Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Should I Care What Color My Rice Is?

Last week at lunch, my friends asked the question “Why is brown rice better than white anyway?” That got me thinking. Most people may just eat the brown or whole grain version of foods because it sounds healthier, but do we actually know why?

So how is white rice different from brown?
I always thought the process to create white rice did not really make sense. To turn brown rice to white rice, manufacturers remove the bran and most of the germ layer. However, in removing those layers, they also remove some of the essential nutrients. But then they try to synthetically re-introduce these nutrients after the rice has been whitened, and then call it ‘fortified white rice’. Why take out nutrients if you’re just going to attempt to put some of them back, mostly unsuccessfully? But then again, the shell of brown rice does not stay fresh for so long, so white rice tends to have a longer shelf life than brown. This may be why brown rice is usually packaged in much smaller quantities than white rice.

Why should you care?
There are so many reasons you should opt for brown rice over white. First of all, it is in its most natural state. Eating unprocessed food usually means that the body will spend more energy digesting, keeping you fuller for longer. Over processed food goes through the system really quickly, leaving you hungry faster and burns less calories in the digestive process.

Second, brown rice contains so many nutrients that get removed during the whitening process. It contains tons of vitamins, tons of minerals, iron (women take note), and fiber. Some of these minerals have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, like colon and breast cancers, and even diabetes.

Lastly, studies have shown that people that eat whole grain foods weigh less than people that don’t. Whether this means these folks are just generally more health-conscious or that unprocessed foods actually do help you stay fuller, I can’t prove. But it is an encouraging statistic.

What are other brown vs. white food you should pay attention to?
Well, the part Africans don’t like to hear is that we need to reduce our intake of white bread. There are really great whole grain options for bread, especially the ones with the chunks in. Delicious.
Other foods we should be paying attention to are: Cereals, pastas, and even flour. Yes, you can ‘whole grain’ your baked goodies too.

On the plus side, if you’re reading this from Nigeria, you know you readily have local rice (wild rice) options. Local rice is unprocessed rice, so you’re good to go!

Will it be easy to make the switch?
Heck no! If you have been going the white route and want to switch to the brown route (no pun intended), it will be difficult mostly because, frankly, white tastes better than brown. I mean, no one would go through the process of getting the brown out if it didn’t actually taste better. But we’ve laid out the benefits above, and if you’re health conscious, which hopefully you are since you’re reading this article, you would slowly make a shift back to the original. And you know what they say: Once you go brown, you’ll stick around. No? Yeah, I agree, that doesn’t work.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

PS. If you took part in the vegan week challenge, and would love to be part of future Eights & Weights challenges, let us know. We want suggestions for health and fitness ideas you'd love to try.

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