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Why Do Asians Eat Mainly White Rice?
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
I thought I would take a moment to answer the following question, sent in by a reader of our weekly newsletter:
"Asian culture is big on polished white rice with all their meals. Do you eat white rice or brown, and why? And why is (it) that Asians don't switch to a healthier carb like brown rice?"
My wife and I eat brown rice most of the time, as we like its texture, taste, and nutritional value. We eat white rice on occasion, usually when we need to make a quick meal or when we visit family members who eat mainly white rice.
One of the reasons why Asians have used mainly white rice over the years is that white rice lasts longer in storage than brown rice. The essential fatty acids found in brown rice usually begin to go bad after approximately 6 to 12 months of storage, the exact amount of time depending on how much oxygen is available. When brown rice is polished down to make white rice, many of the essential fatty acids are lost, allowing white rice to last longer than brown rice without going bad.
Another reason why many Asians prefer white rice is that they have become accustomed to how easy it is to chew and digest. Brown rice requires more chewing power to properly digest than white rice does.
Some Asians refuse to eat brown rice because to them, it's a sign of poverty. Many Asians who are above 40 years of age have been deeply conditioned to believe that prosperous people eat white rice while peasants eat brown rice.
Finally, many Asians choose white rice over brown rice because white rice is less expensive. White rice is far less expensive to produce and distribute because it is in greater global demand and produces higher profits because of its longer shelf life.
For more information on this topic, you can read my Guidelines on Eating White and Brown Rice for Health.
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