I’m a rice eater. I have about four different kinds of rice in my pantry at this moment.. none of them white. They may be white in color, but they’re certainly not of the “American White Rice” ilk.
There are a few reasons. But first, I think it might be important to explain the process that the grain must go through (because rice starts out as a much larger grain) in order to become the white rices and pastas that we enjoy so much.
This diagram, from The Today Show, diagrams the grain when it’s first harvested. It goes through a rice husker to have the outermost shell removed, and you’re left wit brown rice. Ta-da! The bran part of the grain is where all the rich and chewy fiber is located. The germ is where the nutrient-rich portion of the grain is found. The endosperm is, well… we’ll get to that.
Take it a step further. To get white rice, the outer husk and bran (the fiber-packed part?) are stripped from the grain, as is the nutrient-filled germ. This, obviously, leaves only the starchy endosperm. From here, the endosperm is polished in sugars and/or powders to not only aid in taste, but reshape the grain. Sounds like all of the good stuff is stripped from the grain, right?
Well, that’s because it is.
This is where that “enriched” part comes in. Processing plants will “add” vitamin D and whatever else into the endosperm so that total nutritional value isn’t lost, but it pales in comparison to what originally was in the rice in the first place. As in, what it grew from the ground carrying. Riboflavin and thiamin (which helps your body in metabolizing fats), potassium (which helps your body balance out high sodium intake), vitamin e (a skin care essential that aids in anti-aging)? All are lost when rice makes the transition from brown to white.
I won’t go on my typical trademark rant, but I will say this: rice in it’s least processed form is three times as filling as enriched white rice.
Since you can see that white rice is brown rice with all the valuable stuff stripped of it with some other stuff injected in to “enrich” the endosperm, you can see why it’s so easy to cook white rice… or why it’s so difficult to cook brown rice. What would I suggest? Honestly, ditch the minute/microwaveable rices, and opt for something else.
What else is there?
I’m a big basmati and jasmine rice eater, as well as brown rice. Basmati rice might be a bit pricier – there’s no $0.99 bag of it available anywhere – but for those who love to eat enriched white rice, both are viable options. I eat brown rice, but because I was always so used to white rice, it was a hard switch for me. What do I do instead? After I cook my brown rice (for about 45 minutes – yes, that extra nutrition-y goodness means it takes much longer to cook), I use it in stir fry type dishes or I create a sauce with the leftover juices from cooking the other parts of my dish. A little lemon juice, orange peel, or even an oregano/sage/cranberry blend can go a long way.
In short, there is a benefit to taking the leap away from enriched white rice. Are you taking the leap? Have you already lept? Let me hear about it!