Rice contains all eight essential amino acids for building muscle and some amounts of B vitamins, phosphorus and potassium. It is naturally gluten-free and low in sodium. There are around 40,000 known varieties of rice, so choosing the healthiest might be a little bit of a tall order.
Long-grain rice has the lowest glycemic index (G.I) compared to the shorter grain varieties. This means it gets converted into sugar more slowly, releasing energy steadily into the bloodstream and keeping you full longer. So if you have to eat white rice, go for the long-grain version, often called as ‘Basmati’ in India which is an aromatic rice type.
The rice that is used most often is white rice, which is a long-grain rice that is polished down to remove the bran and germ, leaving just the white endosperm (the rice kernel). However, the healthiest option you can have is the brown rice. Brown rice has thrice the amount of fibre, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin E than white rice. Due to its higher fibre content (which slows the absorption of sugar into the body), brown rice is often recommended for people with diabetes. The oil in rice bran is also believed to lower LDl cholesterol levels.
Types of Healthy Rice
Bhutanese Red Rice: This rice has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. Its red color comes from the minerals in the soil where it grows in the eastern Himalayas, which adds to its nutritional content.
Chinese Black Rice: This rice is also called “forbidden rice,” as it was originally grown only for Chinese emperors. It has a purplish-black color and fragrant aroma. Nutritionally, it is a great source of iron.
Sprouted Rice: Companies have started making sprouted rice, where they kickstart the process of germinating the grain. The process encourages the rice to start growing into a plant—which increases its nutritional value. A “Journal of Functional Foods” study found that germinating brown rice caused an uptick in levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a compound which may support your mood and heart health. Sprouted foods such as rice are easier to digest and are quicker to cook since the hard outer shell is softened during the sprouting process.
Wild Rice: This rice is actually a seed of long-grain marsh grass. It is a great rice option if you are trying to lose weight, because it is lower in calories and carbs than most types of rice.
Wehani Rice: Wehani is a russet-colored, slightly chewy, long-grain heirloom rice which delivers an aroma of buttery popcorn as it cooks. Its flavor is somewhat reminiscent of brown basmati rice. As with other whole-grain rice, Wehani is rich in complex, slow-digesting carbohydrates needed to fuel hard-charging muscles. While we love all protein does for a strong muscle build-up, it’s important to remember that carbohydrates deliver most of the energy needed to sustain those high-intensity gym sessions.
Brown Kilijira Rice: This is a tiny rice, but it is full of nutty flavor. Plus, nutritionally it’s a great pick because it is a lower-glycemic rice, meaning it produces a smaller spike in blood sugar levels.
White rice (and even brown) are getting a bad rap, especially with the popularity of the Paleo diet. Some are cutting out rice all together as its rumored to have little nutritional value and to cause weight gain, while others are convinced that only brown rice should be eaten. Ayurveda (ancient India’s timeless science of life) believes otherwise, and looks not only at the quality of the rice itself, but who’s eating it and when.
There are a few foods that Ayurveda has established as good for everyone, year round, and rice is number one on the list. No matter what your prakriti (constitution, as everyone is unique) and no matter what season, rice holds a place in the diet.
However, there’s a time for white rice, and a time for brown. Ayurveda doesn’t judge rice simply on its fiber content and calorie count as a Western perspective might, but takes into account who’s eating it, when they’re eating it, and what happens to the rice throughout digestion.
White and Brown
White and brown are obviously quite different. A grain of brown rice is encapsulated by the bran. This outer shell is full of fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals. When the bran is removed through milling the rice is white. White rice inevitably has less fiber than brown, but it still has nutritional value and provides protein and energy. And since its outer shell has been removed it is much easier to digest.
For this reason white rice is recommended when digestive ability is low. According to Ayurveda this naturally occurs in the summer and warm months. At this time of year our agni, or digestive fire, is at its weakest. We should adjust our diets accordingly, choosing lighter foods that are easy to digest. This makes white rice a better choice than brown in the summer.
Since brown rice is somewhat heavy to digest it is best consumed in the cooler and winter months. This is when agni is at its strongest. The digestive system can handle heavier foods like brown rice better than it can in summer. No matter what time of year, brown rice can also be soaked for a couple of hours before cooking to help with digestibility.
Ayurveda takes into account not only the season but also the individual. For those who always have very good digestion and a strong agni, brown rice is generally a good choice. For those with more sensitive digestion and weaker agni, white rice is the way to go.
How to prepare your rice?
There’s one more factor to consider- how the rice was processed. Instant, precooked, and regular old white rice, which is often coated with glucose and oil, have little nutritional value. As for all foods, organic and minimally processed are always better. Aromatic, nutty flavored white and brown basmati rices are considered in Ayurveda as the best.
Minimally processed white rice doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. It’s all about who’s eating it and when. The general rule is to go for white rice in the warmer months and brown rice in the cooler. If you’re one of those people who could practically digest rocks then yes, take advantage of brown rice’s nutritive value year round. If digestion is a little slower, go with white. As the rest of the world already knows, there’s definitely a place for rice in the diet.