The ancient grain-rice is a great source of complex carbohydrates and is abundant in many essential nutrients. With regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, rice has become the staple food for over half the world’s population.
More precisely, around 3.5 billion people find this food essential for their daily diet. Rice can come in many shapes, colors and sizes.
What should you know about rice in general?
Rice is commercially classified by size: long, medium or short grain. Short-grain rice has fat, almost round grains, that have higher starch content. Long-grain rice is 4-5 times its width and is available in white and brown varieties, which are light, dry grains that separate easily when cooked.
Medium-grain rice has a size and character in between the other two. Rice strains and culinary preferences tend to vary regionally. For instance, in the areas of the Far East or Spain, there is a preference for softer and stickier varieties.
It is interesting to mention that the ancient India science of life – Ayurveda has a different take on the nutritious benefits of food. The timeless Ayurveda created a list of foods which are good for everyone and guess what – rice is on top of that list! Ayurveda also believes there is a period of the year good for the white rice intake only, and a time of the year when the brown rice is a much healthier choice for consumption.
However, these Ayurveda statements did not take into closer consideration the different caloric value and different fiber content of rice. Unlike this old Indian practice, the usual Western practice is to consume all strains of rice year-round depending on personal health.Despite the fact that the metabolism and constitution of each person is different and unique, rice always deserves a place on the dinner table!
Do all strains of rice have the same nutrition value?
The popularity of this food has made it a subject of numerous studies and researches that investigate the nutritious value and properties of each strain of rice. This resulted in a great controversial debate on the topic:
Which rice is healthier – the brown rice or the white rice?
When it comes to nutritive aspects of food, most of us follow the common belief that foods in their raw i.e. natural form are a much healthier choice. This is why the unrefined, raw brown rice is instantly perceived as superior to white rice. Peculiarly enough, the bad reputation of the white rice as unhealthy, low in nutritional value, and fattening food hasn’t made us change our tune about it yet!
The nutrition value of rice varies depending on a number of factors. It depends on the strain of rice that is on its color-white, brown, black, red or purple. Each of these varieties of rice is prevalent in different parts of the world.
Here we discuss the predominant varieties of rice in the western cuisine that is the white and the brown rice. When it comes to taste, the white rice wins the battle for the majority of people, but when it comes to digestive advantages, the white rice has long lost the battle to its brown counterpart. So, I will point out the different dietary advantages of both types of rice that you must take into consideration when planning your daily menu.
The grain of the brown rice is enclosed in the outer covering called ‘bran’. This outer edible husk of brown rice is much richer in fiber, B vitamins and some minerals in comparison with the white rice. Due to its superior content of nutrients, the bran is a very powerful help for our digestive systems as well.
When rice is refined, it does not have its bran any longer, so it becomes much more difficult to process. According to Ayurveda, our digestive fire is best in the cooler winter months. So, the brown rice should be consumed in the colder period of the year when the digestive system can process heavier foods much better than during the warm period.
Rice is typically rinsed before cooking to remove excess starch. Rice produced in the US is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals, so long rinsing will result in a loss of nutrients at the account of its improved texture and taste.
The brown rice takes slightly longer to cook. So, here’s a cooking tip: Rinse rice repeatedly until the rinse water is clear or soak it in water shortly before cooking in order to make it more digestible. Waters softens the outer covering of the brown rice, making it significantly easier to digest. If you ask me, this “brownie” certainly deserves an honorable place on your winter menu!
As mentioned above, the bran of brown rice is removed through the process of refining, making it snow white in color. This alters the flavor, texture and appearance of rice and helps prevent spoilage and extends its storage life. Although the white rice has significantly less fiber, it still has a great nutritional value. Due to the lack of bran, the white rice is much easier to digest, making it an excellent choice for you if you have a low digestive ability.
Ayurveda established that during the warm months of the year, our digestive potential is significantly lower.This is the reason why we get stomach ache after eating heavy or greasy food on hot summer days.
Thus, we should alter our diets appropriately and choose lighter foods in the warmer periods of the year, such as the white rice. The low fiber properties of the white rice are also beneficial for you if you suffer from colitis, diarrhea or morning sickness.
An illustrative comparison between the brown and white rice of protein quality, mineral and vitamin quality, carbohydrate and fat quality, suggests that neither is a complete nutrition source. Between the two, there is a significant difference in fiber content and minor difference in other nutrients.
We all have different tastes for food and different metabolisms, so we all react differently to various foods. So, it is up to you to decide which one is better for you: the white or the brown one!