Children look at it like bugs on their plates; carb-free diet plans warn you stay away from it; yet, it’s been a dietary staple for centuries. Rice has its place at the table, but which type of rice is best, and how should you prepare it? Here’s the long and short about rice.
Rice can be good for you
Nutritionist Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD and consultant for the Atlanta Hawks, says people shouldn’t avoid rice. Rather than fear the carbohydrates, Spano reminds us that one-half a cup of cooked rice is a portion. A single portion will give you 100 calories and one serving of whole grains, provided you are eating whole-grain rice. Whole-grain rice is also high in fiber and contains 15 vitamins and nutrients.
Yes, even white rice
In the United States, most white rice is enriched and fortified with vitamins and nutrients, such as folic acid. Eating white rice can help women of child-bearing age to enough obtain this water-soluble nutrient, which is vital for healthy fetal development but isn’t stored by the body.
So which type of rice should you eat?
While fortified and enriched white rice has its place in a balanced diet, the more colorful the rice, the greater the health benefits it yields. Look for purple, black, red, brown and wild rice to obtain loads of antioxidants. Rice is naturally gluten free, making shopping easier if you have a gluten allergy or otherwise avoid it.
Spano says it’s important to read labels for nutrition information. In particular, search for rice with the Whole Grains Council symbol. Some products mix rice with other substances, such as flavorings, which can significantly alter the nutrition. Wild rice offers a lot of flavor without additives. Try cooking it in your favorite low sodium broth to enhance the taste. Dining out? Most Asian restaurants serve brown rice—just request it! Spano says it might take a little longer to get your order, but brown rice offers more flavor and nutritional value than sticky white rice.
What about the long grain/ short grain debate?
In terms of nutrition, be less concerned about grain length (which is used to classify some rice types) and more concerned about whether or not the rice is whole grain. Spano encourages eating whole grain rice because it has more bran and fiber, thus offering greater nutrition benefits.
Cooking rice at home
If you avoid rice at home because the thought conjures memories of burnt, ruined pans, you’re not alone. Different types of rice require different cooking techniques. The first place to start is to read the instructions on the label. Some types of rice, such as basmati, should be soaked in water before cooking. This makes the kernels more tender and allows them to absorb more water without burning. If you bought bulk rice or aren’t sure of directions, try this general cooking method:
Step 1: Rinse. This isn’t necessary but does reduce excess starch, making the rice less sticky.
Step 2: Soak. Just 20 minutes can help your rice absorb water before heat is applied, making for a more even cooking with less burning.
Step 3: Boil. There are two boiling methods. For the absorption method, boil one part rice to one to one-and-a-half parts water. Watch it carefully, adding additional water if necessary. There's also a boiling method in which rice is boiled just like pasta, with excess water drained at the end. The two methods are similar, but the straight-boiling method doesn’t measure the amount of water going into the pot. The absorption method is preferred for stickier rice.
So there you have the long and short of rice. Type of rice is a preference, based on flavor and texture. Try different types, cooked with various broths to find your favorites. Just remember to watch your portion control in order to maximize your health benefit from adding this interesting grain to your diet.