Friday, May 14, 2010

Rice is Nice! (Part 1)

I love rice! Especially jasmine rice. It's really fragrant, fluffy, and pairs well with a nice stir fry. I grew up having rice and rice porridge for dinner every night. It's my ultimate comfort food. The equivalent to many's bread and pasta. However, white rice, which includes long grain and jasmine, is processed. *gasp* I know! My world sort of turned upside down when I found this out several years ago. For a very long time, I thought I was doing well for my body by eating a grain and whole food so often. But in actuality, white rice is really only part of a whole food and it is stripped almost entirely of the original grain’s nutrients and fiber. Yikes!

Grains are seeds and like any seed, it has built-in, natural mechanisms to ensure it will grow.  The multiple layers protect the endosperm from external threats like the environment and animals. Rice is naturally encased in a hull and under that are multiple other layers (see the awesome picture below). The layers underneath, particularly the bran and germ, contain a lot of the vitamins and minerals that these seeds would have used to sprout. When we eat the grain with the bran and germ aka brown rice, we provide our bodies with those vitamins and minerals. 
 picture from Britannica Encyclopedia

So if brown rice is such a better alternative, why is white rice so popular? Well, there are actually many reasons that traditional cultures eat white rice. The biggest reason is probably that white rice is more shelf stable. Brown rice contains the bran and germ which have natural oils in them. If stored for too long and/or at too high of a heat, the oil and thus the grain will go rancid-spoiling the grain. In the olden days, this would have been a much bigger deal as food was scarcer. Other reasons are that white rice cooks more quickly, many think it tastes better (brown rice has a chewier texture and nutty taste that some people don’t like) and it looks better-kind of vain but white is considered a purer color.

Look for part 2 of this post tomorrow covering different reasons why we should all switch to brown rice part, if not all, of the time.

Do you eat white rice?  Brown rice?  What is your preference?

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