How I made peace with brown rice

>> Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You may have noticed that I am a picky eater. Until very recently - like maybe a month and a half ago - I did not like brown rice. I was a medium grain white rice fan and nothing could sway me from that. One thing you may also have noticed, however, is that I can be very tenacious when I set my mind to something - like giving up HFCS. I made up my mind a couple of months ago that I wanted us to eat brown rice because it is so nutritionally superior to white rice. I am happy to say that after some experimentation, I am now an avid brown rice fan! I find that I actually like it better than white rice now. More on how I made peace with brown rice later.

First, let's take a look at why we wanted to make the switch to brown rice in the first place. Brown rice is rice that has had the outer hull removed, but the bran and germ remains. To make white rice, brown rice is milled to remove the bran and germ and then polished to remove the aleurone layer of the rice. What remains is a shiny white grain of rice that cooks fast and has a long shelf life but has lost much of its nutritional value. Because brown rice still has the bran and the oil-rich germ, it can go rancid much, much faster than white rice.

Brown rice is a significant source of B vitamins (B1 or thiamin, B3 or niacin, and B6 or pyridoxine). B vitamins are water soluble vitamins that are important for whole body health. Among other things, they help the body convert carbohydrates into glucose and are essential in the breakdown of fats and proteins. Many of the B vitamins are also considered "anti-stress" vitamins because they serve to boost the immune system and improve the body's ability to withstand stressful conditions.

Brown rice is also an excellent source of manganese (one cup will provide 88% of your recommended daily value!), selenium and magnesium. It's also a good source of iron. All of these trace minerals are essential for your body to function properly. Interestingly, magnesium is a natural way to boost your mood.

Brown rice is also an excellent way to get more fiber in your diet. A single cup of brown rice will provide 14% of the recommended daily value of fiber. Fiber in your diet can help to reduce cholesterol levels as well as regulate blood sugar levels and is important for optimal bowel health.

What happens when brown rice is converted to white rice? Most of the vitamins and minerals that make brown rice so nutritionally attractive are contained in the bran and germ of the rice. Conversion of brown rice to white rice results in the loss of 60-90% of the different B vitamins, more than half of the magnesium, half of the manganese, and all of the dietary fiber and fatty acids. Most manufacturers enrich white rice with B vitamins and often iron, but often not in the same form as found in the original brown rice. Magnesium is typically not added back to white rice. As important as the vitamins is the fiber. Brown rice has about 3 times more fiber than white rice.

Really, while white rice is not a nutritional wasteland - especially when enriched - it doesn't even begin to compare to brown rice. The taste and texture of brown rice is really quite different from white rice. Brown rice has a lot more texture than white rice - it's chewy - and the flavor is nuttier than white rice.

So, what happened to change my taste buds to like brown rice? Up until a month and a half ago, I followed the cooking instructions on the package or on brown rice recipes. The result - al dente rice that was a little crunchy and tasted undercooked to me. (My husband does not mind the al dente brown rice. I cannot tolerate it.) My secret for loving brown rice is to cook it longer and with more water than the package calls for. Simple, huh? I add about an extra cup of water (more toward the end of cooking if necessary) and cook the rice for about 50 min. (I'm at altitude, though, so you might not need that much extra cooking time.) If you don't like brown rice, try playing around with the amount of water you add and the cooking time. It makes a world of difference in the texture and taste of the rice. I'm hooked! Best of all, the kids didn't even register that we switched to brown rice! They love it too!


Rachel October 15, 2008 at 7:55 AM  

Love brown rice. And like you said, the kids don't even know. That was one of the most painless healthy switch-a-roos in our house.

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. October 15, 2008 at 10:13 AM  

Every day a new healthy step. Way to go.

merathon October 15, 2008 at 11:55 AM  

this is exactly how we cook our brown rice, and actually my husband figured it out! i switched to brown rice years ago, not because i wanted to, but because i knew it was so much better for me. once we realized the better way to cook it, it's so much easier to make myself eat it!

cathy October 15, 2008 at 12:01 PM  

Rachel - I know! I was a bigger wimp about the rice than the kids.

James - Thanks. We're trying!

Merathon - it's amazing what a change the extra time and water makes, isn't it?

Blake October 15, 2008 at 12:06 PM  

I love brown rice now. I used to hate it too. My wife and I finally figured out how to cook it too. Thanks!

merathon October 15, 2008 at 12:10 PM  

i just don't understand why the manufacturers don't know this and change the instructions on the labels!

Pamela Reinsel Cotter October 15, 2008 at 12:16 PM  

Great -- now you guys can make homemade brown-rice sushi :)

cathy October 15, 2008 at 1:30 PM  

Merathon - Apparently some people actually like crunchy brown rice. It boggles the mind...

Pamela - Um, no thanks! I'll leave the sushi to my husband, and he's happy to leave the sushi making to the sushi chefs! (Though I think that he has thought about making his own sushi before. We both know that it would never happen though!)

P.Price October 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM  

Yup, I do the same thing--more water, more time. From what I understand now, that may be required at our house because we have hard water. In fact, beans and other things take longer, too.

Do you have hard water, too? Just curious...

Once you get used to brown rice, it's hard to go back to white. And then you'll start experimenting with brands/varieties.

cathy October 15, 2008 at 2:28 PM  

P.Price - We have hard water, but it isn't insanely hard. I actually had the same problem with brown rice when I lived where we had soft water too. Maybe I wouldn't have had to cook it as long in soft water?

Can I say that I'm a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out the relatively simple cook longer with more water trick. But, I wasn't ready to make the switch to brown rice before this, either.

fatfighter October 15, 2008 at 3:08 PM  

Way to make peace with brown rice! I love it soooo much! I can't even remember the last time I had white rice...

Lori October 16, 2008 at 7:02 AM  

I kind of went the opposite direction. I used to eat brown rice all the time and then fell in love with long grain white rice in Brazil. I need to get back to my old habits especially after reading all the nutrition info.

Your picture looks much better than the varieties I used to have. I think I need to go for a more natural brand.

Munchkins and Music October 16, 2008 at 9:19 AM  

I didn't like it as a kid, but now I like it!

MizFit October 16, 2008 at 9:32 AM  

for some reason Ive been smitten, entirely, since we met!

(uh me and rice. though Im sure Id be smitten with you were we to meet...)

Fruity October 19, 2008 at 10:37 AM  

Brown or white? A matter of getting used to it. Brown is healthier.

laura October 20, 2008 at 6:38 AM  

I will definitely try this advice for cooking brown rice. I like brown rice bowls with a little olive oil and sauteed meat or veggies. Thanks!

Sandfire74 February 24, 2009 at 1:34 PM  

I'm a brown rice lover too! And like you I use more liquid and cook it longer. Now for a real treat, try cooking it in broth or stock, almost a meal in itself.

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