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Rice is a very popular food around the world and comes in many different forms: puffed rice cereal, rice cakes, rice noodles, rice milk, brown rice syrup, rice crackers, rice-a-roni, and many more.
And there are many types of rice: white rice, brown rice, sushi rice, black rice, pink rice, wild rice…
But today I want to introduce you to plain brown rice, which is basic whole grain rice as it grows in Nature.
Brown Rice is a Whole Grain
Brown rice is the whole rice grain with nothing removed except for the inedible outer hull.
A grain of rice has four parts:
Hull—the tough outer hull, or husk, that needs to be removed before it can be consumed. This layer is removed in all rice types.
Bran—Under the hull, the bran layer is not removed from brown rice. This nutritious whole grain section is usually tan-colored, but it may be reddish or black depending on the pigmentation in the bran layers.
Germ—The germ, or rice kernel, is nutrient-dense. Full of B vitamins, minerals, and proteins, it helps give rice its color and added nutritional benefits.
Endosperm—If the bran and germ layers are removed, what remains is what we call “white rice” or simply “rice.”
These edible parts together—bran, germ, and endosperm—make up “brown rice.”
The Benefits of Brown Rice
Here’s a good review of the benefits of brown rice: ORGANIC FACTS: 15 Impressive Benefits of Brown Rice. Evidence-based and medically reviewed.
They document these benefits (in this order):
- Controls diabetes
- Provides Antioxidants
- May reduce or mitigate obesity
- Possible neuro protectivity
- Lowers Stress in Lactating Women
- Enhances Digestive Health
- Boosts Heart Health
- Controls Cholesterol Levels
- Protects Against Some Cancers
- Boosts Nervous System Functioning
- Anti-depressant Properties
- Relieves Insomnia
- Boosts Immunity
- Maintains Bone Health
- Wide Variety of Culinary Uses
That’s a lot of benefits!
I make a point to purchase rice from known reputable growers in the USA, rather than inexpensive rice from unknown growers in other countries.
Currently I am aware of three growers that grow organic brown rice within 100 miles of where I live. They are so close, I could even spend a Saturday driving out to any of them to actually see with my own eyes where and how my rice is grown.
My favorite brown rice is from Massa Organics. This is Alice Waters’ favorite rice and our favorite rice too. It just has a different flavor and texture all it’s own. “We are former tropical ecologists who returned to the farm. Our educational training is in ecology, and we bring this perspective to our farming methods. We view our farm as part of a functioning ecosystem, and we look at each crop in relation to how it will complement our farming system. Rice fields are essentially pond ecosystems.”
We have been ordering this rice directly from the farmer. Lest you think ordering directly from the farmer is expensive, I ordered a 20 lb bag from Massa Organics for $35 plus $18 shipping, which comes out to $2.65 a pound. I can’t buy rice for that in a local natural food store, so I think I’m getting a good deal. And it’s coming straight from the farm, so it’s fresh and hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I love this rice. We’ve found we can drive less than an hour and buy it at a farmer’s market, so we are going to try that next time.
Lundberg Family Farms “Committed to producing the finest quality rice and rice products for your family. Since 1937, the Lundberg family has been growing healthy, great tasting rice while respecting and sustaining the earth. Today, the third and fourth generations carry on the family heritage by using eco-positive farming methods that produce wholesome, healthful rice, rice cakes, rice chips and risottos while improving and protecting the environment for generations to come.”
Chico Rice Certified organic brown rice and sushi rice. “At Chico Rice, we are some of the only farmers who mill and pack their own rice. This means that all our rice comes from the same place and we know exactly how it was grown – responsibly, sustainably, and with the utmost love and care. Every bag of rice we sell is lovingly hand-packed by the same farmers who grew it from the seed. That’s how much we love our rice!”
ARSENIC IN RICE
You may have been hearing over the past ten years or so that varying levels of arsenic have be found in rice and products such as brown rice syrup or other products made with rice. This is due to arsenic in the soil, absorbed by the plants, which are more elevated than in the past due to the amount of industrial pollution we are experiencing today. I’m not going to go into the whole story about arsenic in rice because you can easily find this online (just search “arsenic in rice.”
What I do want to tell you is that I eat organic brown rice every day, despite these findings.
Why? Because, in my opinion, the benefits of eating brown rice far outweigh the danger of the arsenic. Brown rice is a whole food with many component parts, and arsenic is only one of them. To not eat brown rice for its benefits because there may be some small amount of arsenic in it is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Dr Michael Greger, founder of NutritionFacts.org actually made a whole video to answer this question.
First he shows, after all the speculation, there was finally a study that found “long-term consumption of total rice, white rice or brown rice was NOT associated with risk of developing cancer in US men and women.”
* “Three servings total whole grains per day was associated with a 17% lower risk of mortality from all causes, a 25% lower risk of mortality from CVD, and a 10% reduced risk of total-cancer mortallity.”
* There is “a significant inverse association between total whole-grain intake and risk of mortality form total cancers. 3 servings of whole grains/day was related to a 17% reduced rick of colorectal cancer.
* “The five-day percentage change in fasting insulin was 57% lower for the brown rice group.”
* “Brown rice diet in comparison with white rice diet could significantly reduce weight, waist and hip circumference, BMI, Diastole mood pressure and [inflammation].”
Brown rice protects your arteries.
Dr Greger’s conclusion, however, was conservative. He recommends eating brown rice only if you want to, but that you could also eat other whole grains for similar benefits.
I am not concerned about excess arsenic in any of the rices I’ve listed above. Lundberd Family Farms tested their rice yearly though 2016 and found.
At 0.090 parts per million, they are slightly below our 6 year average of 0.093 parts per million. Codex, the international agency tasked with providing guidance for foods in international trade, issued its guideline for levels of arsenic in white rice in 2015, and our brown rice products continue to test at less than half this level. The European Food Safety Authority’s standards for levels of inorganic arsenic in rice products have been in place since January 2016, and our average level of inorganic arsenic over the past six years falls below all of those standards, including the most stringent baby cereal level of .100 parts per million.
I’m thinking that the other California brands would test similarly. Here’s more information about choosing brands of rice that contain less arsenic: NUTRITIONFACTS.ORG: Which Brands & Sources of Rice Have the Least Arsenic?. This video really explains where the arsenic problem is coming from, so you can better avoid it.
Now, regardless of the rice you choose, you can reduce the amount of arsenic in the cooked rice you eat by how you cook it.
Here’s one method that resulted in an 82% reduction in arsenic, from UK reporter Michael Mosley and Professor Andy Meharg from Queen’s University, Belfast.
First, don’t use a rice cooker or cook your rice using a method that allows the water to boil away completely. This just sends any arsenic released into the water right back into the rice.
Here’s the method these researcher use:
1. Soak your rice overnight before cooking. This opens the grain and releases arsenic.
2. Drain the rice and rinse it with fresh water to remove any residual arsenic.
3. For every 1 cup of rice add 5 cups of water and cook until the rice is tender (like cooking pasta)
4. Drain the rice and rinse again with hot water to remove any residual cooking water.
There have been other studies on cooking methods, but this one has the best results of all I’ve looked at.
However, I tried to actually cook rice this way and couldn’t. I usually cook 3 cups of brown rice at a time. To cook 1 cup of brown rice in 5 cups water I would have to cook rice every day to meet our household needs.
After my experiment, I decided I was willing to soak the rice overnight and cook it with as much water as I could fit in the pot, and drain off the excess water instead of doing the absorption method. Love this extra water method. The rice turns out great. And it’s how Alice Waters cooks her Massa Organics rice.
If you are still concerned about eating arsenic, your best best is to remove arsenic from all sources from your body with PureBody Liquid Zeolite . I take this every day to remove all heavy metals I may have been exposed to from my body.
Ricepedia: The Online Authority on Rice. Learn more about rice in general.
I’d like to thank Dr. Alan Kadish NMD, ND, ABAAM (dip) for his part in doing research on arsenic in rice and for supplying references to me.