9 Important Benefits of Wild Rice
Some of the most important health benefits of wild rice include its ability to improve heart health, stimulate growth and repair throughout the body, slow the signs of aging, protect against chronic diseases, prevent the onset of diabetes, optimize the digestive process, strengthen your bones, boost your immune system, and help with weight loss efforts.
Despite having the name “rice” in the title, wild rice is not that closely related to traditional “Asian” rice, which tends to be smaller, less nutrient-dense, and of a different color. Wild rice actually describes four different species of grass (as well as the beneficial grain that can be harvested), three of which are native to North America, and one to Asia. The popularity of wild rice has increased in North America, but has diminished in many other parts of the world, simply due to accessibility. Wild rice has a chewy outer sheath that holds the nutrient-dense grain inside, and this type of rice grows on short stalks in shallow water, and are harvested by humans for general consumption, as well as various types of aquatic animals.
Wild rice, also known as Indian rice, was depended on heavily by native Americans, and was actually considered sacred to some tribes. They were extremely valuable due to their accessibility and high nutritive value, as well as the consistency of the plant. When the grains are harvested, many other grains fall into the muddy soil beneath the water and grow for the following year. Today, many varieties of wild rice have gained a great deal of attention due to their high antioxidant, protein, mineral, and vitamin content, almost all of which are considerably higher than traditional white rice. Let’s take a closer look at the important health benefits of wild rice.
Health Benefits of Wild Rice
Heart Health: It seems that we are always looking for ways to boost heart health, and wild rice certainly delivers. There is no sodium in wild rice, which helps to reduce blood pressure, but there is also a high level of fiber, which is known to clear out “bad” cholesterol from the cardiovascular system and reduce the chances of developing atherosclerosis. By eliminating the strain on the heart, and boosting repair and damage control with a high level of vitamin C, wild rice is a clear choice for those who want to protect their heart.
Digestive Processes: As mentioned above, wild rice boasts an impressive amount of dietary fiber. Aside from optimizing your cholesterol balance, fiber also bulks up your stool and eases your digestive process. By facilitating peristalsis, dietary fiber can help you eliminate constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, and excess flatulence, as well as more serious gastrointestinal concerns, such as colorectal cancer, gastric ulcers, and hemorrhoids.
Immune System Booster: Improving the health of your general immune system is one of the best ways to increase your overall health, and one of the best ways to get that immunity boost is with vitamin C, of which wild rice has a significant amount. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against foreign agents, pathogens, and microbes. Furthermore, vitamin C is a critical component of collagen, which is needed for the creation and repair of cells, organs, tissues, and blood vessel walls, helping us to recover from illnesses that we do experience.
Weight Loss Efforts: As a low-calorie and gluten-free food, as are all true rices, wild rice can help those who are attempting to lose weight and prevent obesity. Unlike white rice, which can bulk up your diet and actually help gain weight, wild rice has a different effect, preventing overeating due to high fiber and nutrient content, without supplying a high level of calories to the bones and our bone mineral density. One way to overcome this is with a fair balance of essential minerals in our diet, which wild rice can provide. In fact, you can get a great deal more phosphorous and zinc, which are important for maintaining bone mineral density and ensuring strong bones and joints as we age. If you are susceptible to osteoporosis or are already starting to feel those aches in your bones, switch over to wild rice and keep your strength up!
Anti-Aging: One of the most important benefits you can derive from wild rice come from the impressive level of antioxidants. White rice typically has no antioxidant capacity, but wild rice contains 20-30 times more antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate or turn cancerous. This includes the free radicals that accumulate in the skin and can contribute to signs of aging, such as wrinkles, age spots, and slower healing of blemishes. This is also true for the ocular cells, and antioxidants can prevent macular degeneration and the onset of cataracts. If you want to feel and act younger for years to come, then add wild rice to your diet!
Chronic Disease: Although the research on chronic diseases takes years of time for solid results to be publicly accepted, the antioxidants in wild rice have been shown to lower the chances of certain conditions, including heart-related disorders, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. This is due to the same neutralizing effect on dangerous free radicals that was explained above.
Growth and Repair: The high protein content found in wild rice can also be good for increasing muscle mass, proper growth, and balanced development in our bodies. Proteins are made up of the building blocks of life, amino acids, so adequate protein levels are essential for overall health, and wild rice is a great option for that, particularly for vegetarians who don’t regularly get animal proteins in their diet.
Birth Defects: Wild rice has significant levels of many vitamins, including vitamin B6, also known as folate or folic acid, and this has been proven to reduce neural tube defects in newborn infants. Expectant mothers should add wild rice to their diet for all of its important health benefits, but particularly if they aren’t getting a proper B-vitamin fix every day.
A Final Word of Caution: There are no known health concerns with wild rice, but as with any food, everything should be consumed in moderation. The worries of nitric oxide that are often raised about white rice do not apply to wild rice.