The health benefits of rice include its ability to provide instant energy, regulate and improve bowel movements, stabilize blood sugar levels, and slow down the aging process. It also plays a role in providing vitamin B1 to the human body.
Other benefits include its ability to aid in skin care, boost metabolism, regulate digestion, and reduce high blood pressure. It helps in weight loss, boosts the immune system, and provides protection against dysentery, cancer, and heart diseases.
What is Rice?
Rice is cereal grain, which belongs to the grass species Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima, also known as Asian and Australian rice respectively. The grain comes in more than 40,000 varieties with different shapes, sizes, texture, aroma, and colors.
Different types of rice include white, brown, wild, jasmine, and sushi rice, among others. They can be long grain, medium grain, and short grain rice.
Most varieties contain a high amount of carbohydrates and protein. The fiber content varies according to types of rice. For eg., brown rice has more fiber than white rice and therefore, is a healthy option. It is also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, selenium, and copper. The vitamins in it include niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamin. It is a great food for people wanting a gluten-free option and it contains negligible fat.
For most people, rice is synonymous with short-grained white rice. This variety is considered healthy as it contains most of the nutrients and is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which are known for their pro-inflammatory properties. However, it is generally low in vitamins and minerals.
Health Benefits of Rice
It is a fundamental food in many cuisines around the world and is an important cereal crop that feeds more than half of the world’s population. The health benefits of this widespread crop are explained below.
Since rice is abundant in carbohydrates, it acts as fuel for the body and aids in the normal functioning of the brain. Carbohydrates are metabolized by the body and turned into functional, usable energy. The vitamins, minerals, and organic components found in it increase the functioning and metabolic activity of all the organs, which further increases energy levels.
Rice forms an integral part of a balanced diet as it can provide nutrients without having any negative impacts on health. Low levels of fat, cholesterol, and sodium also help reduce obesity and associated conditions.
Rice naturally does not contain any gluten and hence, causes no inflammation in the gut. This means that people suffering from celiac disease can easily include it in their diet.
Controls Blood Pressure
Rice is low in sodium, so it is considered one of the best foods for those suffering from hypertension. Sodium can cause veins and arteries to constrict, increasing stress and strain on the cardiovascular system as the blood pressure increases. This is also associated with heart conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes, so avoiding an excess of this mineral is always a good idea.
Whole grain variety of brown rice, is rich in insoluble fiber that helps protect against many types of cancer. Scientists and researchers believe that such insoluble fibers are vital for protecting the body against the development and metastasis of cancerous cells. Fiber is beneficial in defending against colorectal and intestinal cancer. However, besides fiber, it also has natural antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A, and phenolic and flavonoid compounds, which help scour free radicals from the body.
Medical experts say that powdered rice can be applied topically to cure skin conditions. On the Indian subcontinent, rice water is readily prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners as an effective ointment to cool off inflamed skin surfaces. The phenolic compounds, particularly in brown or wild variety, have anti-inflammatory properties, so they are also good for soothing irritation and redness. Whether consumed or topically applied, it tends to relieve a number of skin conditions. The antioxidant capacity also helps delay the appearance of wrinkles and other premature signs of aging that affect the skin.
Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease
Brown rice is said to contain high levels of nutrients that stimulate the growth and the activity of neurotransmitters, subsequently helping in preventing Alzheimer’s disease to a considerable extent. Various species of wild rice have been shown to stimulate neuroprotective enzymes in the brain, which inhibit the effects of free radicals and other toxins that can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Diuretic & Digestive Qualities
The husk of rice is considered to be an effective medicine to treat dysentery. As a diuretic, it helps you eliminate toxins from the body like uric acid, and even lose weight, since approximately 4% of urine is actually made up of body fat! The high fiber content also increases bowel movement regularity and protects against various types of cancer, as well as reducing the chances of cardiovascular diseases. Chinese people believe that rice considerably increases appetite, cures stomach ailments, and reduces all digestive problems.
Rice is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin D, calcium, fiber, iron, thiamine, and riboflavin. These vitamins provide the foundation for the body’s metabolism, immune system health, and general functioning of the organs.
Boosts Cardiovascular Health
Rice bran oil is known to have antioxidant properties that promote cardiovascular strength by reducing cholesterol levels in the body. Wild and brown rice varieties are far better than the white variety since the husk of the grain is where much of the nutrients are; ironically, the husk is removed in white rice preparation.
Rice has resistant starch, which reaches the bowels and stimulates the growth of useful bacteria that help with normal bowel movements. Also, this insoluble rice is very useful in reducing the effects of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea.
Rice can prevent chronic constipation. The insoluble fiber in it acts like a soft sponge that may be pushed through the intestinal tract quickly and easily. Brown rice and whole grains are known to be rich in insoluble fiber. However, it is also advisable to drink lots of water for relieving your constipated condition, in addition to eating fibrous foods.
Diabetics should include the brown variety rather than the white one, which contains low levels of the glycemic index. As little as one cup of brown rice on a daily basis provides a person with almost 100% of their daily manganese requirement, which helps produce energy from carbohydrates and protein. It is also beneficial for normal functioning of the nervous system and the production of sex hormones.
People choose different types of rice depending on their culinary needs, availability, and its potential health benefits as well. It can also be defined by the length of each grain. Asian cuisines specialize in long grained ones, whereas American countries prefer short or medium length grains.
Recent Updates on Rice
According to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, the nutritional value of rice needs to be improved even more so that it benefits mankind. Being the most dominant cereal crop in most of the world, it can improve the lives of millions who consume it.
Efforts are currently being made to increase the micro-nutrient value of this grain by combining traditional methods of growing crops with modern biotechnology. The institute further states that the development of rice with high iron and zinc compounds could be possible through bio-fortification. This can also induce high-quality yields, which could be eagerly accepted by farmers as well as the consumers for longer, healthier lives.