the machines.

Through my nutrition training and the gazillion books on nutrition that I have read, I now know that it doesn’t have to be like this. Human beings were meant to be strong, healthy, fit creatures. What is keeping us from that state is our Standard American Diet. All of our convenience foods are keeping our hospitals very busy.

I have been a sandwich generation person since my kids were babies. I have been by my parents’ sides and watched them deal with cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and dementia. It is my firm intention to not put my own kids through that. Hence all the green juices and green smoothies!

One thing I have been known to say is that, there are days in your life that you spend on the beach, and then there are days that you spend in hospitals. If you were to ask me what my passion is, deep down, what drives me to do the work that I do, I would have to say that my passion is to keep people out of hospitals! So that there are more days that you can be doing what you love as opposed to days where you are ill and in pain. I found my way into digestive health because I saw a need to help people who were understandably stressed out by IBS. Combining my  passion and my work brings me to a place where I want to help people who have digestive distress to find a way to live and to eat that not only clears up their digestive symptoms, but also keeps them away from the diseases of our modern day.

How does one do this? You need to stop eating like everyone else (which you are already doing if you have IBS!), and eat like your great-great-grandparents did. This means a diet filled with real, whole foods – light on the sugar, light on grains, and full of quality animal protein (if that’s your thing) and a wide variety of vegetables. This means that when you to parties and restaurants and supermarkets, the foods that you choose are going to be very different from those around you. And you need to be okay with that. To ‘fit out” as Joshua Rosenthal of IIN says. And to know that you are treating your body the way that it deserves to be treated and that you are perhaps inspiring those next to you to start to make healthier choices.


Get to Know Kohlrabi


One of my recent picks for a previously unknown food was kohlrabi, a root vegetable. Let me tell you, it was a hit with the non-adventurous carnivores that I live with. I roasted the kohlrabi up with some chopped garlic and olive oil. My son described it as “a cross between a marshmallow and a potato.” Since neither marshmallows or potatoes have great nutrition, it’s kohlrabi for the win!

But the gift of the kohlrabi did not just end with it being a delicious, family-friendly side dish. I was also able to enjoy the greens. Their flavor is quite mild and so I added them to both my green juices and my green smoothies. These delicious, nutritious drinks keep my skin glowing, my nails growing and my head pain-free! Always great to have another variety of greens to add to my repertoire.

Why eat kohlrabi? Besides being delicious, the root and the greens offer you a whole host of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Remember the wider the variety of plant foods that you eat, the more nourishment you are giving to every cell of your body.

Because I am a digestive health guru, I was of course curious about whether kohlrabi has been found to be low-FODMAP. Several lists on the web say “yes”, but as far as I can tell, the ultimate authority, Monash University, has not yet tested kohlrabi. However, sometimes we need to guess. Since other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, are considered low in FODMAPs, there is a good possibility that kohlrabi would also be. However, every body is different, so give kohlrabi a try and see how it agrees with your system. I roasted mine with garlic because my family can tolerate garlic. If you want to keep the dish low-FODMAP you could use a garlic-infused oil. 

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When Local Trumps Organic


What To Do With Garlic Scapes

I must share a bit of a back story before I get into discussing why you should be interested in garlic scapes. Back in 2012  Hurricane Sandy destroyed my backyard. Many people lost their homes, so I couldn’t really complain. But, my beautiful, shady, tree-filled backyard was now a sunny wasteland. For a long time, it looked like an abandoned lot on the side of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.

2014-04-18 18.12.23 (1)

Once my husband and sons finished chopping up our beloved oak tree for firewood, it was time to come to grips with my now-very-suburban-looking backyard. Fortunately, my friend Dylan, who owns a home organic gardening business, had just come back from Costa Rica with all sorts of ideas about creating an individual biosphere in regular backyards. He saw my yard as a blank canvas and the creative juices started flowing.

Dylan filled one side of the yard with berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. In the back of the yard, he planted two peach trees, two plum trees and a fig tree. He built boxes for potatoes, asparagus, squash and garlic. On one slope, he planted a bunch of pollinating flowers. I now have one of the world’s most interesting backyards.

One morning as I looked out, I said, “Do the garlic plants have flowers?” When I finally got back there to look, I saw these beautiful swan-like fronds. I thought, “Ooohh, these must be garlic scapes”, and immediately felt like a fool because I had just ordered some from my local Farmigo distributor. Newbie gardener mistake, as I was able to harvest about 50 of my own scapes. I cannot describe to you the giddy joy I experienced with this unexpected, gorgeous gift from my own backyard.

garlic scapes

What to do with garlic scapes? Apparently the best thing is to make pesto! I pulled up a recipe from my friend Kerry Michaels, who is my colleague at

Don’t tell Kerry, but I skipped the basil because I didn’t have any around! The pesto was super-easy to make and my freezer is now stocked. Scapes can also be sauteed or added to soups.

garlic scape pesto

Now for the best part. garlic scapes might just be low-FODMAP! I don’t think they have been tested by Monash, but the greens of scallions are low in FODMAPs and a quick Google search indicated that some FODMAP bloggers have been able to tolerate garlic scapes even if they cannot tolerate garlic. This means that you should be able to enjoy the garlicky taste that comes from the scapes without worrying that it will set off your IBS.

Why should you eat garlic scapes? Because they contain the same wonderful nutrients that you get from eating garlic – manganese, selenium and some key vitamins. Garlic consumption is thought to be good for your cardiovascular system and may help to protect you from cancer.

Where to get garlic scapes if you are not growing garlic in your backyard? They can be found in your local Farmer’s Market. Ask the farmers when they will be in season in your area.


Get Acquainted with Arugula

Baby arugula

Arugula – the first thing to pop out of my spring garden.

You learn something every day! I just learned that an alternative name for arugula is rocket salad, a name earned because it rockets out of the ground each spring. If you are not yet eating arugula on a frequent basis, I hope you will give this super-healthy green a try.

One of the main mantras I heard during my training at IIN was that most people would feel better if they simply drank more water and ate more greens. Follow this advice and eat arugula! It is a low-FODMAP green which means that you can enjoy the health benefits of arugula without having to worry about it setting off any unwanted digestive symptoms. Compared to most other salad greens, arugula has more antioxidants, phytonutrients, calcium, folate, magnesium, and vitamin E.

arugula salad

Fodmap-friendly arugula salad with cantaloupe and pecans.

Arugula does have a strong, peppery taste, which may come across a little bitter. You can tone down the bitterness of the arugula by pairing it in your salad with some fruit or avocado (small amount on the avocado to keep it low-FODMAP). I personally love to top my arugula salad with my balsamic vinaigrette dressing. (P.S. The above salad is of one of the recipes you will find in my  book, “The Everything® Guide to the Low-FODMAP Diet.“)

Give arugula a try and let me know what you think! If you have a fave arugula recipe, I would love it if you shared it below.


Is Juicing Right for You?

Joe Cross and Dr. Barbara Bolen

Joe Cross, Juicing Guru

Last week, I had one of the most amazing nights of my life! I was invited to a reception and preview of Joe Cross’ “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2”. Have you heard of Joe? He was the affable Aussie fellow who chronicled his 60 day juice fast in the documentary “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it. Even if you cannot ever imagine yourself drinking a green juice, the stories in the film are highly compelling. It’s definitely an enjoyable movie to watch, better than most of what Hollywood pumps out for us.

The evening was a great experience. It started with a reception at Joe Cross’ gorgeous Reboot office in New York City. Who knew a cocktail party could be green and clean? They served a yummy pear with ginger drink and Joe’s famous “Mean Green” juice. The canapes were all vegetable-based and gluten-free. My son (who agreed to be my date for the night) and I were treated like celebrities by the Reboot staff. We got to meet Victoria Moran, author of “Living a Charmed Life: Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day, as well as other cool New York City people.

The highlight of the experience was a private meet-up with Joe himself. This is a guy (or bloke, as he would say), who not only turned his own auto-immune-compromised health around, but also has inspired thousands of people worldwide to do the same. I was given a few moments to pick his brain about a subject near and dear to me: “Does Juicing Help IBS?“.  Although Joe is no scientist, his explanation as to why juicing works, e.g. reducing inflammation, shunting energy away from the process of digestion, infusion of micronutrients, etc, made a lot of sense to me.

We were then whisked off to a theater to see a special showing of “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2.” Joe himself sat right behind us! The sequel has all of the charm of the first, but with a broader message about the need for all of us to prioritize our health and break away from our junk food way of living.

Is juicing right for you? I encourage you to watch the movie to decide for yourself. Remember, you don’t have to go on a juice fast in order to benefit from juicing. For myself, drinking green juices on a regular basis was the only thing I found in over 10 years that helped to significantly reduce my chronic migraine pain. I now walk around thinking, “huh, I’m not in pain.”  Much as I love green smoothies – they are simple, delicious and make my body feel awesome – I don’t get the same migraine pain relief from them as I do green juices. As Joe Cross says, “Blending does the chewing for you, juicing does the digesting for you.”

What about juicing for digestive problems? I think that juicing might be just the thing to break the Catch-22 of IBS. IBS makes you fear vegetables, but you need vegetables in order to heal your gut. The Reboot staff told me they get a ton of testimonials from people whose IBS cleared up following a “Reboot”. If you are interested, but hesitant, I would recommend starting out juicing fruits and vegetables that are low in FODMAPs.

The first “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” is available for live streaming on Netflix or for purchase on Amazon. The sequel can be pre-ordered as it will be available in November 2014.

 Want to learn more about juicing? Here are Joe Cross’ books – they both take the mystery out of juicing and provide lots of healthy recipes:


Seasonal Allergy Relief

ragweedFor years, I took an anti-histamine every day. I had chronic post nasal drip and suffered from classic bouts of allergy attacks – sneezing, itchy eyes and itchy face and scalp. I thought allergies were “just something I had.”

Then I began to live a healthier life. I pretty much got my allergies from being problematic all year long to just bothering me in late summer, early fall (ragweed?). In fact, whenever I would fill out a health form at a doctor’s office, I would write the word “August”, when asked about allergies.

This year, I noticed that my August/September allergy symptoms have been minimal. A couple of short-lived episodes of itchiness around the eyes and face, with a sneeze here or there, but I have not had to take an anti-histamine once!

For those of you who feel cursed by your allergies, I offer you my ideas as to how this major change has come about. Keep in mind that these changes did not come about overnight, but have been a long process. I am reminded by what Elizabeth Gilbert said when I saw her at a book signing following her smash hit, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia“. She reminded the audience that her success did not come easily – rather she spent years living on the edge of poverty and working odd jobs to support herself while pursuing a career as an writer. Also, keep in mind that what worked for me, may not work for you. Last, remember, I am not a medical doctor! I offer you thoughts regarding the improvement of my allergies. You must work with your own doctor to come up with a treatment plan that is safe for you.

My steps to allergy relief:

  1. Use a neti pot every day. It is my understanding that using a neti pot helps to rinse off excessive mucus from the sinuses. This is theorized to help the immune cells lining the sinuses to function more effectively. What I know for sure is that once I starting using a neti pot daily, my frequency of getting head colds dropped dramatically. (See, “How to Use a Neti Pot.”)
  2. Significantly reduced my intake of dairy products. I used to love to drink the milk from my cereal bowl in the morning, as well as enjoy a large glass of milk every day with my lunch. However, I had read that milk contains many allergens. If the immune system is busy taking care of the allergens I was putting into my body, it had less ability to deal with allergens in the air.
  3. Started practicing yoga. I don’t know about the specific research on yoga for allergies, but all that twisting and stretching has got to be good for the immune system.
  4. Started growing my own vegetables. There is the theory that consuming foods grown in the same spot on the planet that you live in has some extra health benefits. It makes sense that plant foods filled with microorganisms that are surviving in my little plot of land offer some special weapons against the environmental challenges I face.
  5. Significantly increased the amount of greens that I eat (drink!).  Like most Americans, I ate plenty of broccoli and peppers, but rarely went near a leafy green. Now, (in large part, thanks to my garden!), I take in greens like spinach, kale, bok choy and Swiss chard on a daily basis. I started out eating more of them in salads and sauteed as side dishes, but then moved on to green smoothies and green juices. The health advantage to green leafy vegetables is that they both soak up nutrients from the sun and pull nutrients from the ground. It is their job to not only breathe for the plant but to keep it thriving in spite of radiation from the sun and other environmental onslaughts. All that plant-based self-protection enters my body when I consume these nutritionally power-packed greens.
  6. Eat a clean diet. I no longer eat like an average American. I eat lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. I avoid junk food, processed food and fast food. It took me a long time to get to this point, (See, “Eating Clean: A Long and Winding Road“), but now this way of eating is natural and comfortable. It only stands to reason that giving my body the right fuel, as well as not making it work so hard dealing with the wrong food, has allowed my immune system to turn its energy toward helping me deal with any pollen in the atmosphere without making me suffer with undue itchiness.

What about you? What have you found helps or hurts your allergies? Which of my steps are you willing to try. I would love to hear from you – leave your comments below!


A Health Coach’s Summer Reading List

You know how kids have to write book reports when they return to school in September on the books they read over the summer? I thought you might be interested in what kinds of books a health coach reads. Although each of the following books are very different, they each provide a unique spark of inspiration in terms of what each of us can do to ensure that our bodies are as healthy as they can be. I greatly enjoyed each one – if they were a dud, they wouldn’t make it onto my list.

If you choose to read any of the books, or have read them already, please share your comments below. We can have a little informal Happy Belly book club!

“The Hormone Cure”
My apologies in advance to my male readers, but don’t run away so soon – you might want to recommend this book to the women in your life. This is the book I wish someone had put into my hands when I was 15 years old and bent over with pain with menstrual cramps and chills while stuck on the school bus!

In her book, Dr. Sara Gottfried discusses how women’s hormones have long been overlooked by the medical establishment. She makes the point that symptoms that we associate as being “normal”, e.g. PMS mood swings, menstrual pain, and menopausal symptoms, are due to imbalances in our hormones – imbalances that are the result of our stressful lifestyles, unhealthy foods and exposure to chemicals.

Dr. Gottfried includes questionnaires at the beginning of the book to help you to identify your own particular hormonal imbalances She then offers targeted treatment plans for establishing healthy hormonal balances through lifestyle changes, supplements and when necessary, medications. Although many of us suffer from a variety of imbalances, this book may be of particular interest if you find that your IBS symptoms are worse at “that time of the month”. There is the possibility that Dr. Gottfried’s protocols may help to ease your symptoms.

“The Third Plate”
Now for something completely different. In this book, Dan Barber, a top chef, discusses what is needed to fix our broken food supply system. He presents many tales as to how good taste, good nutrition and good environmental stewardship go hand in hand. If you have any interest in good food and/or organic gardening, you will enjoy this tale-based read.

One particular tale – an interview with a plant breeder – stands out for me. The man stated something that I already knew – that plants are being bred for yield and pest resistance. They are also being bred for their ability to withstand Roundup, a chemical herbicide, and to be seedless, forcing farmers to buy new seeds each year. What they are not being bred for is nutrition or taste! This book will open your eyes to what we are all passively supporting – the production of foods that are good for corporate bottom lines, but not good for our health, our taste buds, or the health of our planet.

“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite novelists. In this book, she writes about her family’s year-long quest to eat locally. She had an advantage that many of us don’t have, in that she moved onto some farm-able property in Southern Appalachia. However, she offers plenty of suggestions for increasing your local food consumption regardless of your ability to grow your own.

Written with her usual excellent writing style, the book serves as an inspiration to grow more of your own food and to support local farmers through visits to farmer’s markets. One of the things that I loved about the book was the simplicity and homey goodness of local eating. Since I live with a bunch of men, who are not rushing to drink green smoothies, the recipes included were of great appeal.

Similar to “The Third Plate”, the Kingsolver book serves as a reminder that we need to switch away from consuming the nutritionally deficient foods that fill our supermarkets. We have a right to eat foods that were raised without a ton of artificial chemicals and that are not filled with more chemicals. Eating real food allows our bodies to be as healthy as they can be.

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