Rice (Oryza sativa) is a staple food in many countries, supplying as much as half of the daily calories for half of the world’s population. There is an abundance of varieties of rice which are over 8,000. Oftentimes, rice is categorized by its size–short grain, medium grain or long grain. Short grain, which has the highest starch content, makes the stickiest rice, while long grain is lighter and tends to remain separated when cooked. The qualities of medium grain fall between the other two types.
Another way that rice is classified is according to the degree of milling that it undergoes. A whole grain of rice has several layers. Only the outermost layer, the hull, is removed to produce what we call brown rice. This process is the least damaging to the nutritional value of the rice and avoids the unnecessary loss of nutrients that occurs with further processing. If brown rice is further milled to remove the bran and most of the germ layer, the result is a whiter rice, but also a rice that has lost much of the nutrients. After milling, the rice is polished to produce the white rice we are used to seeing. The resulting white rice is simply a refined starch that has lost significant amount of its nutritive value.
Brown rice is a very nutritious food. It is a whole grain that is relatively low in calories, high in fiber, gluten-free and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes. Eating brown rice has been linked to protection against atherosclerosis, diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity. A cup of brown rice provides 35 percent of the daily recommended intake of selenium, which helps induce repair in damaged cells that can help to stop cancer cells from spreading and may help reduce the risk of breast cancer through its dietary fiber content.
Brown rice is also rich in magnesium, a mineral shown to be helpful in reducing the severity of asthma, lowering high blood pressure, reducing the frequency of migraine headaches, and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Magnesium helps regulate nerve and muscle tone by balancing the action of calcium. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as natural calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve. By blocking calcium’s entry, magnesium keeps our nerves relaxed. And like soybeans, brown rice is a good source of phytoestrogens – plant compounds that helps to regulate blood cholesterol levels, blood vessel elasticity, bone metabolism, and many other cellular metabolic processes.
Brown rice, like all grains, should be rinsed thoroughly under running water, and any dirt or debris should be removed. To cook brown rice, add one-part rice to two parts boiling water or broth. After the liquid has returned to boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Serve in your meal and enjoy the goodness of brown rice.
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