Seven Reasons why Rice is Beneficial to your Health
Seven Reasons why Rice is Beneficial to your Health
As it’s National Rice Week (12th– 18thSeptember 2022) I thought I’d look at all the health benefits we derive from eating rice.
Rice is a starchy carbohydrate and as most of you know, I frequently talk about the importance of balancing blood sugar for good health. So, how can a starchy food relate to good health? Let me explain all the wonderful ways rice is beneficial, the types to choose and how to eat rice without upsetting your delicate blood sugar balance.
Rice is the staple food for over half the World’s population, and there are many types to choose from. It is mostly starch with almost 30g of carbohydrate in a typical 100g portion. In recent years with such a rapid increase in Type 2 diabetes especially in the Western World, there is a real focus to lower our intake of starchy food.
I am going to challenge the perception that rice should be avoided due to its multiple health benefits.
7 Health Benefits
- Rice is rich in polyphenols, plant compounds that are high in antioxidants. Many of these compounds travel through the gut undigested, then provide fuel to feed important strains of gut bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus promoting good bacterial diversity. This is mainly from the colourful varieties: red, black and purple.
- Rice is high in resistant starch, especially when it is cooked and cooled. This starch is also non-digestible and acts as a prebiotic fuel for beneficial gut bacteria. The bacteria produce butyrate from the starch, which feeds other bacteria, helping to lower gut inflammation and help the integrity of the gut barrier.
Cool and store cooked rice within an hour. It is very safely provided it is kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours and reheated thoroughly.
- Brown rice is naturally high in fibre, both insoluble and soluble fibre. Both types of fibre are essential for maintaining healthy daily bowel movements, cleansing the gut, eliminating toxins and helping to keep inflammatory bowel disease and bowel cancer at bay.
White rice does not have these benefits, as the bran and germ have been removed.
- Rice is naturally gluten-free, helpful for those looking to reduce their gluten intake. Gluten is known to be difficult to digest, and some people are intolerant to eating it in high amounts.
- Soluble fibre in brown rice helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, as cholesterol in the gut binds to the fibre for excretion from the body.
- Brown rice is a nutritious food containing good levels of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, manganese, B vitamins like folate and iron. These nutrients are found in the bran and germ that is removed during the milling process to make white rice.
- Brown rice is a (low) source of protein, typically 5g per 100g serving. Whilst this is not sufficient protein intake for a main meal (15-20g is recommended), it goes some way to provide protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
Best Rice to Choose
Brown rice is the best for its nutritional profile and gut health benefits.
Choosing brown rice, with its high fibre content, helps to slow the digestion of the starch and helps to keep blood sugar levels more stable compared to white rice. Brown rice also includes the colourful types of red, purple and black rich in polyphenols.
When not to choose Brown rice
For those with an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, it is best to avoid the high fibre variety, which can aggravate an irritated gut lining.
In this case, choose basmati rice, higher in amylose starch which takes longer to break down to simple sugars, compared to sticky types of rice.
Factors to consider
Rice can be high in phytic acid, which can hinder the absorption of minerals, so consider soaking and rinsing rice before cooking to lower its content.
Some rice may have a higher arsenic content- a heavy metal that is toxic in excess. Eating small amounts of rice regularly will not be a concern, but do not drink rice milk and avoid rice crackers to lower your exposure.
Blood Sugar Concerns
Always choose brown rice (or next best is basmati) as both types will slow the release of sugars from the starch into the bloodstream.
Always eat rice alongside a balanced meal containing protein, fats and non-root (non-starchy) vegetables, keeping the rice portion to no more than 20% of your plate.
Rice in the diet has plenty of health benefits described above, and I recommend that brown rice in particular should be eaten as part of a diverse diet.
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