Saturday Magazine
Nutritional value of rice

by Dr. D. P. Atukorale
Rice is probably the world’s single most important foodstuff, being the staple food for over two billion people. Rice cultivation probably originated many thousands of years ago in ancient India where the weather is rainy during the growth phase of paddy and dry during the plants maturation phase as in Sri Lanka.

Its progress towards the West was very slow. The Moors brought it to Spain in the 8th century and rice cultivation was established in Italy by the 10th century. Amongst European nations these two countries have the widest repertoire of rice dishes and the healthiest respect for this prodigiously bountiful plant.

Rice can be broadly divided into two types (a) long grain and (b) short grain. You should choose the long grain when you want the grains to stay separate during cooking and short grain if you want a stickier more viscous appearance.

All varieties of rice even the brown rice is processed to some extent because the tough outer husk which protects the rice while it is growing, is inedible. Rice thus thrushed is termed paddy rice and this after cleaning becomes the brown rice we are familiar in our boutiques and super-markets and "polas".

To produce white rice further processing is necessary. George Oshawa was the founder of the German polishing machine which strips each grain of rice of its protective transparent outer covering producing the so-called refined polished white rice. These machines stripped each grain of rice of its intermediate and inner shells as well, all of which contained precious minerals and nutrients. This processing of our perfect natural food has been extended further through packaging until little is left but the perishable hydrate of carbon core-stripped of its preservative hulls - which cannot be stored without the use of the chemical additives.

It should never be forgotten that the large and continued consumption of white polished commercial rice is likely to be injurious to health. The nations of which rice is the staple diet have been eating it unhusked as a rule when it is brownish and less attractive to the eye, but much more nutritious as well.

According to Mrs. Grieve in her "Modern Herbal" says "White rice is lacklustre, lifeless, tasteless and irritating to prepare; brown rice is flavoursome, wholesome and easy to prepare".

There are several types of rice in the main rice - producing countries, some of these are:

(a) Brown rice ("Rathu Kekulu Haal") which is the most commonly consumed rice in Sri Lanka and is very popular among the rural folk. It has a neutral flavour and good cooking qualities. This is the most nutritious variety of rice available in Sri Lanka.

(b) Parboiled rice which is similar to brown rice commonly consumed by people in up-country and some parts of Southern province. From nutritional point of view this is supposed to be as nutritious as brown rice.

(c) Polished rice i.e. white rice which has been still processed to remove any trace of flour still sticking to the grain. Polished rice is popular among people in urban areas of Sri Lanka especially among the children and teenagers. As mentioned earlier and it is not so wholesome as brown rice and lacks most of the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients you get in brown rice. As pointed out earlier long and continued use of this polished rice can be injurious to the health of Sri Lankans.

(d) Basmati rice: Long grain "Indian’, rice with a highly individual aroma and taste, a good choice for all types of cooking. Basmati rice we get in Sri Lanka is imported both from India and Pakistan.

(e) Rice Bran: The discarded and nutritionally most valuable portion of brown rice after it is turned into white rice. This is used as animal food. Rice bran has the ability to lower blood cholesterol.

(f) Puffed rice: This is used in the manufacture of breakfast cereals and rice cakes. Pleasant tasting with a reasonable nutritional value and low in calories.

(g) Rice flour which is an excellent substitute for those who are allergic to gluten. This can be used for making "roti", hoppers, string hoppers, "pittu", cakes, pastries and puddings but not for bread making.

(h) Organic Rice: Any kind of rice can be grown originally. Worlds finest organic rice is grown in Northern Italy and West coast of America.

(i) Wild rice: Not a rice but a grass of entirely different species. Wild rice grows in the Northern United States where it is harvested by native people. It is an expensive food item and has a unique taste. It can be mixed with brown rice. Wild rice is extremely high in protein.

Nutritional Value of Rice

One cup of brown rice cooked (195g) has 216.4 calories 1.7g of fat, 0.64g of monosaturated fat, 0.63g of polyunsaturated fat, 0.35g of saturated fat, 44.8g of carbohydrate, 5.03g of protein, 0.66g of fibre, O.19g mg of thiamine (B1), 0.05mg of riboflavin, 2.98mg of nicotinic acid, 0.28mg of pantothenic acid, 0.28mg of vit B 6, 7.80mg of folio acid, 19.50mg of calcium 0.82 mg of iron, and 1.23mg of zinc.

Brown unpolished rice is a healthy food because it provides us with rice bran which contains b-sitosterol, a naturally occurring substance which lowers blood cholesterol. It can reduce the risk of bowel cancer and it diminishes the frequently of kidney and bladder stone formation in people who are prone to kidney and bladder stones.

Brown rice can help insulin dependant diabetes patients to normalize the blood sugar levels. It can stimulate the production mucus which has been shown to fight diarrhoeal infections. Therefore rice should be a staple food for all of us.
- Courtesy Peter Cox