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When to Eat White Rice, How to Make Brown Rice
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Jan 31, 2009
Contrary to popular belief, white rice isn't a poor food choice for everyone. The truth is that white rice contains some health-promoting nutrients, and there are circumstances in which white rice can actually be a healthier choice than brown rice.
White rice is brown rice that has been polished down to remove outer layers that contain a number of nutrients, including small amounts of essential fatty acids that tend to go rancid after about 6 to 12 months of being in storage. Stripping brown rice of its husk, bran, and germ decreases the likelihood of spoilage, which allows for longer storage times.
Because white rice contains less fiber than brown rice, white rice is the better choice for people who have sensitive, inflamed, or damaged digestive tracts. While fiber is generally helpful for adding bulk to stools and promoting regular bowel movements, too much fiber can be problematic for people with weak gastrointestinal tracts. Over the years, I've found that people who have colitis and/or problems with chronic diarrhea tend to experience pain and excessive gas production when they eat brown rice, while white rice tends to be well tolerated.
White rice can also be a good choice when first introducing solid foods to babies, since their digestive tracts need time to develop and get acclimated to processing solids, and brown rice requires more digestive strength to break down than white rice. It's important to note, though, that giving babies too much white rice on its own may lead to constipation, so it's best to provide a mix of white rice and a variety of well cooked vegetables.
When our children first started on solids, we found that a good approach was to give them a mix of well cooked white rice, Bok choy, and vegetable or chicken broth (this was in addition to plenty of other plant foods). As they became accustomed to eating solids, we gradually substituted brown rice for white rice, and today, they eat mainly brown rice.
In the absence of digestive challenges, the high density of nutrients in brown rice makes it the healthier choice, but it's essential to prepare it in a way that allows for optimal nutritional yield once inside your digestive tract.
Proper preparation of brown rice includes soaking it for at least six hours prior to cooking, and cooking with 2 cups of water for every cup of rice. These measures result in soft and fluffy brown rice that is ready to break down in your GI tract and release B vitamins, magnesium, iron, amino acids, carbohydrates, and zinc into your system. Brown rice is especially rich in vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin B3 (niacin), both of which are critical to everyday metabolic activities.
In case you're wondering about the nutritional profile of white rice, in addition to being a source of carbohydrates, most varieties of white rice around the world are fortified with vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and iron. White rice is also a fair source of protein.
If you don't eat brown rice but would like to add some to your diet, you may want to start by mixing batches of brown and white rice - this is a good approach for people who are resistant to new flavors and textures.
To make a mixed batch of brown and white rice, use 1 cup of water for every cup of white rice, and 2 cups of water for every cup of brown rice, and cook them together in the same pot or rice cooker. For example, for a batch made with half a cup of white rice and half a cup of brown rice, you'll need to use 1.5 cups of water. Don't forget to soak the brown rice for at least six hours prior to cooking. We wash and soak our rice at night so that it's ready to cook in the morning. It's fine to soak white rice in this manner as well.
If you prefer or need to eat mainly white rice, be sure to eat it with plenty of cooked vegetables and/or avocado to prevent constipation. Fiber from well cooked vegetables and avocados does not typically cause irritation to a weakened or damaged digestive tract.
In Korea, it's often said that from planting to harvesting, a rice farmer has to complete 88 steps to produce a healthy crop of rice. A lot of work goes into producing a healthy bowl of rice, both on the farm and in the kitchen, but when prepared and eaten with gratitude, rice can be a health-promoting staple for the masses.
Please note: If you're a rice person or plan on becoming one, I highly recommend that you look into getting a rice cooker that cooks rice and keeps it warm. A quality rice cooker will save you a lot of time and provide ready-to-eat rice all day long. Here's an excellent model at Amazon:
If you live outside of the United States and would like a quality rice cooker, you're likely to find one at a local Asian food market. Over the years, I've found that the best models are made in Japan.
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