Nutrition – how nice is rice?

Posted on 5 July 2014

… a regular nutrition series for vegans by Anastacia Sampson

Rice is a lovely cereal grain that is carbohydrate rich, low in fat and easy to digest. What is truly great about rice is how versatile it is and it goes really well with many vegetables. Stir fries with rice are super delicious.

Rice terrace in Bali, IndonesiaOften we are given many presentations of white rice. Sure white rice is nice. But being refined, it is has far less essential vitamins and minerals compared to brown rice. Do yourself a favour, have more than just nice old white rice!

There are a wide variety of rice types on the market, from short grained to long grained, sticky sweet, sushi and others. For a low glycemic index diet, choose brown basmati rice. I grew up with white rice; I then ate brown when I learnt it was healthier. Today when I eat rice, I try only using brown basmati. Brown basmati often has the lowest glycemic index of all the rice varieties.

Try brown rice and you will soon find that your body will be quite grateful for the added nutrients. Then be a bit more adventurous and try bamboo (soaked in bamboo juice), jasmine or basmati rice. These all have interesting flavours.

Brown rice is known to be especially good for magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that we need to help balance and metabolise calcium. Magnesium also has an important role in metabolism when we burn up calories. Selenium and manganese are 2 other vital minerals found in high levels in brown rice. Some brown rice types are glutinous, others have a nutty flavour, some are chewier.

It can be quite tempting to purchase and eat the pre-cooked ready-made rice presented in attractive packaging. From a nutritional as well as health perspective, preparing your own rice at home is probably the best option.  Cooking rice in its own steam is easy. Just bring to the boil, then place on a lid and switch off the heat. Let it stand on the preheated hot plate and within an hour it will be ready to be served. You can freeze left-over cooked rice for meals at other times.

Wild rice has become more available. Although the name may lead you to think otherwise, it is not rice at all but a grass. Wild rice has a higher protein quantity than rice and is nutritionally superior. However, rice is still a great food!

We usually think of rice as part of a main meal but it can be used in desserts too, such as rice pudding. In Asian countries, rice wine is drunk, and in supermarkets across the world a range of rice based breakfast cereals are on offer. Rice crackers, called ‘rice cakes’, and rice milk (quite sweet) are all related products that demonstrate the amazing diversity of rice.

Take care, Anastacia

Visit Vegan SA for more information on vegan health.


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