Monday, June 4, 2012

How to make white rice nutritious

One of the problems often pointed out about rice, and particularly about white rice, is that its nutrition content is fairly low. It is basically carbohydrates with some trace amounts of protein. A 100-g portion of cooked white rice will typically deliver 28 g of carbohydrates, with zero fiber, and 3 g of protein. The micronutrient content of such a portion leaves a lot to be desired when compared with fruits and vegetables, as you can see below (from Keep in mind that this is for 100 g of “enriched” white rice; the nutrients you see there, such as manganese, are added.

White rice is rice that has had its husk, bran, and germ removed. This prevents spoilage and thus significantly increases its shelf life. As it happens, it also significantly reduces both its nutrition and toxin content. White rice is one of the refined foods with the lowest toxin content.

Another interesting property of white rice is that it absorbs moisture to the tune of about 2.5 times its weight. That is, a 100-g portion of dry white rice will lead to a 250-g portion of edible white rice after cooking. This does not only dramatically decrease white rice’s glycemic load () compared with wheat-based products in general (with some exceptions, such as pasta), but also allows for white rice to be made into a highly nutritious dish.

If you slow cook almost anything in water, many of its nutrients will seep into the water. All you have to do is to then use that water (often called broth) to cook white rice in it, and you will end up with highly nutritious rice. Typically you will need twice as much broth as rice, cooked for about 15 minutes – e.g., 2 cups of broth for 1 cup of rice.

You can add meats to the white rice, such as pulled chicken or shrimp; add some tomato sauce to that and you’ll make it a chicken or shrimp risotto. You can also add vegetables to the rice. If you want your rice to have something like an al dente consistency, I recommend doing these after the rice is ready; i.e., after you cooked it in the broth.

For the white rice-based dish below I used a broth from about two hours of slow cooking of diced vegetables; namely red bell peppers, carrots, celery, onions, and cabbage. After cooking the rice for 15 minutes, and letting it "sit" for a while (another 15 minutes with the pan covered), I also added the vegetables to it.

As a side note, the cabbage and onion tend to completely dissolve after 1 h or so of slow cooking. The added vegetables give the dish quite a nutritional punch. For example, the cabbage alone seems to be a great source of vitamin C (which is not completely destroyed by the slow cooking), the anti-inflammatory amino acid glutamine, and the DNA repair-promoting substance known as indole-3-carbinol ().

The good folks over at the Highbrow Paleo group on Facebook () had a few other great ideas posted in response to my previous post on the low glycemic load of white rice (), such as cooking white rice in bone broth (thanks Derrick!).