Rice has been a staple food in many countries, most especially in Asia where most of the varieties are cultivated. Recently, however, we have seen a deluge of reports and articles warning people of its negative effects on the body – particularly on the possible risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular ailments when rice is consumed on a regular basis. But are all these allegations true? Do we really need to stop eating it and replace them with something healthier?
Origin and Value
While rice is grown and readily available in many countries, originally it was first cultivated in Asia particularly in China and nearby areas within the Asiatic continent centuries ago. Through trades and conquests, it wends beyond the borders of east Asia and reached southeast and South Asia and, later the areas of Mediterranean, Europe, and the Americas.
Billions of people have been consuming rice since its conception. It is regarded as the most versatile crop due to its number of uses, apart from supplementing the daily dietary needs of millions of people. Likewise, it is regarded as the most important crop in Asia, with huge lands solely for the cultivation of this cash crop. It is eaten and even used as a vital component in some cosmetics.
It is actually is a grass species and there are two types, Oryza sativa, and Oryza glaberrima. The former is the Asian variety. You can also find 40 different types of cereal grain.
Despite the negative news that it has received by some pundits, rice is actually the least harmful as people would most likely not get an allergic reaction by just eating it. People who suffer from celiac or gluten-sensitive will not fall sick from consuming this.
This grass species can be grown in different terrains and climes, provides the body with immediate energy. A good source of carbohydrates, it can help in digestion and boost the body with Vitamin B1. Other important nutrients that you can get from rice are iron and magnesium. If you want to enhance your immune system or fortify yourself against chronic diseases, it can actually give those added value. Of course, these all depend on the type of variety of rice as not all of them is created equal. Some are actually are more nutritious and offers more benefits for the total well being of the body.
Varieties and Their Nutritional Value
As mentioned, 40 different varieties of rice species are available. But certain types are regularly consumed. They come in different colors, shapes, and nutritional value. White is actually the most common (and most delicious) but others too have slowly become popular due to their added benefits.
The Forbidden Rice
Also known as Black rice was only served to the Imperial family during ancient times in China, is considered to be the healthiest among the different types as it contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. Antioxidants play a large role in fighting free radicals – one of the causes of certain chronic diseases that lead to cancer and heart ailments.
Black rice also contains Anthocyanin, a flavonoid plant pigment that helps in slowing down the growth of certain types of cancer like breast cancer that hits many women.
There are two varieties of this – the Thai jasmine and Indonesian black rice. Both share the same high nutritional value.
This type is actually the most fiber-rich so it makes one feel full immediately. Plus it is good for the digestive system. Eat this type though moderately as it is also high in protein.
Red rice is packed with antioxidants as it contains Anthocyanin. Other than this free radical remover, it also has other beneficial compounds such as myricetin and quercitin.
Since it is rich in flavonoid too like black rice, red rice helps in protecting the body from cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Red rice has two popular varieties – the Himalayan and the Thai cargo red rice. You can purchase them hulled or unhulled.
Less fibrous compared to black and red rice, this type still packs a good amount of fiber as it still has the outside husk. Less rough compared to red and black, brown rice is a rich source of magnesium and contains other healthy compounds like iron, zinc, and thiamine.
When it comes to shape, this can be availed in short, medium and long grains.
While it does not contain any flavonoids that fight free radicals, brown rice still has good nutritional value and makes one feel instantly full.
This is the most common and tastier among all varieties. It is also the most processed as its husk, germ, and bran are peeled off. Hence, it is less fibrous and most of its latent nutritional value removed. While some antioxidant compounds remain, it is considered minimal.
While popular, this type of rice is less valued due to its minimal benefits. It can also spike up the blood sugar when excessively consumed since its low in protein and fiber.
Cultivated profusely, white rice comes in various forms: Basmati, Doongara and Jasmine; Japanese style and; Arborio. The lowest in the glycemic index is the Basmati and Doongara – classified under long grain.
Consuming too much rice, especially the white one, of course, has its negative effects. Since its high in carbohydrates but minimal fiber, it can definitely contribute to weight gain and spike the blood sugar. Once it spikes then drops, the body will later feel fatigued. Hunger pangs and head pains are also common.
Reports also say that brown rice contains Phytic acid – compounds that could affect how the body absorbs essential nutrients like zinc, calcium, and iron. This acid is referred to as an anti-nutrient.
Brown rice may also contain a carcinogenic substance called arsenic – but this depends on where it was cultivated as the location has a bearing on the arsenic level.
Moderation is Key
Again, while rice has its fair share of risks. Excessive consumption will always have a negative bearing. Thus, always practice portion control, whatever food you may have.
Once again, this grain offers a plethora of benefits. It fuels the body and helps treat dysentery due to the presence of husk found in certain varieties. Plus, it regularizes bowel movement, especially the red and black variety, which have high fiber content.
So is eating rice good for you? It may not a superfood, but it still packs a heavy, healthy punch.