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Rice: The Healthy Wonder Staple

24 Jun, 2019
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Rice: The Healthy Wonder Staple

Among the 100 countries, we are a country primarily known for our rice varieties. Tanjore district in Tamil Nadu in South India is well known as the ‘Rice Bowl’ of India. Irrigated by the River Cauvery, the rice cultivation in southern delta areas of Tamil Nadu is carried out in two seasons. Each season the crop grows for a period of three months. Ponni and Mapillai Samba are two of the well known, widely grown varieties here.

Indian varieties

The raw, white rice is the most widely used variety in India. But the varieties depend on the color, starch content, length, and stickiness. There is white, brown, red and black rice. The brown rice used in districts such as Madurai is the hand-pounded raw rice. The grains are fatter and take longer time to cook. Hand pound rice has a low glycemic index and is rich in nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and vitamin B6.  The Matta red rice grown in Palakkad region in Kerala belongs to the par-boiled variety. It is rich in vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. Kerala and Andhra are two most important Biryani rice states of South India.

The traditional Malabar Biryani in Kozhikode is made with a rice variety called Seeraga Sala. Seeraga Samba is one of the most popular varieties that is grown and made use of in Dindigul and Ambur Biryani varieties.

The Black Rice or the Kavuni rice is a native of Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. It has to be soaked overnight and cooked the next morning. This traditional rice variety is rich in iron, anthocyanin antioxidants, and vitamin E.  

Brown or red for health?

Rice is naturally gluten-free and easily digestible. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. According to United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, Rice provides 205 kilocalories that contain 4.25 gm of protein, 0.44 gm of fat, 44.51 gm of carbohydrates and 0.5 gm of fiber.

White rice is polished, processed rice that doesn’t have bran and germ and so it lacks the iron, vitamins, fiber, and folate that brown rice is rich in. But when it comes to choosing the better between the two, one has to consider the health condition of individuals.

Folate is very much needed for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It decreases the birth abnormalities in newborn babies. Folic acid is a more essential nutrient for pregnant women. So white rice, that has fortified folic acid would be a better choice for pregnant women and new mothers. Similarly, for those with sensitive gut and certain conditions of the digestive system, white rice that is low in fiber is more suitable. Brown rice that contains more phosphorous and potassium may not suit those with kidney diseases too.

For those who need more nutrition brown rice is definitely the best choice as it has bran and germ and is rich in all nutrients.

Chemical cultivation

As the style of cultivation involves the use of fertilizers and pesticides and the soil quality has also gone down, today’s rice is said to be rich in arsenic. Other toxins such as Cadmium, mercury, and lead have also been rumored to be found in rice though concrete proof has not been established so far. In general, the inclusion of whole grains in an everyday diet will work wonders to your body.

Does rice invite diabetes?

The risk for type-2 diabetes is seventeen percent more in people eating white rice 5 or more servings per week. Brown rice, on the other hand, presents a lesser risk in people who ate 2 or more servings of brown rice per week. The presence of insoluble fiber and magnesium in brown rice lowers the risk.

Back to our roots

Rice is best recommended by health professionals for its instant energy, easy digestion, keeping the blood sugar levels stable and slowing down the aging process. In fact, rice for its gluten-free nature helps best in weight loss and also boosts the immune system.

But all these properties of rice can be obtained only when rice is cooked the right way. This takes us back to our olden times when our ancestors cooked rice on an open pot and drained the excess cooking liquid. That way the excess starch is get rid of and the cooked rice doesn’t lose any vital nutrients.  

Vijayalakshmi Sridhar’s stories explore human relationships and their dynamics. She is enjoying her journey as a writer of fiction and features.     

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