Which Rice Is Best...

               It has been cultivated for thousands of years

Truth is, rice is a big part of meals in every corner of the globe. Archaeological evidence suggests rice has been feeding mankind for more than 5,000 years. The first documented account is found on a decree about rice planting, that was authorized by a Chinese emperor about 2,800 BC. From China to ancient Greece, Persia to the Nile River Delta, rice has migrated across continents and eventually found its way to the western hemisphere. Cultivation and cooking methods are thought to have spread to the west rapidly and by medieval times, southern Europe saw the introduction of rice.

The first cultivators of rice in America did so by accident after a storm damaged ship docked in the Charleston South Carolina harbor. The captain of the ship handed over a small bag of rice to a local planter as a gift, and by 1726, Charleston was exporting more than 4,000 tons of rice a year. The marshlands bordered by fresh tidal water rivers of the Carolinas and Georgia were perfectly suited for rice production. The soil was rich, reasonably flat, and highly fertile. It was also so soft that a man could hardly stand on it. With the tides pushing fresh water onto the flood plains twice a day, nothing else could be grown there. In the United States, rice production is concentrated in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Today, rice is grown and harvested on every continent except Antarctica. In the United States, farmers have been successfully harvesting rice for more than 300 years, but the majority of rice comes from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Bangladesh. Asian farmers still account for 92% of the world's total rice production. More than 550 million tons of rice is produced annually around the globe. There are thousands of strains of rice today, including those grown in the wild and those which are cultivated as a crop. First thing you will notice is that there are differences in grain varieties and they are:
    • LONG: Long slender kernels which produce light, fluffy rice.
    • MEDIUM: Short, wide kernels which are moist and tender when cooked.
    • SHORT: Short, round kernels which are soft and cling together when boiled.
      Some popular varieties are:
        • Arborio: Large tan starchy grains with white dots in the center, similar in size to medium grain white rice. Arborio is most often used in risotto because of its creamy, chewy texture.
        • Waxy: Also known as "sweet"or "sticky" rice, kernels are short and plump, and produce a thick, starchy product when cooked. Sticky rice is most often used for sushi and  desserts, poultry stuffing, and in dumplings.
        • Basmati: An aromatic rice, has a nut-like fragrance, and light texture.
        • Jasmine: A soft-textured long grain aromatic rice both brown and white varieties. 
        • Bhutanese Red Rice: Grown in the Himalayas, this red colored rice has a nutty taste.
        • Forbidden Rice: A black colored rice that turns purple upon cooking. It has a sweet taste and sticky texture.
          While white rice can be filling, but much of the healthy nutrients are processed out of it. The milling and polishing processes of white rice removes most of the important vitamins and other nutrients from it, as polished rice is nothing more than refined starch. However, white rice is both easier, and faster to cook. White rice can be kept indefinitely in a cool, dry area. White rice is one of the easiest and quickest foods to digest, and requires only an hour to completely digest. Since white rice is low in fiber, it is very soothing to the digestive system and easily digested. Certainly benefits, but not major health benefits. Brown Rice is really the way to go. Unlike stripped white rice, brown rice can help keep blood sugar stabilized as it releases sugars slowly. Any rice, including long-grain, short-grain, or sticky rice, may be eaten as brown rice. This traditionally denigrated kind of rice is now more expensive than common white rice. This is partly due to its relatively low supply, and difficulty of storage and transport. It has a mild nutty flavor, is chewier and more nutritious than white rice, but goes rancid more quickly because the germ, (which is removed to make white rice),  contains fats that can spoil. When only the outermost layer of a grain of rice, the husk is removed, brown rice is the result. To produce white rice, the next layers underneath the husk, the bran layer and the germ, are removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm.

           Vitamins and dietary minerals that are lost in this removal process, have to be synthetically re-added, or fortified to white rice, or the FDA won't allow it to be sold as food. Red rice, comes in a variety of forms. Some cultivars are short grained and very sticky, while others are long-grained. Red rice is grown in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the American South. When red rice is cooked, the natural red color in the bran, or hull of the rice, leaches out and dyes the rest of the dish red to pink. Red rice is high in fiber, because of the bran, and the flavor is much stronger than that of hulled rice, tasting more nutty and full. Red rice can be served with a variety of foods or eaten on its own. Black rice, also known as purple rice, or forbidden rice. Legend has it that this Chinese black rice got its name because it was so nutritionally beneficial that only the emperors were allowed to eat it. Varieties include but are not limited to Indonesian black rice and Thai jasmine black rice. Black rice is high in nutritional value and is a source of iron, vitamin E, and antioxidants, more than in blueberries. The bran hull (outermost layer) of black rice contains one of the highest levels of anthocyanin antioxidants found in food. The grain has a similar amount of fiber to brown rice and like brown rice, has a mild, nutty taste. In China, black rice is claimed to be good for the kidney, stomach and liver.

          Because only the hull (outermost layer) of the rice kernel is removed during processing, black rice retains the most nutrients out of the rice varieties. Black, Brown, or Red are all an excellent source of manganese, selenium, and fiber which are all important for your nervous system as well as other physiological processes. It also contains numerous other vitamins and minerals not found in white rice varieties. Brown, black, and red rice is considered a whole grain. White rice is simply a refined starch that is lacking it's original nutrients. Just one cup of brown rice will provide you with 88.0% of the daily value for manganese. This trace mineral helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates. It is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids, important for a healthy nervous system, and in the production of cholesterol. Which is used by the body to produce sex hormones. Manganese is also a critical component of a very important antioxidant enzyme called Superoxide Dismutase. Superoxide Dismutase or, SOD is found inside the body's mitochondria. Mitochondria are the oxygen-based energy factories inside most of our cells. There SOD provides protection against damage from the free radicals produced during exercise or energy production.

          In a Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital study, 74,000 female nurses aged 38-63 years over a 12 year period, showed less weight gain with the intake of high-fiber, whole-grain foods, and more weight gain with the intake of refined-grain foods. Not only did women who consumed more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who ate less of these fiber-rich foods, but those consuming the most dietary fiber from whole grains were 49% less likely to gain weight compared to those eating foods made from refined grains. For people worried about colon cancer risk, brown rice packs a double punch by being a concentrated source of the fiber needed to minimize the amount of time cancer-causing substances spend in contact with colon cells, and being a very good source of selenium, a trace mineral that has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Selenium also stimulates one of the body's most powerful antioxidant enzymes, glutathione peroxidase which is used in the liver to detoxify a wide range of potentially harmful molecules. Not only does selenium play a critical role in cancer prevention as a cofactor of glutathione peroxidase, selenium also works with vitamin E in numerous other vital antioxidant systems throughout the body.

          In a study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Louisiana State University evaluated the effects of brown rice bran and rice bran oil on cholesterol levels in volunteers with moderately elevated cholesterol levels, they found that rice bran oil lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol. A 3-year prospective study of over 200 postmenopausal women with CVD, published in the American Heart Journal, shows that those eating at least 6 servings of whole grains each week experienced both, a slowed progression of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque that narrows the vessels through which blood flows, and slowing of stenosis, the narrowing of the diameter of arterial passageways. More research, from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) International Conference on Food, Nutrition and Cancer, by Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues at Cornell University shows that whole grains, such as brown rice, contain many powerful phytonutrients whose activity has gone unrecognized because research methods have overlooked them. One type of phytonutrient especially abundant in whole grains including brown rice are plant lignans, which are converted by friendly flora in our intestines into mammalian lignans, including one called enterolactone that is thought to protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease.
            First we told you, "Don't eat fat, and you'll stay trim." Only to see obesity expand to never before seen proportions. Then we told you, "Eating fat is fine. just cut carbohydrates to stay slim." In reality, neither piece of dietary advice is complete, accurate or likely to help you stay slim or healthy. Different kinds of fats have different effects in our bodies, trans fats (Hydrogenated Oil) are linked to increased risk for cardiovascular inflammation, disease, and obesity. Omega-3 fats, decrease cardiovascular disease risk. Some carbohydrates, such as whole grains, are healthful while others, such as refined grains and the foods made from them, are not. The latest research is clearly supports this vital distinction. Refined grains and the foods made from them, white breads, cookies, pastries, pasta and white rice, are now being linked not only to weight gain but to increased risk of insulin resistance. This is the precursor of type 2 diabetes. While eating more whole grain foods is being shown to protect us.  Brown rice and other whole grains are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion. Magnesium, another nutrient for which brown rice is a good source, has been shown in studies to be helpful for reducing the severity of asthma, lowering high blood pressure, reducing the frequency of migraine headaches, and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Magnesium helps regulate nerve and muscle tone by balancing the action of calcium. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as Nature's own calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve. By blocking calcium's entry, magnesium keeps our nerves, and the blood vessels and muscles they involve relaxed. If our diet provides us with too little magnesium, however, calcium can gain free entry, and nerve cells can become over activated, sending too many messages and causing excessive contraction, pain, and ill health.

            Recent research conducted by Andrew Mehanrg and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has found that rice grown in the U.S. contains from 1.4 to 5 times more arsenic than rice from Europe, India or Bangladesh. The U.S. is currently reviewing all arsenic-based pesticides. So my advise as always is to choose organically grown rice whenever possible. For any crop to be labeled as organic, including rice, stringent testing of soils for contaminants, including arsenic, must be passed. Limiting that white rice intake, and opting for the more nutritious brown, black, or red, will put you on the path to better health. Before cooking rice, especially when you buy it in bulk, rinse it thoroughly under running water and then remove any dirt or debris that you may find. After rinsing brown rice, add one part rice to two parts boiling water. After the liquid has returned to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Make no mistake though brown is just as starchy as white and we know starchy sugars make you fat, bloat you, and raise insulin levels and all that causes inflammation which can lead to many health problems. So limit your starches, and increase your health benefits. When you eat rice, try the brown, black, or red varieties. Good Luck...

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