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Wholegrain brown rice is an abundant source of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals (Picture from food52.com)

Brown rice is getting the attention of health-conscious foodies for its nutritional quality

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I am typically Asian; I can’t go too many days without having rice! Do you know that rice provides nourishment for about one fifth of the world’s population? Not bad for a humble little grain. Historically, rice was discovered in China some 6,000 years ago. Today, there are thousands of identified varieties of rice available around the world.

Brown rice is one such variety that is getting the attention of health-conscious foodies for its nutritional quality. Brown rice is a wholegrain, which includes other examples such as wholewheat, bulgur, millet, oats, barley, corn, and rye, just to name a few.

It’s considered a wholegrain because it is unpolished, whereby the essential layers of the rice grain is still intact. This helps brown rice retain more than 70 per cent of the important nutrients found in the rice grain. These layers are highly nutritious and is where a high concentration of nutrients are present. In brown rice, the only part that is removed is the hull, which is the hardened outermost layer which is not palatable.

NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS

Wholegrain brown rice adds a powerful nutritional punch to your daily diet. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Database for Standard Reference, wholegrain brown rice is an abundant source of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals that benefit our good health and wellbeing.

A healthy diet that is low in fat reduces the likelihood of chronic conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, to name a few.

* A cup of cooked brown rice provides up to 88 per cent of the daily needs of manganese for an average adult. This mineral is important in the energy release process from carbohydrates and protein, and is involved in the making of healthy sex hormones as well as in providing an essential component in the production of the enzyme Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), which helps our cells protect against environmental damage.

A cup of cooked brown rice contributes 14 per cent of dietary fibre for an adult (Picture from pressurecookrecipes.com)

* A cup of cooked brown rice contributes 14 per cent of dietary fibre for an adult. A high fibre diet that is low in fat is proven to lower high LDL cholesterol levels. Research also shows that people who eat foods high in fibre, such as wholegrain brown rice, were better at maintaining a healthy weight. Those who eat high fibre foods were least likely to be overweight or obese. For diabetics, choosing grains high in fibre, such as brown rice, can help maintain good blood sugar control when eaten as part of a healthy diet.

* Resistant starch and oligosaccharide — these two components together with dietary fibre work in tandem to support gastrointestinal health. They increase the bulk of stools in the intestines, which in turn hastens its elimination from the bowel. This faster transit time of stools through the large intestines is a mechanism that reduces the risk for diverticulitis and colorectal cancer.

* The B vitamins play a role in releasing energy from the foods we eat. They also support the nerves to assist in the proper functioning of muscles, the spinal column and the brain. This also strengthens the immune system so you are better able to fend off infections and diseases.

Brown rice has 60 per cent more iron compared to white rice. Iron is a mineral which is required for the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to your organs and muscles. A lack of iron in your diet can make you feel tired and lethargic. Iron is a much needed mineral for women during the menstrual years to prevent anaemia.

The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010 by the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends that half of the carbohydrate foods we eat should be in the form of wholegrains instead of the refined type. Considering rice is a common grain that we eat daily, why not give wholegrain brown rice a try? You may find that you actually like it.

NUTRITION IN THE KITCHEN

HOMEMADE BROWN RICE CRUMBS

Brown rice crumbs is a wholegrain, gluten-free alternative to using plain old breadcrumbs. Just substitute it in your favourite recipes that call for breadcrumbs, such as to make homemade chicken nuggets, crumbed fish fingers, meatballs, croquette, etc.

Here’s what you do:

• Preheat the oven to 120* Celsius.

• Place leftover cooked wholegrain brown rice in a single layer onto a baking tray.

• Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the rice is dry and lightly toasted.

• Put the cool toasted rice into a food processor and blend it into a fine crumb texture.

• Store the rice crumb in an airtight container till you are ready to use it.

Tip : Feel free to be creative with herbs and spices to season your rice crumbs. Mix in any herb of your choice, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, garam masala or add a punch of spiciness with curry powder or chilli powder.

* Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at [email protected]

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