By: Ashley Vangel
Last week we talked about how healthy pasta can be. Now, let’s talk about the most widely consumed staple food for a majority of the world’s human population! It’s one of the most important grains, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed around the world by humans.
Just like pasta, rice comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Depending on the strain of rice, it can be white, brown, red, black or purple. Rice also comes in short-, medium-, and long-grain varieties. Brown and wild rice are the whole form of the grain, meaning that they still contain the germ and bran. Because they have maintained their intact form, brown and wild rice are considered healthier. The bran and germ of rice contain more fiber and other important nutrients. In white rice, the bran and germ have been polished away during processing to obtain the white color and softer texture.
Because the bran and germ have been removed, white rice offers less fiber. Increased intake of fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, maintain stable blood sugars, and promote regularity. When we eat white rice, our bodies digest and absorb it more quickly due to the lower fiber content. This leads to blood sugar levels spiking soon after eating the white rice. To get more fiber, try choosing more brown and wild rice varieties.
Brown and wild rice don’t just have more fiber. They also offer more vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, folic acid, and magnesium. The processing that takes place to convert brown rice into white rice destroys over 60% of naturally occurring B vitamins and iron. By law, white rice is required to be “enriched” with certain B vitamins (like niacin and thiamine) and iron. However the form of these nutrients that are added back into the processed rice is not the same as the original unprocessed version. Some nutrients that are lost during the processing are never replaced in the white rice.
Need a few suggestions on how to serve up a healthy portion of rice? Serve beans and rice with sauteed vegetables of your choice. Use rice leftovers for a cold rice salad. Be creative and try adding chicken or tofu with some vegetables, herbs, and spices. Ever tried making sushi vegetable rolls at home? Wrap brown rice, cucumber, carrots, and avocado in sheets of nori. Think about how creative you got when making Super Bowl foods. Bring that creativity back and try out a new rice dish!
Rice can be a healthy part of anyone’s diet. It simply comes down to knowing how to choose the kind of rice to eat. Leave a comment below letting us know what your favorite way to prepare rice is!
Ashley is a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian in the state of Texas. She graduated from Framingham State University, majoring in nutrition and dietetics and she completed her dietetic internship at the University of Connecticut. (more)