Debate on the colour of rice continues

2018-01-05 15:45:42


  We Sri Lankans are a nation which barely spends a day without rice, the staple food in the country. According to the latest research studies rice has become the staple food for more than half of the world’s population. This is not a surprising fact when one thinks about the overall population of China, in which country about 78% of the calorie consumption is fulfilled by rice.   


Personal household life   
How concerned are you when choosing the best type of rice out of the numerous varieties available in markets? These types of rice are cultivated and processed in our country itself or imported from other countries. This choice can be really hard to make especially when you are more conscious about the health of your loved ones and hyper-keen on choosing the most nutritious among them.   

Brown and white rice are the main two types we get to see in Sri Lanka at present out of which the brown rice is known to be the healthiest. This is because the outer cover of this rice is rich in Vitamin B and many other major nutrients which are essential to maintain a healthy body. On the other hand, some people believe that white rice is the best as that is the type which is consumed by the Japanese. 

This nation produces the healthiest and the longest living people on planet earth. But the question is whether the mere color of rice be the decider when trying to figure out the nutrients contained within? Has it been scientifically proven that brown rice is more nutritional than white rice?   This is actually a question which has been discussed at several expert panels around the world. Let us unfold some important information on this subject that we found out, through reading and analyzing.   


What distinguishes the two types 
Brown rice is a part of whole grain rice (the first most grain we receive from harvesting). Brown rice is obtained by removing the outermost covering of the grain called the ‘hull’. The reason why this type is considered to be richer in nutrients is because none or only a small amount of nutrients are removed during the process of hulling or processing (removing the hull).   

On the other hand, white rice is prepared by further milling down brown rice, thus removing the layers known as the Bran and Germ- through which the majority of the nutrients are wasted.   


  •  Brown rice contains 23.7% less sugar than that of milled white rice and is ideal for patients having Diabetes Mellitus.   
  •  Bran of the rice grain contains 8 different phenolic substances like Rotochatechuic acid, caffeic acid etc. which have anti-tumor effects and chemo-protective benefits.   


What is polishing?
If the process of converting brown rice to white rice is further continued with to polish-in which the layer called Aleurone is destroyed- the grain of rice will appear whiter, glowing and palatable (pearl like), but with no nutritional value at all! This process is now preferred by most of the rice manufactures, owing to the fact that ‘polished’ rice has an increased shelf life where the grains can be kept for 6-12 months. Even if the economic benefits related to this method of polishing can be immense,  the consumers will not receive any health benefit as the grain is completely purified and rid of all nutrients.   

According to the latest USDA food nutrient data base, the mere process of milling brown rice to white rice can make 73% of Magnesium, 48% of Phosphorous, 45% of Manganese and 24% of Selenium go down the drain, which is a definite waste. Making the fact far worse, the complete polishing of grains can eliminate almost all the essential fatty acids and fibers, Vitamin B and two-thirds of Iron making our so-called staple food, Rice of no use.   


Fortified rice
In developed countries where these processes of hulling, milling and polishing are carried out, the Government has made it mandatory to fortify the grains with essentials like Iron before introducing it to the market. This is done in order to provide the consumers with the highest possible amounts of nutrients. Unfortunately in countries like ours, this is not happening, possibly due to financial restrictions and lack of awareness.   


Take home message
Having mentioned all these facts and figures, it is the sole responsibility of people to choose the best type of rice according to health benefits and personal preference. However, make sure to keep in mind about the faulty brown rice which comes in the form of ‘dyed polished rice’, dumped in the market just to make a quick buck.     

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