Rice is amongst other cereal grasses like millet, wheat and rye whose grains are used as food. It is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world and a staple food in many countries of the world including South East Asia, Africa and America. Not only is rice a vital component in our daily diets but it has provided diversity in the different ways it can be cooked and served. Different cultures of the world have contributed their unique ways of adding to the flavor of rice by combining it with foods like lentils, meats, spices and vegetables thereby enhancing its health benefits with additional nutrients.
Rice, in addition to cereals, bread and pasta is included in the group of grains called complex carbohydrates whose daily intake provides our bodies with the energy it needs to perform its normal physical activities. It also contains protein, which is vital in muscle function of the body and the best part is that rice is free from cholesterol being low in fat content. Rice also contains the B vitamins like Niacin and thiamine, which promote a healthy nervous and digestive system, Vitamin E and potassium.
Though there are many varieties and colors of rice grown throughout the world, unmilled rice has the most nutritional value compared to the white rice we commonly see in grocery stores or in our homes. The milling process used in rice production removes the husk and the layers of bran in the rice and puts it through whitening machines to give it the characteristic white color. It is through this process that some vital vitamins, fiber content and minerals get lost.
Brown rice is brown in colour as its name implies and is rice that has its bran layer and the endosperm of the rice left intact and not been hulled. The bran increases the nuttiness of the flavour and gives it its high fibre content. This rice can take several hours to cook unlike white rice and it is advisable to refrigerate the rice after use due to its tendency to become stale. Brown rice is the variety of rice that is better to eat, as it has the high fibre content that is beneficial for the body and it contains vitamins like manganese, iron and potassium in addition to B vitamins like Niacin and Thiamine. It is also to note that brown rice is higher in fat than white rice but this is unsaturated fat, with a low GI (glycaemic index) value and is beneficial to the body, as it will not contribute to weight gain or diabetes.
It is important to remember to combine a rice diet with a variety of other foods like fish, vegetables and lentils to provide the diet with a wider range of vitamins and minerals and amino acids, which are vital to repair important organs and muscles in the body. In addition, food combination helps to lower the overall GI value of white rice so it is advisable to balance your white rice intake with added protein, vegetables and fibre.