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Let's Talk About Rice!

About Rice

Rice is the world's largest food crop, providing the caloric needs of millions of people daily. Rice is fundamentally important to various cultures as it is often associated with prosperity and much folklore and legend surrounds the grain. Rice is cooked by boiling, or it can be ground into flour. It is eaten alone and in a great variety of soups, side dishes, and main dishes in Asian, Middle Eastern, and many other cuisines. In many cultures and societies, rice is integrated directly into religious belief. Also, rice has been linked to fertility and there is an old tradition of throwing rice at newly wedded couples. And, according to Louisiana folklore, the test of a true Cajun is whether they can calculate the precise quantity of gravy needed to accompany a crop of rice growing in a field.

Types of Rice

Did you know there are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice? Although uncertain, there have been thousands upon thousands of samples collected by the Rice Gene Bank of both cultivated and wild rice. There are two major subspecies of rice that account for the majority of cultivated varieties. They are Indica and Japonica. Indica rice varieties are classified as long grain, while Japonica rice varieties can be medium or short grain. Within these groups, there are also specialty and aromatic kinds of rice including risotto and basmati. Just to name a few more, there is an all-purpose long grain, arborio, brown long grain, jasmine, and the latest on the scene, black or purple rice!

Nutrients in Rice

Rice is the most popular grain globally and the primary dietary staple for more than half the world’s population. Rice is nutrient-rich, providing more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals from fiber, folic acid, and B vitamins to potassium, magnesium, selenium, iron, and zinc. Rice is gluten-free, highly digestible, and the least allergenic of all grains. It is an important grain option for individuals with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or other food sensitivities. Rice is a nutrient-dense, complex carbohydrate that the body slowly digests to help you stay energized throughout the day as well as providing oxygen to your brain as a main fuel source. Lastly, whole grain rice, such as brown and purple rice, helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers. Overall, rice eaters have a lower risk of high blood pressure.

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Importance of Whole Grains

Every grain starts life as a whole grain. The whole grain is the entire seed of a plant, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Together with the whole grain, these components provide protein, fiber, and many important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It is recommended that half of one’s grain intake should be whole grains. Research reveals eating whole grains can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and may even aid in weight maintenance. Similar to fruits and vegetables, whole grains have been identified as a dietary component contributing to better health outcomes, specifically holding a role in reducing the risk of heart disease and colorectal cancer.

The recommendation of grain intake varies by age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity. However, according to MyPlate recommendations and registered dietitians everywhere, at least half of the grains we eat should be whole grains! For example, a 15-year-old boy will need 6 to 10 oz grains daily with 3 to 5 oz being whole grains, while a 45-year-old woman will need 5 to 7 oz grains daily with 3 to 3.5 oz being whole grains.

This tiny, but mighty, grain packs a serious nutritional punch!



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