Rice feeds half the world’s population. It was first cultivated in China over 6000 years ago. Rice is the only underwater grain and initially planting and harvesting were by hand and with water buffalo. This method is still in use in some cultures today.
Whole rice can be stored for up to 6 months, unless it is processed into white rice. The outer layers of whole rice contain the rice bran and oil-rich germ layer, which are susceptible to oxidation and
rancidity. There are three main types of rice: long grain, medium and short grain. They can all be eaten as either whole brown rice, or refined into white rice.
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Nutritionally speaking, there is a vast difference between brown and white rice with approx.60% loss of nearly all nutrients in white rice. White rice needs added vitamins to be approved for sale. Enriched rice has added B vitamins and iron; however, over 10 other nutrients that are ‘milled out’ are not replaced.
White, polished rice is basically pure granules of starch. During the Spanish colonial wars, the British soldiers were fed white rice, while their servants lived off the rice water from cooking. The soldiers developed beriberi, a vitamin B1 deficiency. The servants worked harder but did not develop beriberi.
Fortunately, white rice is usually served as a base ingredient for numerous dishes where a variety of other ingredients can supply nutrients, thereby reducing the risk of problems.
However, in some places, where rice makes up nearly 90% of the daily diet, white rice is barely enough to maintain life and the added nutritional benefits of the wholegrain brown rice can really be a deciding factor for health.
Rice was behind the initial discovery of B vitamins. Dr Eijkman, in 1897, proved that men who ate wholegrain rice did not contract beriberi. The Japanese navy lost thousands of sailors following the regular daily use of polished or white rice. Dr R.R. Williams, first extracted vitamin B1 from the rice bran. His comment after receiving an award was, ‘Man commits a crime against nature when he eats the starch and throws away the mechanism necessary for the metabolism of that starch. ’
Apart from the B1 deficiency in white rice, the loss of major minerals and other vitamins is obvious (refer to chart) and white rice cannot be considered a nutritious food. But if that’s the only way the children will eat rice, be sure to use enriched rice, pile on the carrots, peas, corn, beans or cheese, and make a peanut sauce. Or add a dash of vegemite or rice bran, because B1 is vital for children’s growth, memory, concentration and appetite. A prolonged deficiency of B1 can also lead to irritability and depression
Basically, white rice and white bread are the classic ‘empty calorie’ foods. They do not provide the essential nutrients to support the proper digestion and absorption of their own starch content in particular. For example, B1 is essential for proper digestion/absorption of starch, B2 essential for secretion of gastric juices and absorption of carbohydrates, B3 assists the function of many digestive enzymes, B5 is required for enzyme development for carbohydrate utilisation, manganese for digestive and enzyme reactions, phosphorus for energy distribution, and iron for protein metabolism. All the essential fatty acids or vitamin F plus fibre are lacking from white rice. White rice is nice and filling but nasty in its lack of ability to give back nutrition.