I held a consultation with a client recently, and we went to a huge fruit and vegetable market and a Wholefoods supermarket. This gave me an opportunity to educate my client on the different fruits and veggies that are available, how they benefit the body inside and out, how to prepare them, and how to make interesting meals. But I also made suggestions about alternative or similar foods to switch too, such as going from white rice to the 40,000 varieties of other rice varieties that are available and better for you. For most of the bodybuilding world who will swear by and religiously consume white rice as their staple carbohydrate especially during competition time, and the rest of society in general, white rice is the ‘go-to’ rice you add to nearly every meal. My client didn’t understand the difference between white and brown rice or the different varieties of rice available, he just thought rice was rice until I broke it down to him.
Image credit: Robtain
Rice in any variety, has never been a staple in my nutrition, and I don’t really enjoy rice or eat it regularly. However, I will and do have a packet of ‘Black Rice’, aka ‘Purple Rice’, ‘Forbidden Rice’ or ‘Venus Rice’ in my kitchen cupboard. And I will eat it if I fancy it, but it’s that once in a blue moon feeling!
But let’s get back to white rice.
UNPOLISHED – BROWN RICE
The journey of the rice grain usually starts after farmers harvest their rice, which is then sent to a rice mill. There, it is cleaned and the husks are taken off the grains of rice. At this point, it is referred to as “brown rice” or “unpolished” rice. Once the husk has been taken off the rice, several very thin layers of wholesome bran still remain. At this stage, the rice is full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and protein and very healthy to eat. So why are we not consuming more of it? What’s the attraction of ‘Polished White Rice’?
POLISHED – WHITE RICE
Firstly, it has a lot to do with preference and what consumers will buy – ‘if it looks white, clean and shiny it must be good for you?!’, technology and modernisation also have their parts to play, and of course, the people that make lots of money off shiny white rice will do anything to push it onto the plates of consumers. But polishing rice not only removes most of the vitamins and minerals that are vital to one’s health. For instance, the rice bran contains vitamin B and thiamine, both key to preventing vitamin b1 deficiency, also known as beriberi, but it reduces the protein content of the rice as well, which can mean the difference between being well-nourished or malnourished.
And there’s more!
White rice also increases the risk of diabetes. The rice layers removed during polishing contain nutrients that guard against diabetes. Polished rice further increases the risk of diabetes because it causes blood-sugar levels to rise more rapidly than brown rice does.
Ultimately, polished rice will have it’s flavour, texture, and appearance altered which helps to prevent spoilage and extend its shelf life. But with a lack of vitamins, minerals, and the possibility of damaging your health we should all be of the opinion that the more polished the rice, the less healthy it is for you and make an effort to try one of the other 40,000 varieties of rice that is healthier.
Quite simply, learn how to cook rice and widen your rice horizons!
Image credit: Helen Yang
So, what’s better for you? Well, I’m not here to tell anyone what the should or shouldn’t eat, and I know people in the fitness world would use many expletives to show their disgust at my post and stress the benefits of white rice, especially for fitness/bodybuilding. But there’s so much research, especially historically that paints a clear picture of the methods used to alter rice and the health implications that come with that method. Yeah, it probably tastes good and you can get it in microwaveable packets and at any self-discerning restaurant that serves food, but not everything that we put in our mouths is good for us. So I say, do you own research, ask yourself how much you care about the food you eat and what it does to your body and then make the right decision!
I’m not going to attempt to list 40, 000 varieties of rice, but here’s a short list of speciality rice that you can easily find.
Arborio rice This starchy white rice, with an almost round grain, is grown mainly in the Po Valley of Italy. Traditionally used for cooking the Italian dish risotto. Arborio rice also works well for rice pudding. Arborio absorbs up to five times its weight in liquid as it cooks, which results in grains of a creamy consistency.
Aromatic rice This rice has a toasty, nutty fragrance and a flavour reminiscent of popcorn or roasted nuts. They are primarily long-grain varieties.
Basmati rice Perhaps the most famous aromatic rice, basmati is grown in India and Pakistan. It has a nutlike fragrance while cooking and a delicate, almost buttery flavour. Lower in starch than other long-grain types, basmati grains turn out fluffy and separate. Although it is most commonly used in Indian dishes, basmati can also be substituted for regular rice in your favourite recipe. Both brown and white basmati rice are available.
Bhutanese red rice This is a short-grain rice that is a staple in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. It has a nutty flavour and is slightly chewy.
Black Forbidden rice This black short-grain rice turns indigo when cooked. My mum adds brown rice to this rice to make it slightly easier to cook.
Black Japonica rice This fragrant rice is a blend of a Japanese short-grain black rice and a mahogany-colored medium-grain rice. It is slightly spicy and sweet.
Bomba rice From Spain, bomba is considered one of the two premier rice varieties for paella. This short-grain rice can absorb up to one-third more liquid than other rice varieties while still retaining its integrity.
Della rice This aromatic long-grain rice is similar in flavour to basmati rice.
Glutinous rice (sweet rice, sticky rice): Popular in Japan and other Asian countries, this very starchy rice is sticky and resilient, and turns translucent when cooked. Glutinous rice comes both short- and long-grain. It can be white, brown, or black.
Himalayan red rice Similar to long-grain brown rice, it has red rather than brown bran.
Jasmine rice This long-grain rice has a soft texture and is similar in flavour to basmati rice. It is available in both white and brown forms.
Kalijira rice (baby basmati) These miniature rice grains are similar in flavour to basmati rice and hail from Bangladesh. Because of its tiny grains, this rice cooks relatively quickly.
Sollana rice Like Bomba rice, this short-grain Spanish rice can absorb lots of liquid while still retaining its shape.
Sticky rice: The same as glutinous rice, this is a translucent, starchy rice popular in Japan and other Asian countries.
Thai black sticky rice (Thai purple rice): This long-grain, black glutinous rice turns a deep purple when cooked.
Let me know in the comments section if you’re a polished or unpolished rice eater or which type of rice you prefer and why. Or, if you’re like me, why you don’t really like rice.
Featured image: Helen Yang