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Brown Rice: Benefits & Pitfalls You Should Know

Rice, a staple food that has fed nations for centuries, is nothing short of amazing. It’s a versatile, nutritious and extremely filling ingredient that is found in most Asian cuisines. There are as many as 13 types of rice in the market today, ranging from the long-grained basmati to the short-grained rice — typically used in sushi. In recent years, brown rice has risen to the occasion, boasting a number of nutritional benefits much greater than that of white rice. But before we delve into the wonders of brown rice, let’s explore the main differences between them.

 

The Real Difference

Unlike white rice, brown rice is unpolished rice with only the outermost layer, the hull of the grain removed. This results in a higher nutritional value compared to white rice, as the long and thorough polishing process that white rice goes through strips away most of the nutrients. Polishing also depletes the grain of essential fats that support health and removes the aleurone layer of the grain that is responsible for these nutrients.

 

Benefits

There have been a number of studies, including one from Harvard, which pointed out that brown rice is better for your health than white rice, so what are the factors that make brown rice better?

Rich in fibre and selenium, brown rice is said to lower the risk of colon cancer. Essentially, the concentrated amounts of fibre in brown rice minimise the time of interaction between cancerous substances and colon cells.

Apart from reducing the chances of cancer, selenium is also responsible for maintaining several metabolic pathways. This mineral regulates hormones, specifically those of the thyroid, upkeeps the immune system and encourages DNA repair.

Brown rice also lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, provides a number of nutritious benefits including heart-healthy fibre and is chock-full of B vitamins. Additionally, brown rice is also rich in magnesium, which aids in reducing high blood pressure and the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Magnesium plays an important role in regulating calcium in nerves and muscles. This mineral also lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

If you’re looking to lose weight, brown rice will be your best friend. Brown rice digests more slowly, so it keeps you feeling fuller for longer periods of time. You won’t be reaching for something to snack on or have the munchies as much, either. The high fibre content will also aid in keeping your bowels clear and healthy.

Compared to white rice, brown rice has a low glycemic index (GI). What this essentially means is, sugar levels will not rise as quickly as they do, when you consume white rice. Rice can be included into a healthy diet: The important thing is to ensure that your body digests the carbohydrates at a slow rate, so that your blood sugar level does not spike. On a related note, just because white rice has a higher GI does not mean that white rice leads to diabetes. Moderation is key when it comes to carbohydrates, be it in the form of white or brown rice.

 

Pitfalls

Unfortunately, as much as brown rice is praised for its benefits, it is also crucial to be aware of the cons of this beloved grain.

All types of rice contain arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral that resides in the Earth’s crust and can be found in soil, water and plants. However, brown rice is said to have a higher arsenic content compared to white rice. This is largely due to the bran, which contains the most arsenic, that is left behind on the grain.

You wouldn’t think that a naturally occuring mineral would harm your health, but the addition of artificial pesticides and fertilisers has exacerbated the arsenic content in the environment. In this sense, it is the inorganic arsenic that presents a number of health problems. Apart from wreaking havoc on the body, it is also a known human carcinogen that is associated with many types of cancer.

Phytic acid is another natural substance that is found in brown rice. Like arsenic, it presents itself in relatively higher amounts in brown rice compared to any other types of grains. Phytic acid essentially attaches itself to minerals and stops the absorption of said minerals in the body. In a nutshell, brown rice may have more nutritional benefits, but what is the point when your body is unable to absorb and utilise them?

 

The Solution

To ensure that most of the phytic acid is removed from the brown rice, reuse the rice-soaking water — water which has been used to soak brown rice for 24 hours.

This method is said to remove over 90 percent of the phytic acid in the brown rice. The key here is to compound the 10 percent of the water after you have soaked your rice for 24 hours.

Strain 10 percent of your rice water into a jar and leave it in the fridge. The next time you cook brown rice, you will need to add this water into your uncooked rice along with some fresh water, then you repeat the process all over again before you cook brown rice.

Much like compounding interest, the water will eventually grow more effective in removing the phytic acid in your rice.

Soaking your brown rice overnight also helps to decrease the arsenic content in your uncooked grains.

 

The Takeaway

The key to reaping the benefits of any healthy food is a balanced diet. Moderation should be exercised for any kind of food you eat, even the healthy ones.

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