Healthy, natural rice: Unpolished rice offers many health benefits

PHOTO: Healthy, natural rice: Unpolished rice offers many health benefits

The wonders of natural rice.

Rice is the staple food of most Asian countries. It is a complex carbohydrate, made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains that provide vitamins, minerals and fibre that are important for health.

Just like all whole grains, rice has three edible parts - the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.

Depending on the variety, rice can be many different colours - brown, red, black, etc - though most look similarly white once they've been milled to remove the bran and germ.

Brown rice

Every grain of brown rice is a living rice seed, with the bran and germ retained. It germinates readily with suitable moisture and oxygen.

In contrast, white rice has lost the bran and germ in the polishing and whitening process.

It cannot germinate and will rot after soaking in water for several days.

Compared with white rice, brown rice has a higher content of proteins, lipids, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The lipids in brown rice are mainly made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for the maintenance of a healthy cell membrane. The soluble dietary fibre in brown rice is 200 per cent higher than that of white rice, and it functions as an effective cleansing magnet for the digestive system.

Brown rice has far more vitamins B complex and E than white rice. The mineral content of brown rice includes calcium, magnesium, zinc and chromium.

Calcium is an essential element for strong teeth and bones. Magnesium is important for the formation of DNA.

Zinc is important for the normal functioning of sex glands. Chromium facilitates insulin in the absorption of glucose by cells. Therefore, it is essential for the regulation of blood sugar level and control of diabetes.

Brown rice also contains phytochemicals such as inositol, oryzanol and phytosterols.

Inositol is essential in lipid and cholesterol metabolism. Oryzanol can lower bad cholesterol levels in blood and free radicals, which can be carcinogenic (causing cancer). Phytosterols can inhibit the synthesis of bad cholesterols. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory effects and is therefore essential for strengthening the body's immune system.

Black rice

Black rice is highly regarded as a "medicinal" rice in traditional Chinesemedicine (TCM)due to its rarity and nutritional values.

It is believed that black rice was served to the emperors in the imperial court of ancient China.

Black rice has a high level of dietary fibre, iron, amino acids and health-promoting phytochemicals.

Red rice

Red rice contains a high quantity of anthocyanin, a red pigment with strong antioxidant effects.

In TCM, it is believed to have "blood-strengthening properties".

Red rice also has a high content of trace elements such as iron and zinc, as well as vitamin E, which helps in delaying the ageing of cells and preventing cardiovascular diseases.