Ken, my partner in life and business, and I love rice. We eat rice most days and are always experimenting with new recipes. We’re a perfect example of the growing demographics in the US that are leading to a steady increase in the consumption of rice. Ken is first generation Chinese American and we’re both largely vegetarian and we’re concerned about our health, our country’s health, and the planet’s health. Whole grain rice offers infinite options for enhancing daily meals with great nutrition and taste, especially if you seek out some of the wonderful examples of the world’s rice biodiversity now available in grocery and specialty stores. We’re proud to be playing a role in introducing some of these exceptional rices to American consumers.
Even though American consumption of rice has tripled since 1970 –it’s now about 25 lb (11 kg) per person annually –it’s still quite low compared to parts of Asia or Africa where a person might eat as much as 200 to 400 lb (90-181 kg) a year. According to a fascinating article in last October’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA) called “Rice Consumption in the United States: New Evidence from Food Consumption Surveys,” adults who reported eating at least half a serving of white or brown rice in one day of observed intake also eat more vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood and fiber, which leads to higher consumption of key nutrients, including folic acid, potassium and iron that are contained in rice products. Rice eaters also consume less added sugar and less total fat and saturated fat than non-rice eaters.
There are many studies now demonstrating that eating rice and particularly brown rice, potentially reduces the risk for many chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes. So including rice as part of a balanced diet may be linked to overall healthier eating patterns, which is one of the most important preventive medicine strategies all of us can be pursuing to help solve the nation’s healthcare crisis.
In this context, the crisis of obesity among young people and lack of nutrient-dense foods in school cafeterias throughout the country and its impact on our children’s physical and mental health is especially worrying. Introducing more health-promoting foods like whole grains should be encouraged, at home and at school. Rice is a great candidate. However, not all rice is created equal. As with almost everything nowadays, especially our food choices, important social and environmental issues lurk in the background and increasingly require us to become more informed consumers. Rice is no exception. Over the next couple of days, I’d like to share with you some important issues related to rice production and consumption.
However, one of the very best things you can do for yourself and your family’s health when it comes to rice is to eat rice that still has some if not all of the bran on it. Bran is the key to improving rice’s contribution to nutrition and health. It contains about 75-85% carbohydrates and is richer than fully milled white rice in protein, lipids, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. The micronutrients manganese, selenium and magnesium are found almost entirely in the bran of rice and rice bran oil contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that must be obtained from the diet because the human body cannot synthesize it. Linoleic acid is important for many cell functions but particularly important for the brain’s development. Colored rices also tend to have more nutrients in them. The saying goes, the darker the bran the more fiber, minerals and vitamins.
An informative PowerPoint on the topic of rice and nutrition is one prepared by Dr. Marguerite Uphoff, a pediatrician in Ithaca, NY. You can reach it at this link: www.slideshare.net/SRI.CORNELL/0808-rice-as-a-source-of-nutrition-and-health
Brown rice can sometimes take a bit longer to cook, but it’s worth it for those extra nutritional benefits. Lotus Foods Bhutanese Red Rice is a whole grain that cooks in only 20 minutes; Forbidden Rice® only 30.
If you’re feeling pressed for time, this wonderful one pot meal idea you can prepare right in your rice cooker and vegetable steamer — an easy no fuss way to enjoy a delicious, healthful and affordable meal.