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How to Choose the Healthiest Rice
A few years ago when I was talking to our family doctor she mentioned that we might want to watch our white rice consumption. Our doctor was seeing both my wife and I and she noted that there is a trend with people of Asian decent who appear thin but have type 2 diabetes. Rice is the culprit because it often has a very high-glycemic index. Not all rices are so bad though so just a little research could literally add years to your life. This article will briefly cover which rices tend to be the best for your body.
The Problem With Some Rices
To understand why rice is so hard on the body it is best to understand the components of rice as they relate to nutrition. Rice is a grain and like most grains it is mostly carbohydrates or starches as they are commonly called.
When you take the rice as it is pictured above and remove the fibrous husk what you have is just the body of the rice. This part of the rice is the carbohydrate in a much simpler form. When it hits the stomach it is converted into a usable sugar much faster than when it has the tough fibrous husk. Your body registers the simple carbohydrates entering the system and tells the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin is a hormone that unlocks your bodies cells to receive the carbs.
This is analogous to a waitress receiving all of her customers for a day at the same time. Eventually if the wait staff is overworked something will give. Buying grain in the whole grain state is like adding the ability to create reservations and a waiting list at the restaurant. It slows down the work on the body to a more manageable level.
Making sure you choose only whole grain rice is only part of the equation though. Some product ingredients can be deceptive. If you read the ingredients and they say refined enriched whole grain it is no longer whole grain. That just says that it used to be whole grain and now it has been refined. These companies should be ashamed of themselves. Don't buy products that are obviously trying to deceive their customers in this way.
Another consideration is that not all rices have the same starch content. A long grain rice is technically a rice that is four to five times the length of it's width. Longer grain rices have a lower starch content even when not in their whole grain form and therefore often a lower glycemic index as well.
The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is just a scale that shows the speed at which a grain is turned into a usable sugar in the digestive system. For rices in Southeast Asia area you sticky rice is the worst. Regular short grain white rice is a close second with a glycemic index of 90. Sticky rice is a common and much loved rice in Northern Thailand.
The historical significance of refined rice
My Thai wife says her grandmother ate it every day. It is what the working class could afford. Congee is also a common dish you might see containing broken and short white rice. Both of these are fun to try but just not something that your body responds well to over the long run. A rice with a glycemic index in the low 50s or lower is what you want to aim for. We have figured out some work-arounds to make traditional dishes like congee and sticky rice healthier. We're always looking for something new.
New Rice Varieties
Part of the appeal of white rice is its soft sweet flavor. Brown and whole grain varieties were typically used as food for animals. It was thought that more refined was surely better. Recently prices have risen on whole grain as the wealthier educated class catch on. People are hybridizing the grain to create more flavorful, whole and long grain rices.
Berry Rice is one new and exciting variety you can look for that has come out of Thailand. Hopefully these things continue to trend around the world. We will certainly do our part to support the trend. Keep checking in and commenting if you have ideas for topics for us to cover. Here is a link with the glycemic index of many of the available rices.
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