Is brown rice toxic or nutritious? It all depends.

Rice is one of those foods that people seem to be on two sides of the fence about. For most, it’s a sacred source of nutrition; for others it’s a source of empty calories and even a toxin. It turns out there’s evidence to support both perspectives, but whether or not brown rice is nutritious or toxic really depends on how it’s prepared.

When properly prepared, rice is more than empty calories, and it doesn’t have to be abandoned just because it’s high in carbohydrates. The predominate type of carbohydrate in rice is glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. The brain, in particular, depends on glucose for proper functioning. Glucose is also an awesome source of energy for athletic activities, as it can be stored as glycogen for use during intense activities.

In addition to being an excellent source of energy, brown rice is high in fiber and a number of micronutrients. These nutrients support a healthy metabolism, strengthen the bones, and may help prevent cancer. Brown rice supplies vitamins B6, niacin, thiamin, manganese, selenium, and zinc. It also contains a phytonutrient called lignan, which is converted by bacteria in the intestines into enterolactone and appears to have health promoting properties.

Yet, despite all the awesome nutrients brown rice contains, there are a couple of instances when brown rice is toxic rather than nutritious: when it’s not soaked and when its not adequately boiled.

Brown rice must be soaked because it contains a chemical called phytic acid that prevents minerals from being absorbed by the small intestines. If these important nutrients aren’t absorbed then rice does indeed become an “empty carb.” Soaking activates an enzyme called phytase that breaks down phytic acid and allows all the healthy minerals to be absorbed. The only problem is that that rice contains very little phytase potential, so fermentation is the best way to develop phytic acid reducing enzymes. While it may sound a little complex, having a fermenting rice soaking solution on hand is relatively easy and is a traditional Chinese practice. Heres how:

Soak your brown rice in non-chlorinated water for 24 hours. Drain the soaking water before cooking, but save 10% of the water for future soaking use (stored in the refrigerator). The next time you soak your rice, add the saved water to the soaking solution. Repeat this cycle every time you cook brown rice. Over time this solution develops phytase enzymes that will deactivate up to 96% of the phytic acid content in your brown rice.

After soaking your rice to deactivate the phytic acid, the next step is properly cooking it to remove the arsenic content. Rice concentrates arsenic, a carcinogenic toxin, more than any other grain. Regular consumption of improperly cooked rice can lead to unhealthy blood levels of this dangerous chemical. There’s any easy method, however, to drastically reduce the arsenic content:

Cook your brown rice like you would cook pasta — boiled in plenty of water. Today, most people add just enough water to their rice so that the rice is ready at the same time all the water is absorbed or evaporated, but this can actually contribute to even higher levels of arsenic consumption. The traditional way of preparing rice is to boil it in water at a 1:6 ratio. To use this method, simply cook your brown rice in a large pot and boil for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain the excess water and allow the rice to rest (covered) off the heat for 10 minutes. Not only does this method reduce the arsenic, it also produces a great tasting and nicely textured brown rice!

Sure, it might require a little more effort than microwaving a TV dinner, but properly preparing rice is mostly a matter of planning ahead. The result: a delicious, affordable, high energy, and nutrient-rich food!

Recommend Products: Bulk Organic Brown Rice

References:
Whole Health Source – Brown Rice
Science Direct – Soaking Brown Rice
Rice Consumption and Arsenic Content 
Arsenic In Rice: How Concerned Should You Be?

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Originally posted 2013-03-02 05:22:00.

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