Monday, 24 March 2014

Is White Rice Bad For You?

With all the hoo-hah happening around about losing weight, eating right and eating healthy foods, we see most of the times that white rice is always declared as a bad choice. You will find a great number of sources and trials stating white rice as the bane of modern health.

However, from centuries rice is the staple food for half of the world’s population. For these people rice is the main component of all the three main meals of the day and sometimes in desserts as well. Also, many feel their meal is incomplete without a bowl of rice. Yet, this population has maintained a lean body and stayed fairly fit, until recently, with westernization of their food, and stressed lifestyle.

Also, I will have to confess that I was among those who believed that all brown stuff was perfect for perfect health and not the white stuff. But now I’m starting to think it’s not as evil as we most of the times portray it. Yes, I do agree, white rice is nutritionally stripped, but I truly believe that todays’ health issues are more to be blamed on our over-processed foods, vegetable oils and preservatives in the food and not just the starches in white rice.

Why white rice is evil
Let’s look into the reason why we have been driven to think that white rice is no honorable option for our wellness.
  • It has a high Glycemic index: Glycemic index (GI) is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate-containing foods and their impact on our blood sugar levels. The higher the GI value, faster the food is digested and raises the blood sugar levels. According to this, white rice has higher GI value than other grains.  
  • High in starch and little or no nutrients: White rice is nothing but the latter result of the milling process of brown rice. In this process, brown rice, which has all its goodies in its bran and germ, is stripped off, leaving white rice filled with starches and little nutrients. The sole advantage of doing this process is allowing white rice to be stored for longer periods.
  • It makes you feel very full: yes, as white is rich in starches it will make you feel full instantly and digest quickly. But is it a bad thing? Let’s find out?

Ok, here before even making any conclusion on white rice, let’s compare white rice with one of the most favored rice in the world ‘the brown rice”.

This brown rice nutritional profile looks impressive right? Simply have me warn you here that this value is only when brown rice is raw not when it is cooked. Our body will convert all of this only when brown rice is cooked and fermented in a proper way (source and method). This seems a pile of work PHEW!
Ok, now white rice turn. Its nutritional profile is far less impressive than brown rice, I know. You may think this could lead into nutritional deficiencies quickly. But tell me one thing, who wants to and will eat white rice alone and just alone for all days or months. For that matter, I am sure nobody eats brown rice alone too. My argument is, even though the nutritional value of white rice is nil, one could make white rice meal nutritious and delicious by complimenting it with some steamed veggies (fibre), meat/chicken (protein) or even can be cooked in soup as is made in some parts of Asia. This way one could also lower the Glycemic Index of white rice in the whole meal. See, problem solved!

And people, tell me honestly, do you really savour the taste of brown rice as your main meal of the day. I simply cannot for three reasons:

  • First and foremost thing – The taste (I believe it is everyone’s priority). How much ever I compliment this rice with different ingredients, I really cannot mask the tasteless and chewy taste of the brown rice.
  • Secondly, the cooking process. I have been advised and believe that brown rice should be cooked in a certain way. As mentioned above, this will restore all the good stuff that brown can provide. But it is time consuming for me.
  • Lastly, It keeps you full for a really long time because of its high fibre content. This may sound good, right? But people, trust me it is definitely not a good feeling to feel full for the rest of your afternoon and evening. I just feel bloated and sluggish. I am sure most of brown rice lovers out there wouldn’t agree more. Although, fibre is hyped for its ability to handle and prevent conditions from constipation to colon cancer, it can harm your intestinal tract by stretching from its normal range and destroying the good bacteria from the gut if ingested in extra quantities. Besides too much fibre can lead to gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome, basically all the conditions it claims to prevent (Source). I feel the amount of fibre that you get from vegetables and fruits are good enough to fulfill the basic requirement.
On the other hand white rice is easy to cook, makes you full and gives energy instantly, digests quickly and most importantly it tastes amazing. So why not pick white rice!

How to add white rice in your food regime
Measure rice with a cup or a bowl each time you serve in your plate. This will keep a check on your calorie count. If you eat too much of it you are putting yourself into calorie surplus. Also be mindful of anything you are adding to your white rice should be lower in calories too.
Make a rice variety once in a day as one big meal of the day. I suggest, keep it as a lunch option as our metabolic rate is higher during afternoons and will easily break down the carbs into energy. This may not be the case during the evening or night, where these partially digested carbs can be converted into fats. Also as white rice has high GI, it will digest pretty quickly too. So definitely a better choice if you want to be active for rest of the day.
If you are still hesitant to have white rice, then try to have twice or thrice weekly. This way you will not miss eating rice and also will be off the guilt of eating rice.
The bottom line…
So people, if you love your white rice then definitely you must consider consuming it. You can capture all the nutrients that brown rice holds, by eating white rice with the right combination. And psst… you can still not feel guilty of having white rice as your main meal of the day.
Caution: As white is rich in starch and raises your blood sugar level instantly, this may not be suitable choice for diabetics. They should choose this grain with care.

Note: There are many varieties of rice that have some or more nutritional value like the Bangladeshi rice or the Cambodian rice, but here I have mentioned only about white rice which is widely used among the Indians and around the world.

Remember eat a balanced diet at the right time of the day!

Over to you: What do you think about consuming white rice? Do you avoid it altogether or have in certain dishes? Or you could suggest any serving tips as well.