The nutritional benefits of rice

nutritional benefits of riceHa Ha. How strange you are thinking.
Why is she writing about boring old rice? What about quinoa or freekah or chia seeds soaked in filtered water from the foothills of the Himalayas? ;) ;)

Well. There seems to be an epidemic of “anti-grains campaigners” in 2014 and 2015.

Therefore, I’m on a mission to promote some of the nutritional benefits of grains and this week it’s rice.

Let me be clear. It’s not that I have a problem with anyone who can’t tolerate grains and needs to avoid them for their own personal health issues. The concern I have is…the blanket “GRAINS ARE BAD” message all over social media. This is particularly true for the Paleo Diet. Strictly speaking, as a caveman could not have cultivated it, rice should not be eaten on the Paleo Diet.

To be honest out of all the grains RICE is THE LEAST LIKELY TO CAUSE FOOD INTOLERANCE ISSUES compared with higher fibre foods and gluten containing grains.

Asian populations have been surviving on rice for a good long while, so I’m thinking there must be some benefit to some of us surely?

So I thought I might take a closer look at rice and here it is…

The nutritional benefits of rice

So in terms of the more glamorous “SUPERFOODS” in the media, rice wouldn’t be classed as one. It doesn’t have massive amounts of any micronutrient. Conversely, foods like berries can have large quantities of some vitamins and minerals. E.g 1/2 punnet of strawberries gives you more than your daily requirements of vitamin C. Rice isn’t like this. It gives you a little bit of a broad range of nutrients.

Here are some of the key nutrients that can be found in rice: protein, carbs, fibre, calcium, iodine, selenium, vitamins  B1, B2, B3, B6, B7, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc.

Nutrients rice has significant amounts of:

There are a couple of nutrients rice has a pretty good content of. These are:

Protein – 1 cup rice provides about 4 – 4.5mg (that’s just a bit less than an egg and the same amount as pasta and bread). Protein is important for growth and repair in our body. It also helps a lot of us feel satisfied when we eat…and not hanging for a hit of sugar!

Carbohydrate - 1 cup rice gives you around 50g of carbohydrate (around 3 slices of bread’s worth of carbs). Why is this great you ask? Well carbs provide energy. So for people living on a small budget, rice provides a substantial amount of energy in a relatively small portion – makes sense why it’s a staple in developing nations. You get more BANG FOR YOUR BUCK so to speak.

There is a slight downside of this carb content for people with Diabetes or ladies with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). They may need to be a bit more mindful of the portion size of rice they have or their blood sugars will go up.

Also an important note – if you like basmati rice. It has a lower GI (glycemic index) meaning it’s a better choice for people with Diabetes or ladies with PCOS.

Fibre – A cup of rice provides anywhere from 1.5 – 2.2 g of fibre. Now that is not as high as perhaps a lot of breakfast cereals. However it’s still a good source. Great news for maintaining a healthy gut and keeping us full.

Phytochemicals - these are chemicals in foods that are not necessarily essential for life but do have health benefits. The phytochemical content seems to be higher in wild rices and those rices of different colours (like purple and black).  The chemicals seem to have antioxidant powers (cancer fighting)

A note on brown rice

If you choose brown rice you will get higher levels of fibre and quite a few vitamins and minerals. For example, B1, B3, B6, B7, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc are usually higher in brown rice compared to white rice.

When we compare the nutrients in brown rice to our daily requirements it stacks up well: in 1 cup of brown rice you will get about 17-18% of your daily requirements for vitamin B1, B3, B7 & zinc and 20% for B6 and phosphorus. A pretty handy top up I say!

So the verdict on rice…

Rice isn’t a “SUPERFOOD”. However, it’s a VALUABLE food. Like ALL FOOD it can play a really useful role in our diet to maximise our nutritional intake. This is particularly true for people on a budget. If we choose brown rice we get added benefits. (note that DOESN’T MEAN white rice is BAD EITHER).

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