Rice was first grown and cultivated in China over 8,000 years ago from where it spread to India, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
The seeds of the rice plant first need to be dehulled or dehusked and once this is done the rice seeds are a wholefood and at their most nutritious.
The nutritional content is huge and like many fruits and vegetables is largely absent from the Nutrition label! All we get there if we are lucky is a brief list of some minerals and vitamins but the thousands of valuable and powerfully healthy healing phytonutrients are routinely ignored!
Just for now let’s just say that we know due to many research studies that rice is a superfood!
Learning that rice is a super source of many nutrients and that eating it is supported by many large scale and long term population studies such as the Harvard Nurses study we might just dash to the store and see what to buy…
Which Colour Rice?
Welcome to the World of rice! Not only is there the usual brown vs. white issue as with wheat and in fact all grains – you may see Red rice on the short and black rice too. And I have read of, but not seen, purple rice too!
Then there’s Basmati, Jasmine and Thai and what the heck is parboiled rice?
And should we get long grain or short?
O yeah and how about organic rice?
Back to basics here!
As with any commercially grown food – food that you do not grow yourself – there may be concerns about pollution from sprays and chemicals contaminating the food. Much of the rice grown in the US seems to be grown in land where cotton was grown and suffers from contamination with Arsenic. In the Wiki we find…
“U.S. long grain rice had the highest mean arsenic levels at 0.26 µg/g with the highest concentration at 0.4 µg/g.
Indian rice had the least arsenic at 0.05 µg/g.
Rice from Bangladesh contained the same amount of arsenic as rice from Europe at 0.15 µg/g.”
Also, “Rice from Thailand and India contain the least arsenic among rice varieties in one study” WHF
Ways to minimise this risk include buying organic rice and buying rice grown in India or Thailand.
White Rice or Brown?
Brown rice is a whole food and each seed contains a range of minerals including magnesium, manganese and selenium, vitamins, essential fatty acids and amino acids.
When modern milling methods are used most of the nutrition is removed and the degraded food that results is whhite rice. The issue here is not the colour it is the missing minerals and other nutrients.
And it is not just that brown rice has more fibre than white rice, it is that brown rice or rather whole meal rice is a whole food and white rice is a partial and dumbed down food.
Is white rice actually BAD for me?
Well it won’t kill you but is a poor substitute for real whole meal rice, so why would you eat it? For a particular meal now and then there is no problem but for normal use wholefood is better, way better!
How About Red Rice?
Funny enough, before yesterday I had not tasted it. Knowing that I had to write about it I bought some and cooked it for dinner last night. Easy peasy a mere 35 minutes simmering and the best tasting rice so far.
It has a nutty flavour, very tasty and reminded me of Buckwheat which is an old favourite of mine. I bought Camargue Red Rice which was organic and is now a staple in my kitchen.
Nutritionally it beats both white rice but also brown rice and I’m pleased to say, the Wild / Black rice which to me taste like eating tea leaves.
Next Up – Jasmine, Thai, Basmati, Parboiled, Long Grain, Short Grain
Jasmine Rice is also known as fragrant rice or Thai Fragrant Rice has a nutty flavour and fragrance genes yielding its jasmine fragrance. It contains omega 3 fatty acids and melatonin both of which will help the brain work smoothly.
Jasmine rice grown in Thailand and Cambodia and occurs in white and brown forms. As usual Thai white rice is the default choice and the Whole meal or Brown form the healthiest.
Basmati Rice grows in North West India and Pakistan. It is a long grain rice with the same aroma compound found in Fragrant Thai Rice.
Unfortunately much of the rice imported to the UK and US is often mixed with other varieties and much legal contention has occurred with regard to trademarks, patents, the World Trade Organisation and even genetic manipulation by Indian scientists.
Unless you can find an Organic Basmati with secure and known cultivation you may not get the real Basmati you hoped for!
Parboiled Rice is exactly as its name implies it is boiled already – partially cooked. The process used industrially actually pushes some of the nutrients deeper into the rice seed resulting in rice that is more nutritious than white rice but still less nutritious than Wholemeal or brown rice.
The Glycaemic index for Parboiled according to my Tables is 68 to 87 depending on the precise variety and many white rice varieties have a score ranging from high 30s to low 80s.
Really folks just stick to Brown or Red! If buying a Rice Cooker is going to help you cook more rice and try out more recipes and different varieties then consider getting an Electric Rice Cooker. I just use my big Stainless Steel Pans but having an automatic cooker with a built in timer is an attractive idea and a fabulous gift.