Dirt Report: Brown Rice

Sharon Palmer

Rice may be one of the most under-appreciated—and most important—foods around the world. This humble grain provides about half the calories for up to half of the world’s population! In the U.S., consumption of this gluten-free grain has doubled over the past three decades to more than 25 pounds per person per year. This is good news, as research points out many health benefits tied to consuming this grain.

Learning about how rice is grown in Mississippi.

There are many varieties of rice—an estimated 40,000—and many types of rice classified by size (long-, medium-, and short-grain). In addition, rice comes in many shades, such as red, purple, and black—all of which are considered whole grains.

Rice after harvest, before the hull is removed.

Once the inedible hull is removed from a rice kernel, what remains is brown rice, which is a whole grain. If the rice is milled further and the bran and germ are removed, what remains is white, refined rice. Brown long-grain rice has four times the fiber of white long-grain rice, and it has a higher mineral, vitamin, and phytonutrient content as well. Most of the phytonutrients in rice are concentrated in the outer bran covering; studies show that red, purple, and black rice have even higher levels of bioactive plant compounds than brown rice. A one-half cup cooked serving of brown rice provides protein (3 grams), fiber (2 grams), and more than 15 vitamins and minerals, including magnesium (11% DV), phosphorus (8% DV), niacin (8% DV), thiamin (6% DV), and manganese (44% DV) for 108 calories.

Rice growing in California.

Studies have shown that whole-grain rice intake may help cut diabetes risk, lower cholesterol levels, and help maintain a healthy weight. Interestingly, research also shows that people who eat rice regularly have healthier diets overall. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that, compared to non-rice eaters, rice eaters had higher intakes of vegetables, fiber, iron and potassium, with lower intakes of total fat and saturated fat. Another analysis from the journal Nutrition Today reported similar findings, and also found that rice fans chose more fruits and legumes, consumed fewer added sugars, were more likely to be normal weight and less likely to be obese, and had a lower risk of high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome than non-rice eaters. Both studies identified rice eaters as those who consumed at least a quarter-cup of rice per day.

Persimmon Arugula Brown Rice Salad

This makes sense, as rice is commonly paired with healthy proteins and/or vegetables, such as in vegetable stir-fry dishes, beans and rice, soups and stews, and Indian curry dishes. Brown rice can also serve as a main ingredient in stuffed vegetables, salads (see Persimmon Arugula Brown Rice Salad), and puddings.

Why don’t you take an opportunity to enjoy brown rice this month, and include it in your menu as often as you can? Check out My Top 5 Ways to Use Brown Rice in your kitchen and get cooking today!

My Top 5 Ways to Use Brown Rice

1. Eat it for Breakfast. Who says your whole grain porridge has to consist of oats? You can use precooked brown rice, with a bit of cinnamon, some soy milk, nuts, and seasonal fruits to get your day going right.

Pistachio Turmeric Rice Bowl

2. Make it into a Power Bowl. Brown rice is the perfect foundation for your next power bowl, such as my Pistachio Turmeric Rice Bowl above. Line a bowl with brown rice, and top it with veggies, plant protein (tofu, beans, chickpeas, tempeh), nuts, and a flavorful dressing.

Instant Pot Banana Coconut Brown Rice Pudding

3. Whip it Up into a Dessert. Yes! Turn to the classic tradition of rice puddings as a healthy dessert, good enough to munch on for breakfast. Look for my easy Instant Pot Banana Coconut Brown Rice Pudding (featured above) to appear on The Plant-Powered Dietitian blog soon!

Easy Cumin Brown Rice

4. Spice it Up! Don’t be afraid to spice up your rice to serve it as a simple side-dish with lentil patties or stewed heirloom beans. This Easy Cumin Brown Rice above is a great example.

5. Save Your Rice Leftovers. Don’t throw away that last bit of leftover rice. Turn it into Vegetable Fried Rice: Sauté an onion, and a clove of garlic in a small amount of sesame oil, add whatever veggies you have on hand (peas, zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus) and sauté until crisp-cooked (tender, yet firm). Stir in leftover brown rice, soy sauce, and red chili flakes. Add cubed tofu to turn it into a meal.

Check out my video for Turmeric Rice and Black Bean Power Bowl at iHerb.

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