Many of those on a carbs-up diet eat plenty of rice on a weekly basis, some up to 3x a day. Depending on the type of rice you choose, you could be adding to your health more nutrients than you realize. Nutritionists recommend primarily brown rice, which boosts a generous amount of B-vitamins, fiber and iron.
But if you’re like most people who try to eat relatively healthy, brown rice is probably your choice of food very rare, if ever. Long-grain brown rice may appeal more to your taste buds, but usually the rice varieties that a majority enjoys are long-grain white rice and basmati. Another variety is enriched rice, which we will expand on next.
A short history of the modern rice
Before people learnt to remove the bran and germ off grains, there was only brown rice. Today rice remains one of the three main grains that humans consume. The other two are wheat and corn.
Interesting is that while half of the calories we consume come from these three cereals, we are not getting the same amount of nutrients. And this is the reason why.
Farmers produce rice in several steps. First they harvest, then they mill to remove the husks off the rice. At this stage, the rice retains all of the nutrients and this is how all rice was produced until about a century and a half ago.
What happened next was technology that allowed producers to refine rice and peel the bran off the grains to make polished or white rice.
The downside of milling technology is that it stripped the grain off most of the protein, the vitamins and minerals it naturally contains. Everything in the food that has a positive effect on health is removed through milling.
Another shift in the manufacturing process was to introduce enriched rice, which is white rice supplemented with an assortment of nutrients that are meant to provide more nutrition to the food. Every producer is required to indicate that their product is enriched and furthermore to provide information about the level of enrichment in the food.
Enriched rice is also referred to as fortified rice, both terms pointing to a type of rice that is supposed to be healthier. But is it really?
The trouble with enriched rice
Foods have a natural synergy of nutrients that the body recognizes easily. So when consuming brown rice, the body finds it easy to assimilate nutrients. Once these vitamins and minerals are removed from the food, they are gone forever and the added nutrients can never replicate what nature provides.
In other words, it is more difficult for the body to recognize and assimilate added nutrients, and white rice itself (consumed on a daily basis or regularly) is widely known to have an adverse impact on health and increase the risk of health conditions.
The fact that white rice is enriched doesn’t change things all that much because the nutrients used to fortify the food are usually low-grade or the cheapest form. It is also worrying that consuming too much enriched white rice can lead to a build-up of these nutrients that in excess do more harm than good.
One example is the added folate to rice. The medical field recognizes that too much folate is bad for most people. Looks like the healthier option remains brown rice.