Nutritious, delicious and highly versatile are some of the words used to describe rice. Yet with all its attributes, rice has suffered constant onslaught from the healthy eating proponents. The first piece of advice one is given as they embark on a weight loss journey is to cut out rice. If like many rice lovers you are kept from enjoying your favourite dish for fear of wrecking your weight loss goals, you will be relieved to know that rice is not fattening or unhealthy.
Rice is made up of digestible starch and a special type of carbohydrate called resistant starch, which recent research suggests may be key for weight control. The body does not have the enzymes to digest resistant starch, so it bypasses the small intestine and is metabolised in the colon, where it is fermented into short-chain fatty acids that feed healthy colonies of gut bacteria. The more resistant starch a food has, the fewer calories from that starch our bodies will absorb.
Regina Nantege, a dietician, notes that rice just like any other food item affects your weight depending on how much you eat.
All types of rice have the same calorific value but different amounts of fibre. Experts recommend eating brown rice, red rice, unpolished rice and hand pounded rice because they have more fibre since they are not processed and retain the outer layer.
“If you are concerned about weight gain, then it is safe to eat brown, red and the other coloured variety that contain fibre, antioxidants and are more filling,” she advises.
The darker the colour of rice, the more antioxidants it has. If you want to lose weight, switch to the more coloured varieties of rice that are full of dietary fibre and boost your metabolism, both of which help in losing weight. For example, 100 grammes of brown rice contains 111 calories while one cup of red rice contains 216 calories.
White rice is the unhealthiest type of rice according to Dr David Okoth Dimo, because most of the minerals and nutrients are stripped off during industrial processing. It also has a high glycemic index meaning it will be quickly digested and causes a spike in your blood sugar levels. And because it is easily digested, it makes you hungry sooner thus increasing your calorie intake.
However, there is an easy and natural way to reduce calories in rice. According to research presented at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting, using coconut oil and a refrigerator can slash calories by as much as 60 per cent.
By testing out 38 different kinds of rice and simulating human digestion in a test tube, they devised a recipe for the least caloric way to cook rice: drop a teaspoon of coconut oil into boiling water, then add half a cup of non-fortified white rice and cook it for about 40 minutes. After cooking, put it in the fridge for 12 hours.
Rice cooked this way had at least 10 times the resistant starch as normally prepared rice and 10-15 per cent fewer calories. But researchers think that with certain kinds of rice, the method could cut calories by 50-60 per cent since the glucose units in hot cooked rice have a loose structure, but when it cools down, the molecules rearrange themselves into very tight bonds that are more resistant to digestion.
Making rice starch more resistant has other perks besides cutting calories. It will also feed your good bacteria.
How to make healthy rice
- When eating out, opt for plain boiled rice instead of fried rice.
- Rice does not contain protein so it should be eaten with an animal or plant-based protein.
- Soak rice before you cook it and wash it three to four times to remove starch. Boil rice with excess water to keep starch levels low.
- Add vegetables rich in fibre to your bowl of rice.
- To enhance the flavour of brown rice, cook it with coconut oil instead of just plain water.