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Whole grains contain helpful phytonutrients that appear to lower the risk of developing several diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Refined grains have their phytonutrients largely removed. White rice, as a result, is not highly nutritious. Brown rice, on the other hand, is a whole grain. In fact, white rice was associated with a 17% greater risk of diabetes while brown rice reduced diabetes risk by 17%. Polishing rice from brown to white at one time resulted in an epidemic of vitamin B deficiency in Asia – rice bran (the brown part of rice) was used to cure it.

The ability of white rice to cure chronic hypertension and diabetic retinopathy in the Kempner Rice Diet was more likely due to the low sodium, low fat, and low protein nature of the diet rather than any helpful component of the rice itself. Animal protein causes the pancreas to work twice as hard to pump out enough insulin to combat the blood sugar spike of the starches in white rice, doubling the insulin spike after ingestion, thought to play a role in increasing diabetes rates in China. If you can’t give up white rice, consider mixing it with some beans to lower the total glycemic index of the meal.

Rice grown in water logged soil can absorb arsenic found naturally in the environment and concentrate it in the bran, which remains when you eat brown rice. Contaminated poultry manure is one of the sources of how arsenic gets into rice. If you eat a lot of brown rice, American grown may have lower levels of arsenic than rice grown in Asia or Europe. You can increase the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc in rice and other phytate-containing foods by 50% just by adding vegetables from the allium family, such as garlic and onion. Red yeast rice contains lovastatin, a drug used to combat cholesterol, though the levels found in red yeast rice are too variable to be considered a reliable source.

Compounds found in purple rice may be able to prevent cancer metastasis. The anthocyanins in purple rice may also be protective against age-related macular degeneration. Red rice appears to have the most antioxidants out of the tested pigmented varieties of rice.


Image Credit: Belinda (miscdebris) / Flickr. This image has been modified.

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