Dr Libby on brown rice
I remember when brown rice first became popular it was like the equivalent of quinoa now — the ultimate health food. The way a cafe could signal they had your health in mind was by using brown rice in a dish. The funny thing is that brown rice is essentially what almost all forms of white rice look like before they have been put through a refining process. To process rice into the sparkling white pieces we buy in stores, first the outside hull and bran is removed — this makes the rice lighter and faster to cook. Brown rice is far more than just an alternative to white; it has its own health benefits.
Brown rice contains many nutrients that are stripped in the hulling process. It contains more fibre, protein, thiamine (vitamin B1), calcium, magnesium, selenium and potassium than white rice. Magnesium has been shown in studies to be helpful for reducing the severity of asthma, lowering high blood pressure, reducing the frequency of migraine headaches, and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Magnesium helps regulate nerve and muscle tone by balancing the action of calcium.
Brown rice is also contains manganese. This trace mineral helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates and is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids, which are important for a healthy nervous system, and in the production of cholesterol, used by the body to produce sex hormones. Manganese is also a critical component of a very important antioxidant enzyme found inside the body’s mitochondria (the energy factories inside most of our cells) where it provides protection against damage from the free radicals created during energy production. It is also a good source of B vitamins, which are essential for energy production and detoxification. B vitamins are often found in whole grains so brown rice is one of the only naturally gluten- free options for those with coeliac disease or who are intolerant to gluten. It is also a good source of fibre, which means it typically has a more satiating effect than white rice.
In the kitchen
Brown rice can be used as a white rice alternative in most vegetarian recipes and provides a full, rich and somewhat nutty flavor. Use brown rice in place of white rice in sushi or simply wherever you would use white rice, couscous or pasta. You can even use brown rice in risottos. Brown rice flour can be used for gluten-free pancakes, breads and other baked goods. It can also be overcooked to a porridge-like consistency, and made into a delicious and warming breakfast with the addition of cinnamon and a dollop of pure maple syrup.
Tip: Since brown rice still features an oil-rich germ, it is more susceptible to becoming rancid than white rice and therefore is best stored in the refrigerator or an airtight container.