Brown Rice for Long Lasting Health
Since its cultivation more than 6,000 years ago, rice has been a staple in the diet of many cultures. It continues to provide as much as half of the daily calories for half of the world's population. In addition to being a versatile, nutritious grain, researchers are now discovering its effectiveness in preventing cancer, improving cardiovascular function, lowering bad cholesterol, and boosting our immune system.
There are more than 8,000 varieties of rice, often distinguished by the length of grain: long, medium or short. Rice can also be classified by the degree of processing, or milling, it undergoes. This latter classification is what differentiates white rice from brown. White rice is milled and polished to strip the outer layers of bran and germ, which also removes many of the beneficial nutrients, including vitamins B1, B3, and B6, manganese, phosphorus, iron, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Although white rice is required by US law to be "enriched" to replace vitamins lost during this processing, these replacement nutrients are of lower quality than their original form and at least 11 nutrients are still absent after enrichment. On the other hand, brown rice has had only its inedible outer hull removed during processing and retains all of the important nutrients listed above, as well as valuable minerals such as selenium and magnesium.
One cup of brown rice provides 21 percent of the daily recommended value of magnesium, a component in more than 300 enzymes in the human body. Enzymes are special proteins that facilitate chemical reactions in our bodies. Magnesium is required for many of these enzymes to function, particularly those used in glucose and insulin secretion. As a result, people with anemia or who are at risk for type 2 diabetes can benefit greatly from eating brown rice. Magnesium has also been shown to improve symptoms of asthma, lower blood pressure, decrease headache tension, and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Magnesium also balances calcium in the body to help regulate nerve impulses and muscle tone, which in turn keeps our nerves, blood vessels and muscles from becoming overactivated. Without enough magnesium, calcium can cause nerves and muscles to contract resulting in muscle tension, soreness, spasms, cramps, and muscle fatigue. In addition, magnesium forms the crystal lattice that gives our bones structure and strength, making it essential for healthy bones.
One of the most beneficial nutrients found in brown rice is manganese, which helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates and is instrumental in the synthesis of fatty acids, which are important for a healthy nervous system. Your body also needs manganese to produce cholesterol, which is used to produce sex hormones. Manganese is a critical component of a specific antioxidant enzyme that is found only in mitochondria and protects against free radical damage during energy production. One cup of brown rice provides 88 percent of the daily recommended value of manganese.
Brown rice contains 14 percent the daily recommended value of fiber and 27.3 percent of the daily value of selenium, both of which can help prevent colon cancer. Selenium is essential for thyroid hormone health, antioxidant defense and immune system support. It also promotes DNA repair in damaged cells and helps to rid the body of worn out and abnormal cells by initiating the cells' self-destruct mechanism. These properties make selenium useful in preventing not only cancer, but also heart disease. It can also help quell asthma and arthritis symptoms. The fiber contained in brown rice helps reduce cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels balanced and prevent gallstones in women. In addition, the oils present in whole grains such as brown rice have been shown to significantly lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and can help prevent weight gain. Studies have also shown that eating whole grains at least six times a week can reduce narrowing of arterial passages and plaque build-up in blood vessels.
One reason brown rice is so beneficial and can promote sustained periods of good health is because its vital nutrients are released slowly over time. The phytonutrients present in brown rice are unique because they are "bound," meaning they are attached to the cell wall of the plant and are only released by intestinal bacteria during digestion. This late release means the nutrients are absorbed more slowly, as opposed to "free" forms of these substances, which dissolve quickly and are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. Plant lignans are one type of phytochemical that are converted through digestion and help protect against breast cancer, hormone-dependent cancers, and heart disease.
The antioxidants present in whole grains promote healthy digestion and provide cardio-protective properties. These antioxidants are water-soluble and fat-soluble, as well as insoluble, which allows immediate and delayed release throughout the intestinal tract long after the product is consumed.
It is always best to buy organic brown rice, as trace amounts of arsenic
have been found in non-organic rice all over the world. Choose rice that shows no sign of moisture and is in a sealed container or bag. Once open, brown rice should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator where it may be kept for approximately 6 months. There is some disagreement as to the length of time cooked rice may be safely stored in the refrigerator. Some organizations say it is safe to store cooked brown rice for 4 to 7 days, while others say it's best to cook only what you can eat.
Mix brown rice with vegetables and dressing and stuff in pita bread for an easy lunch; or heat up cooked rice with milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and honey for a healthy and delicious rice pudding dessert.