As a society, we tend to associate sushi, and asian cuisine with health. However, a lot of these supposed “healthy” meals, contain a grandiose amount of rice (and sugar, but that’s another discussion). In fact, it seems that most Asian cuisines serve up a side of rice, regardless of the entree. I also tend to find many vegetarians supplementing other more nutrient dense foods, for rice. In 2002, Americans were consuming roughly 27 pounds of rice per person. I can only imagine what it is now.
That is a lot of rice!
The most commonly cooked, (and eaten) rice, is fluffy and white. If your rice is white, it means that the grain has been milled, and the bran removed. However, it doesn’t stop there. Most rice is refined, and/or polished. After the initial milling process, rice may be bleached, cleaned and shined– so that it has a beautiful pearly-white, coat. This rice is even sometimes oiled, and coated– making it “look” even more spectacular.
However, although white rice is an American staple, white rice is far from spectacular for us.
Why Are We On A White Rice Bandwagon?
There are a few reasons why white rice is more common than brown rice.
- For starters, the average rice, which has been bleached, bathed, shined, and glossed, looks more appealing to the the naked eye. We are human, we tend to like aesthetically appealing things. White rice looks more pristine and perfect than brown rice.
- White rice, cooks more quickly than brown rice. We want fast service, both at home, and when dining out. We want food to appear before our eyes, the moment we decide we are hungry. White rice can be cooked lickity-split. Brown rice takes longer.
- White rice is more shelf-stable. Because white rice is more processed than brown rice, it loses most, if not all of its nutrients. For the same reason that a shelf-stable, pasteurized juice, can last forever in a warm, pantry closet, so can that box of rice. Unrefined, unprocessed, rice contains a nutritional oil, that can go rancid if left out for too long. White rice is devoid of this nutritional oil, (and devoid of most nutrients). A food without nutrients is a “non-living” food. Non-living foods can last quite a long time. (No one worries about the Twinkies going bad…).
- Rice, like white bread, is cheap and filling. (However, because it is not nourishing, it only makes us feel full, not satiated).
- Consuming white rice used to be a status symbol. Years ago, in Asian cultures, white rice was seen as more prestigious than brown rice. Brown rice was thought to be seen as a peasants food.
Although white rice may seem more cost effective, more efficient, and even more attractive, white rice is a processed good. It is lacking nutrients, and it is converted into sugar, and then stored as fat in the body. It has no nutritional value, and thus makes us feel full fast, but we do not feel satiated. It is also responsible for causing bloat, and digestive upsets.
What about Brown Rice?
Brown rice is better for us, as it is not traditionally as processed. However, brown rice is still not the most nutritious of foods.
Rice is constipating. Period.
Many people are beginning to discover that they have an allergy to gluten. Unfortunately, most gluten free products are made with rice. When the body cannot readily digest, breakdown, assimilate, and eliminate something, it causes the body distress. Thus, bring on the allergies. Rice, although “gluten” free, is sticky and gelatinous. We want to avoid foods that are sticky, and devoid of nutrients, and instead nourish out body with foods that can be broken down, assimilated, and eliminated. A happy digestive system, is a happy body.
Lucky for us, there are other more nutritious, and “gluten-free” foods that we can nourish the body with. These “grains” are delicious, and are mush easier to digest that gluten containing grains like wheat, and sticky grains, like rice.
Alternatives to Wheat, White Bread, and White and Brown Rice:
- Amaranth- high protein, high iron, high calcium, high in the B vitamins, and other minerals
- Buckwheat- Assortment of B vitamins, high in potassium, and a good source of calcium, manganese, and phosphorus
- Millet- Most alkaline, and least congesting, it is a good source of some of the B vitamins, like niacin, and riboflavin, and it is rich in iron, magnesium, and potassium. (This guy is warming to the body on cooler days).
- Quinoa- high in protein, iron and calcium, and a good source of B vitamins (This guy cooks quickly, and is a great side dish). Here is a simple recipe!
- Corn- Easier to digest than wheat products, but avoid genetically modified corn by purchasing organic corn, and corn products. Eat raw corn for a sweet, crunchy treat.
In most cases you can cook, and flavor these grains just as you would rice. Millet can be a warming breakfast during colder months. Sweeten with a touch of Vanilla NuStevia, or Pure Maple Syrup.
What are your favorite grains? How do you prepare them in flavorful, and delicious dishes?