Being one of the oldest foods known to mankind, rice has been consumed as a staple giving nutrition for thousands of years to Asians. There are many thousands of different varieties of rice but three main types. These are white rice, brown rice and wild rice. These three rice types have differing nutritional values depending on how much they have been processed. Brown rice has only had the outer husk of the grain removed leaving the germ and bran layer intact. White rice has had all layers removed so only the starchy endosperm is left. Wild rice is the ancestor of all other rice varieties and is technically a grass. The more rice has been processed the less nutritious it becomes. White rice has its outer coats removed to give a sweeter taste and because of religious/cultural connotations involving purity. In general, white rice contains more carbohydrate but less protein and minerals than brown rice. Wild rice has more protein, vitamin A and folic acid than brown rice but less minerals. Traditionally most rice in Asia is white and only in Europe/North America has brown rice become recognised as providing more balanced nutrition.
Rice is extremely starchy comprising of a carbohydrate value of at least 75%. This high starch content contributes to vast amounts of energy when rice is consumed and is a major value in evaluating the nutritional strength of this grain. Other healthy factors include low fat, low cholesterol and a good vitamin and mineral content. As mentioned above, the difference between white and brown rice is significant in determining health benefits. Although Brown rice has a better protein and vitamin/mineral content, white rice is higher in energy. All rice has good amounts of B and E Vitamins with also high levels of Potassium which aids the body dispose of toxins. Micronutrient content depends again on whether you are consuming brown or white rice. Brown rice holds higher amounts of micronutrients.
Rice is also heavy in protein which is a basic sustaining force enabling the body to generate energy as well as repair muscles. During heavy exercise, weightlifting or work the muscle tissue separates and the breakdown of proteins occur. Through the process of Protein Synthesis there must be significant amino acid intake in the form of protein to exceed the breakdown of proteins in the body. All nine of the essential amino acids are present in rice protein meaning that muscles can be fed the full spectrum of correct building blocks to grow. A noteworthy benefit of protein from rice is that it is hypoallergenic and less likely to give users adverse reactions like egg, milk or soy proteins.
Today modern science is able to extract the protein from rice resulting in powders that are low in sugar and fat and up to 65% protein. This makes rice protein powders an excellent choice for those wishing to lose weight and at the same time gain muscle mass. For Vegans, Vegetarians and elderly people rice protein can be added to the diet to increase protein intake, help with bone maintenance and boost energy levels.
It is also interesting to note that studies have concluded that the antioxidant properties in rice might explain the why people in countries with a rice rich diet tend to live longer than cultures that don’t have rice as a staple.
Usually boiled, steamed and fried before consumption. White rice in its raw form is favoured for all other cultural uses. A modern use of rice is to extract its protein element and create a protein rich powder to supplement the diet, removing much of the carbohydrate and fibre. This preparation is sought after by vegan athletes and those looking to supplement their diet with vegan high protein food.
Rice is an annual crop that is split into two adjoining sets; indica and japonica. These two are sometimes adjoined further with the two sub sets aromatic and glutinous. The number of varieties that have been cultivated in Asian countries is too many to list. In Thailand alone there is known to be 3,500 distinctly different Rice varieties. Wild rice, from which cultivated rice originated, exists in several different species given which continent they have hailed from. In the Americas alone there exists at least three different types of wild rice (Zizania palustris, Z. aquatic and Z. texana). These were harvested extensively by a number of Native American Indian tribes and became sacred components of their societies. Rice in Asia seems to have stemmed from the wild variety Z. latifolia or Manchurian Wild Rice coming from China.
Rice is ingrained in every culture in Asia with the word for ‘food’ sometimes being the same as ‘rice’. As important as it is for nutrition rice is also used in other areas of life such as religion. For Japanese society rice has become more than just a food seemingly influencing the way the country has evolved. The whole idea of ‘wa’ (harmony) in ancient Japanese culture is thought to have arisen from the need to plant the next season’s rice crop at the same time. This is because each household would have had to pool their collective labour and resources; plus use the same water source which would have been used to irrigate each household’s crop. If there wasn’t the much needed Japanese collective consciousness then the possibility of crop failure and starvation were more likely.
A similar representation of how rice cultivation has impacted a specific culture is with the Iban of Sarawak. There is evidence to suggest that the Iban have formed their whole religious view around the annual rice crop. For the Iban rice has a soul that must be respected in order to continue cultivation year after year. Observances in prayer, ritual and ancestor worship all involve rice as part of their content. In India rice has many symbolic representations that include wisdom, fertility and abundance. There are also Indian fortune tellers that use rice as their tool for divination.
This food source has become an integral part of Asian culture. Even today there are a great deal of people that regard rice as being the essence of sustenance for humanity.
Brown Rice, whole, uncooked.
As well as protein, low fat and low sugar rice also contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals.
Folates, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamine (Vitamin B1) and Vitamin E.
Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium and sodium
Sodium and Potassium.
Phytochemical nutrients (antioxidants)
Flavonoids, Anthocyanins, Proanthocyanidins, Tocopherols, Tocotrienols, γ-oryzanol, and Phytic acid