The most important health benefits of wild rice include its ability to improve digestion and heart health, stimulate growth and repair throughout the body, slow the signs of aging, protect against chronic diseases, prevent the onset of diabetes, strengthen bones, boost the immune system, and help with weight loss efforts.
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What is Wild Rice?
Wild rice describes four different species of grass from the genus Zizania (as well as the beneficial grain that can be harvested), three of which are native to North America, and one to China, Asia. Wild rice is also known as Indian rice, Canada rice, and water oats. 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.
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. It is harvested for general consumption and serves as a food to various aquatic animals too.
It is extremely valuable due to its selective 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, vitamin, and dietary fiber content, almost all of which are considerably higher than the traditional white rice. It is low in gluten and fats.
Health Benefits of Wild Rice
Let’s take a closer look at the important health benefits of wild rice.
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.
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.
Improving the health of your immune system is one of the best ways to increase your overall health. One of the best ways to get that immunity boost is with vitamin C, which is significantly present in wild rice. 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 recover from illnesses.
Improves Bone Strength
As we age, our bodies begin to break down, including our bones. In order to maintain strong bones, intake of phosphorus-rich foods like wild rice can be very helpful. Phosphorous and zinc 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!
As a low-calorie and gluten-free food, 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. One way to overcome this is with a fair balance of essential minerals in our diet, which wild rice can provide.
One of the most important benefits you can derive from wild rice comes 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!
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 the dangerous free radicals.
Promotes Growth & 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 that are the 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.
Prevents Birth Defects
Wild rice has significant levels of vitamins, including vitamin B6, also known as folate or folic acid, and this has been proven to reduce neural tube defects in newborns. 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.
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.