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The Many Faces of Rice

Oct 22, 12:03 PM

Food and Fitness Fundamentals

There are over 40,000 varieties of rice grown worldwide. The United States has been producing rice since about 1690, and is now the world’s fourth largest rice exporter. Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri produce over 24 billion pounds of rice each year. Rice is available in many different types and forms. Grain size is categorized as short, medium and long grain; and common varieties include arborio, basmati, brown, jasmine and black rice.

Nutritionally speaking, rice is a complex carbohydrate; ½ cup cooked white rice contains about 80 calories. It has eight of the nine essential amino acids. The limiting amino acid, lysine, can be added when combining rice with beans, thus making it a complete protein, as in this Cajun Red Bean and Rice recipe.

Rice is very low in fat and sodium, and is cholesterol-free. It is one of the few foods considered non-allergenic and gluten free. Refined white rice is probably the most popular in the U.S.; however in spite of it being enriched with iron, niacin, thiamin, and fortified with folic acid, it still lacks many vitamins, minerals and fiber that are destroyed or eliminated during processing Learn more . Therefore, consuming whole grain rice is recommended in order to capture its ultimate nutritional benefits. I find it quite fun to step out of my normal routine, and experiment with the endless varieties that are available, especially when shopping at your local Asian market and specialty stores. Red Cargo rice is one of my favorites, as it has a delicious nutty chewy texture and is dark red in color which gives an impressive presentation. It is always a topic of discussion when I serve it to family and friends.

To watch a fun video on how to quicken your cooking time for brown and other specialty rice, click here
There are many ways to cook rice other than the typical stove top method. My personal favorite is using a rice cooker, as it very quick and easy and has an added bonus of keeping the rice warm until ready to serve. Cooking rice using the pasta method was mentioned in my last blog, and is thought to help reduce arsenic levels, but unfortunately many nutrients are also eliminated as well. A pressure cooker is a less common, thobeit fun way to cook rice, especially risotto, as seen in this video .

Using the microwave is another easy alternative. Authentic sticky rice is actually steamed, as seen in this video using these traditional techniques: Example 1 and Example 2.

As you can see, rice is a varied and versatile food. It is nutritious and with experimentation rice can bring a lot of variety to your table. Next time you prepare rice, consider using some of these fun alternative ideas.

For more recipes using rice, see a video of Cooking Schezwan Rice and how to make Authentic Fried Rice.


Until next time, here’s to healthy eating!

Lori Dodds, RD, LD, is a Registered Dietitian at The Corvallis Clinic Nutrition Services Department.

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