Friday, August 31, 2012

One Way to Eat Healthier

My daughter kept asking a very strange request of me today.  At least strange for an 8 year old to be thinking about.  She wants me to write about why brown rice is better than white rice.  She said it would help people to know what would help them stay healthy.  So as I sit here munching on a bowl of straight rice left over from dinner, she won.  I am always happy to help people learn about how food can help them live happier healthier lives, so sure why not talk about rice...
brazilian rice
Photo from stock.xchng
Rice is consumed by nearly one-half the entire world population and many countries, like Asia,
are completely dependent on rice as a staple food.
Rice is one of the few foods in the world which is entirely non-allergenic and gluten-free.

The first cultivators of rice in America did so by accident after a storm damaged ship docked in the Charleston South Carolina harbor. The captain of the ship handed over a small bag of rice to a local planter as a gift, and by 1726, Charleston was exporting more than 4,000 tons of rice a year.
Asian farmers still account for 92-percent of the world's total rice production. More than 550 million tons of rice is produced annually around the globe. (source)
To create white rice, brown rice is milled and stripped of the outer layer of bran and germ.  The resulting rice is then polished making it white and shiny looking.  The fiber and nutrients are lost in this process.  Most processors then add vitamins and  minerals back into the rice to give it more nutritional value.
As someone who has been studying food that last point concerns me a bit. Whenever something like a vitamin is supplemented into food, usually it isn't absorbed as well as if it were there naturally.  However I hope for the sake of millions around the world using it as a main part of their diet, that it hopefully does absorb well for them.
Back to brown.  A lot of people avoid brown rice for seemingly two main reasons.  For one white rice looks prettier and therefore more appealing.  For two brown rice is often chewier and a denser texture.  
Before I offer a solution, here's why brown rice rocks...  
Brown  rice
Photo from stock.xchng
The outer coating of brown rice contains added minerals and protein. Brown rice does not get milled, thereby keeping its darker color.  Brown rice contains 8-percent protein and is a good source of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron and calcium. (source)  It is also a good source of fiber, which helps keep our bodies clean and blood sugar balanced.
All of these benefits are lost in the making of white rice, except whatever they are able to supplement back into it.  I am frequently coming across ways that modern methods have destroyed what used to be healthy food.  Here is one easy, and cheap, way to keep eating healthy.

If it's hard to think about making the switch I understand.  It was hard getting my sticky white rice loving husband to switch over to brown rice.  I think it seriously took about 3 years.   I like sticky white rice too, but brown is just healthier.  So how did I do it?  I started using instant brown rice.  They sell it right next to the instant white rice at most stores.  It tends to have a softer, less chewy texture to it.

rice pudding
Ummm...Rice Pudding!
(Photo from stock.xchng and Michealaw)
Recent studies have cautioned that regular rice can contain as much as 4 times the amount of arsenic in it than organic rice does.  Arsenic is naturally occurring, however something, perhaps farming methods, are creating an imbalance there.

I do occasionally use the straight from the bag brown rice, as it's cheaper.  However, I'm not usually that organized.  I'm doing good if I remembered to defrost meat for that nights dinner, so thankfully instant brown rice is there to rescue me!

What questions do you have about food or how food affects our health?  I'd love to hear from you!

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