Rice is grown in over 100 countries and is a grain eaten by more people in the world than any other grain. In fact, three of the most populated regions of the world, China, India and Indonesia, are all rice based societies and it is their staple food.
More than 40,000 different varieties of rice exist. Of these varieties, more than 100 varieties are grown worldwide. Some of the more popular rice varieties eaten in Australia include:
- Low GI White Rice (formerly known as Doongara rice or clever rice) – a long grain rice that’s uniquely developed and grown in Australia, with the benefit of having a lower glycemic index (GI) than regular rice.
- Basmati rice – a very long, slim grain, which is very popular in Indian cuisine and often served alongside curry based dishes. It also has a lower GI than regular rice.
- Jasmine rice – a very fragrant rice and originates from Thailand where it is used extensively in cooking, usually steamed.
- Arborio rice – a much shorter and plump grain, it is typically used in Italian dishes like risotto.
- Brown rice – a rice grain with the bran layer still intact. It can be cooked and eaten as it is and contains more nutrients in this form than white rice, which has had the outer bran layer and germ removed.
- Coloured rice – black rice and red rice are now available in Australia as well as wild rice.
To produce white rice the nutrient rich bran layer is removed. While white rice has lower levels of nutrients it still contains protein, vitamins, minerals and some fibre and is low in fat and salt. When enjoyed in moderate amounts, and as part of balanced meal, white rice makes a positive contribution to a healthy diet.
Nutrition credentials of whole grain (brown) rice:
- Around 85% of the energy in rice comes from carbohydrate.
- After carbohydrate, protein is the second most abundant constituent of rice.
- Low in fat, with the small amount being mostly unsaturated.
- Rice bran is high in insoluble dietary fibre.
- Contains B-group vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate and pantothenic acid.
- Contains vitamin E.
- Contains iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium (depending on the soil content of selenium).
- Contains small amounts of copper, manganese and calcium.
- High in potassium and low in sodium.
- Contains phytochemicals including phenolic acids, phytic acid, plant sterols and saponins.
- Gluten free and the most non-allergenic of all grains.
- Low GI brown rice is now available in most supermarkets
- 1 cup of cooked brown rice contains 1278kJ, 3g fibre, 5.8g protein, 1.8mg zinc and 98mg magnesium
Main culinary uses of rice:
Rice is used to create an array of ingredients for culinary uses. For example:
- Puffed rice – is used in breakfast cereals, snacks bars and rice cakes.
- Rice flour – is used to make rice crackers and rice noodles.
- Rice bran – is used as an ingredient in some baked products, such as bread. It is also available to purchase as a single ingredient to sprinkle on breakfast cereals and use in recipes.
- Rice bran oil – is domestically available to use for baking and cooking purposes, including pan-frying, stir-frying and deep frying. Rice bran oil spread is also available to spread on sandwiches and use in baking and pan-frying.
- Sake – a Japanese rice wine that is produced from rice.