Brown rice: the big shift

organic brown rice

It’s something that we tried to do when the girls were still in grade school — shift to brown rice. We bought a few kilos on trial, the girls all but spit out the rice and that was that. Not that we blamed them. Ten years ago, there weren’t many brands of brown rice to choose from and the one that we bought was unfortunately too rough. Not a good introduction to brown rice at all for our girls.

Why the attempt to shift to brown rice in the first place? Well, some health fads are nothing but fads and hypes but the scientific information about brown rice being more beneficial to our health does not fall under fads and hypes. If you’re not familiar with rice processing, white rice is what you get after the grains have been polished and the layers underneath the husks — the bran and germ — totally removed. Along with the removal of the bran and germ is the loss of natural vitamins, folic acids, minerals and dietary fiber. To produce brown rice, the husks are removed but the bran and germ are retained.

But if brown rice is so nutritionally rich, why didn’t our generation grow up eating it? Well, that’s culture and social class snobbery for you. Because brown rice was cheaper, it was associated with being poor. In short, you only ate brown rice if you weren’t rich enough to afford white rice. In fact, when I was growing up, brown rice was for the poor rural folk. The irony, of course, is how the stupid snobbery has worked against us. If it weren’t for the fact that brown rice has now become fashionable, many would still probably stay away from it.

organic brown rice

The even bigger irony is that now that brown rice has become all the rage especially for the health-conscious, it is no longer as inexpensive as it once was. Some brands of brown rice are even more expensive than white rice. That’s organic rice you see in the photos and it cost something like PHP56.00 per kilo. And that is more expensive than jasmine rice. Next time, I’ll buy non-organic brown rice and compare the price, the texture and the flavor.

Is brown rice cooked any differently from white rice? From what I’ve read, to maximize the nutritional value of brown rice, it should be soaked in water before cooking to allow it to “germinate” or “sprout.”

Germinated rice contains much more fibre than conventional brown rice, say the researchers, three times the amount of the essential amino acid lysine, and ten times the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), another amino acid known to improve kidney function.

The researchers also found that brown rice sprouts – tiny buds less than a millimetre tall – contain a potent inhibitor of an enzyme called protylendopetidase, which is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease…

… To make the rice sprout, the researchers soaked it in water at 32 degrees C for 22 hours. The outer bran layer softened and absorbed water easily, making the rice easier to cook. Cooked sprouted rice has a sweet flavor, the researchers report, because the liberated enzymes break down some of the sugar and protein in the grain. [Soaked brown rice is better for you]

Does brown rice cook like white rice? In the case of the organic brown rice that I bought, it needs more water than most white rice varieties I’ve used. Is it good for making rice dishes usually associated with white rice like Chinese-style fried rice? Sure, it is. See, brown rice isn’t exactly a rice variety. Any white rice variety can have its brown counterpart. So, there’s long-grain brown rice, short-grain brown rice, sticky brown rice, etcetera. Anyone who tells you that you can’t make risotto with brown rice doesn’t know what brown rice is all about. You can get starchy short-grain brown rice and make a risotto with it. The more serious issue is availability. If you’re among the lucky ones who have access to every imaginable brown rice, just choose as though you were buying white rice — if you prefer long-grain, get long-grain brown rice, and so on, and so forth.

What about storage?

Brown rice, because of the oil content in the attached bran, aleurone and germ, is susceptible to oxidation. As a result, brown rice has a shelf life of only six months. Keeping brown rice in a refrigerator or cooler will extend the shelf life. White rice, if stored properly, has an almost indefinite shelf life.[Menurice.com]

Well, this is Asia and, except for my late grandmother who hoarded rice because she experienced traumatic rice shortage during World War II, I don’t know of anyone who will keep rice longer than six months.

  • Midge

    have you tried the black rice? it has the same texture as the brown rice and more nutritional as I’ve read. THough when we tried it is not so pleasing to the eyes.. :(

    • http://joyjoycreativeoutlet.blogspot.com Joy

      To get used to it, we actually mixed the brown with rice and eventually went all brown. Now I prefer brown over white.

      • http://www.mellablogged.com mella

        We shifted to brown food 2 years ago–brown rice, brown bread and brown sugar. Since then, my bowel problems are long gone hehehe. And also, with just half a cup of brown rice I feel full already. I think this maybe the reason why I was able to maintain my weight.

        I never knew you have to soak it before cooking. I use the ratio of 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice then cook it straight away with a rice cooker. I will try soaking the rice tomorrow and see if there will be any difference with the texture.

        • http://u8mypinkcookies.blogspot.com u8mypinkcookies

          I like brown rice too. Healthier and makes you full easier than white rice. I think it wasn’t a problem for me to like this since I also prefer wheat bread than white bread.

        • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

          Mella, must the fiber that helps with bowel problems. :)

  • geri

    I actually like brown rice to white rice now, it has the nutty texture of fried rice. So I pretend I am eating fried rice without the oils =)

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      TRose, we did that some 10 years ago and they still found the rice funny. At any rate, they’re 19 and 18 today and eating brown rice with gusto. :)

      Blackwidow, too bad that I threw out the packaging of the organic brown rice I bought. It’s about PHP56.00 per kilo and no rough mouth feel. Next time, I’ll remember to keep the packaging long enough to take photos.

      Fai, true — the fiber keeps you feeling full longer.

      Midge, yes — the sticky kind. Made it into Thai style dishes (link).

      Geri, Sam gets a sensation of “sweetness” because of the nutty flavor. So I said I’ll try adding a sprinkle of salt next time to balance the taste.

      • http://www.twitter.com/reginabeth Beatrize

        We shifted to brown rice years ago! We also started the shift by combining white rice and brown rice until we graduated to brown rice all the way! But lately we’ve also been patronizing red rice. You are right in saying that anything that you do with white rice can also be done in brown (and red) rice. My favorite remains to be fried rice, we add beans, carrots, green peas and then when cooked, sprinkled with sesame seeds. … Hay, ano ba yan. nagugutom naman ako!

        • May

          We started mixing equal parts brown and white rice for health reasons. I still prefer white rice because the brown rice takes some getting used to. And yes, we add an extra cup of water when we cook it. But I’m going to try soaking it to improve the flavour. Thanks for the tip!

  • Chini

    When someone comes home from our home province, Samar, during harvest season, I always buy red rice (at least half a sack) and have them bring it over. :-) Much like brown rice, I guess, it’s also healthier than white rice. It’s a little rough to the tongue but we have gotten used to it so it no longer bothers us. But I love the nutty flavor. :-)

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Red is rougher than brown? We just finished the 2 k. of brown rice and I was thinking of trying red rice next.

      • A

        I love mixing purple malagkit rice with brown rice. IT makes brown rice more malagkit, like Chinese short grain; in Mandarin it’s called Wu Gu Fan. If you prefer fluffy, plain brown rice lang, I guess.

        • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

          I can get black sticky rice here but I don’t think I’ve seen purple…

  • Julius S

    Connie,
    I use brown rice for health reasons.
    I have type 2 diabetes.
    According to my body’s response with
    White rice, it causes spikes in blood sugar
    as much as 60 – 80 mg/dl when my body
    converts carbohydrates in White rice into sugar.

    I find that brown rice to have a controlled
    spike in my blood sugar levels after a meal.

    Julius

  • Christine

    I’m lucky to live in the West Coast of the US where we can actually buy 25 lb bags of Jasmine Brown Rice. Tastes just like white rice to me and so much healthier for you.

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    Oh, that’s so good. All the aroma and the health benefits in one package. :)

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    That’s good to know. I read too that the fiber is brown rice is good for keeping cholesterol in check. :)

  • TRose

    From my experience, a good way to introduce children or even adults to brown rice is to mix equal parts of cooked white rice and cooked brown rice. After a few times of this, then you serve just the brown rice and it won’t be noticed. Brown rice taste different from white rice, to me brown rice has a nutty taste to it which I like. But not everybody likes the taste.

  • Blackwidow

    I tried serving brown rice, but the kids did not like it, so we are back to white.

    There is a very good brown rice variety- the organic upland brown rice, but boy, it is very expensive- like P100 a kilo. It is that expensive because they only plant and harvest so little of it. It tastes good. It is also called dirty rice, because it is colored dark brown, black and violet- a combination of all 3 colors.

  • Fai

    My husband thinks brown rice curbs down his appetite which encouraged him to eat more brown rice than white. And i notice too that since its high in fiber, it keeps you fuller longer. I love brown rice for its nutty taste esp. Jasmine brown rice.