What’s for Dinner Advice: Know Your Grains


Know Your Grains

The debate between brown rice and white rice.

Three billion people on this planet depend on rice for more than half of their daily total calorie intake. Most of them eat white rice because of its affordability and accessibility. What are the differences and benefits of rice variations? Is this a smart carbohydrate?

There are further distinctions between long grain, short grain, and over 8,000 varieties, besides the obvious difference in colour.

Brown Rice is the whole grain with just the first outer layer (husk or hull) removed through milling. It still retains its fibre and the germ which contains many of the most vital nutrients.

White Rice is brown rice that has first been milled to remove the bran and much of the germs. This reduces the fibre and many nutrients. It is further polished to take away the remaining layer of germs (aleurone layer) which contains its essential oils. It is these oils which oxidize and go rancid.

Sticky Rice or Not: Short grain rice has the highest starch content which contributes to the stickiness of ‘sticky rice’. In comparison, long grain rice is fluffier and lighter.

Health Benefits of Brown Rice Over White Rice Brown rice has: 

  • Twice the manganese and phosphorus of white. 
  • 2.5 times the iron. 
  • 3 times the vitamin B3. 
  • 4 times the vitamin B1. 
  • 10 times the vitamin B6. 

It is a great source of manganese that is essential for energy production and antioxidant activity. When you buy Brown Rice, be careful that it is not stale. Putting rotten fats into your system negates any benefit that you might get from other nutrients. Buy small quantities from a source that you can trust and do a smell test before cooking the rice. Keep it refrigerated or use other preservation methods.

  1. High fiber and selenium content reduces colon cancer: The fibre in brown rice reduces the time that cancer-causing substances spend in the colon. Selenium has been shown to substantially reduce the risk of colon cancer. White rice on the other hand has very little fibre.
  2. Weight loss and reduced metabolic problems: Eating whole grains with lots of fibre, like brown rice, has been shown to assist in weight reduction plus the ability to keep the weight off! Refined grains are now being linked not only to weight gain but to Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  3. Lower cholesterol: A study at Louisiana State University showed that rice bran and rice bran oil reduced LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol.
  4. Unique powerful phytonutrients: All whole grains have bound phytonutrients which are released by the action of intestinal bacteria. These unique substances have health-promoting activities that are equal to or higher than that of free form phytonutrients found in vegetables and fruits. One such example is a lignin called Enterolactone that is thought to protect people against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease.

Cautions to note: 

  • The main reason that brown rice is processed is to increase its storage time. The essential oils go rancid after six to eight months. White rice, on the other hand, can last up to ten years.
  • It is important to note that the protein in white rice has been shown to be more available. This is important in parts of the world where rice is the main source of calories, particularly since rice is not a protein rich food to begin with.
  • It is for this reason that white rice is used for weak and convalescent people. White rice’s lack of fibre is more acceptable to someone with a weak digestion system.  

In Kenya we have various rice types and brands from all over the world. The trick is to identify which is your favourite one that works with your pocket and taste. The more aromatic the rice, the more expensive it would be. Common rice types in Kenya include: Basmati, Kenyan Pishori, Jasmine rice, Biryani rice etc. Remember that when shopping for brown rice you need not buy a lot of it due to its reduced shelf life.

Rice is ideal for quick and easy recipes that are both wholesome and nutritious. Why not try our Beef Rice dish for a delicious family dinner.