This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Many people are aware that processed rice lacks the nutritional value of brown rice, yet due to taste preferences, they continue to eat it.
Scientists have good news for these people, as they have found a new way to cook rice that makes it healthier. The discovery is a big advantage because rice is inexpensive and is a staple of many diets around the world.
The Fiber Factor
One reason that processed rice, otherwise known as “white” rice, is not considered a healthful food is because it contains little fiber. The lack of this important food constituent gives it a high glycemic index, a factor that increases the risk of diabetes and obesity in those who consume it.
Researchers at the American Chemical Society determined that a simple modification in the traditional method of cooking rice dramatically increased its content of resistant starch, a substance that is actually a type of fiber. Team leader Sudhair A. James says this benefit can decrease the food’s calories by as much as 50 to 60 percent; therefore, it can cut the risk of obesity.
Why Is Resistant Starch Beneficial?
The starch contained in rice has digestible and indigestible parts. Digestible starch is broken down in the small intestine where it is changed into glucose and taken up into the bloodstream. “After your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, any leftover fuel gets converted into a polysaccharide carbohydrate called glycogen,” James explains. “Your liver and muscles store glycogen for energy and quickly turn it back into glucose as needed. The issue is that the excess glucose that doesn’t get converted to glycogen ends up turning into fat, which can lead to excessive weight or obesity.” Resistant starch is indigestible, so it escapes this process that leads to weight gain.
A Healthier Method of Cooking Rice
James describes the new method, which is a simple modification involving two extra steps. After you boil the water but before you put in the raw rice, add coconut oil to the pot. The amount of oil should be equal to approximately 3 percent of the weight of the rice you are preparing. For example, if you are cooking 1 cup of rice, add 2 teaspoons of coconut oil. When the rice is done, let it cool in the refrigerator 12 hours before you eat it. The combination of the cooling step and the addition of the oil imparts the beneficial change which is not affected when the rice is reheated.
How Does This Method Work?
During cooking, the oil enters the starch and alters its structure, making it resistant to the effects of digestive enzymes. Consequently, less calories are absorbed. “The cooling is essential because amylose, the soluble part of the starch, leaves the granules during gelatinization,” says James. “Cooling for 12 hours will lead to formation of hydrogen bonds between the amylose molecules outside the rice grains which also turns it into a resistant starch.” In effect, the digestible starches are converted into resistant ones that take more time to digest.
Next on the researchers’ agenda is to test which varieties of rice get the best results. They also will evaluate other oils to see if they produce the same benefit. Despite the improvement this method gives white rice, it is this author’s opinion that brown rice and black rice remain more nutritious options.