There are actually about 800 varieties of rice, so is there a difference in nutritional value between rice, and is brown better than white? Is short grain better than long grain?
Let’s have a quick look at what is done to rice before it gets to the grocery store. After the rice is harvested, the seeds are put through a huller/husker to remove the outer grain husks, leaving brown rice. To make white rice, extra steps are taken to remove more layers of the rice grain, specifically the germ and the bran (inner husks), and then the grain that is left is polished (usually with talc or glucose). The white rice than has additives put into it to replace the nutrition lost by removing the germ and bran – this process is called “fortifying” the rice. And after reading all this, it seems pretty silly to use all that time and effort to strip away the nutritional parts only to add them back in synthetically!
Brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice, even when comparing fortified white rice to brown rice. Brown rice has more Vitamins E and B6, Potassium, Riboflavin, Iron, and other nutrients than white rice, plus it has between two and three times the dietary fiber of white rice. Add to all these benefits the delicious nutty taste of brown rice and I will be sure to include brown rice more often for my future rice purchases! Fortunately, many of our most common rice found in the grocery store are available as brown rice – basmati, Arborio, and jasmine (as well as others) can be found in brown forms.
I have read several articles on the health benefits of brown rice. I do not purport to be an expert on any of this, and I certainly have NOT read all of the information on nutrition as it relates to brown rice, but there do seem to be indications that brown rice may help reduce cholesterol, and it can be beneficial in balancing blood glucose levels for those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Now how about the long, medium, and short grain rice? How do we know which to choose? Grain size has to do with the texture of the rice – long grain rice tends to be light and fluffy because the grains do not stick together. Medium grain rice is shorter than long grain rice and tends to be a bit plumper, so it will stick together more. Short grain rice is almost round in shape, like Arborio, and is used for recipes where you want the rice to stick together (like risotto or rice pudding). So the grain size is more about your preference and what kind of recipe you are making, rather than nutritional content.
Products made from rice include:
Rice cakes – a great low-calorie, gluten-free snack. Rice cakes can be eaten plain or with different toppings
Rice vinegar – a great taste as a salad vinegar (especially in cucumber salads!) and is central to making vinegar rice for sushi
Rice noodles – made from rice flour, rice noodles vary in width from very thin to thick. They usually do not have to be boiled (just soak them in real hot water for about 10 minutes) and then use them in soups or stir fry
Rice flour – I must admit that I have not used rice flour, but it is known as a good thickener and can be used in biscuits and dough
Rice milk — this is another product I have not tried but rice milk can be substituted for goat or cow’s milk
And now here is one of my favorite rice recipes:
Rice with Spinach, Peas and Almonds
3 c water
1 c uncooked rice (I prefer brown rice --be sure to follow the cooking time according to the package instructions)
½ package baby spinach (I buy the large bags of prewashed baby spinach)
2 T butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces frozen peas, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c almonds, toasted dry in a pan over medium heat
Cook rice according to package instructions. Drain and rinse in cold water, then let sit in a strainer. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the spinach (be sure to wash spinach first if you do not use the prewashed!) and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
In a serving bowl, combine rice, spinach mixture, and peas, being careful to not stir too much. Top with the toasted almonds, and add salt and pepper as needed.
Sat Fat 4g