The beauty of brown rice

Recent findings suggest it may reduce diabetes risk

Brown rice may be something you have never tried or wouldn’t typically buy; it may also receive a few crinkled noses from the kids. But that tiny brown grain of rice might do more for you and your family’s health than you imagine. Wholegrain brown rice has been a standout in the crowd lately, with two recent scientific studies finding a special compound in brown rice may help guard against high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Retaining the bran and germ, brown rice contains more nutrients and fibre than white, however both brown and white varieties of rice both contain essential vitamins and minerals, including B-group vitamins such as thiamine and niacin, zinc and phosphorus. Brown rice is a wholegrain food, as are mixed-grain breads, wholegrain breakfast cereals, rolled oats, wholemeal pasta, corn and popcorn.

One cup of brown rice contains around 2.4g of dietary fibre, which equates to around 10% of an adults daily fibre needs and around 80g of wholegrains, which is close to double the suggested daily wholegrain intake. In the absence of an official government recommendation for wholegrains intake, Go Grains Health & Nutrition has reviewed the research and suggests all Australian adults aim for 48g of wholegrains per day.

An excellent source of energy, rice is full of energy-giving carbohydrates – used by the body for brain performance, physical activity and everyday bodily functions including growth and repair. Rice is low in fat, cholesterol free (as are all plant foods) and virtually salt free with less than 5mg of sodium per 100g is therefore great for those who need to watch their salt intake.

A new study has just been published that analysed diet, lifestyle and disease data collected from 39,765 men and 157,463 women from 3 large cohort studies; the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses Health Study I and II. The researchers found people who ate high amounts of white rice also enjoyed plenty of fruits and vegetables, but not many wholegrains, cereal fibre and (bad) trans fats. Those people who enjoyed brown rice were more likely to be health conscious; more physically active, leaner and less likely to smoke or have a family history of diabetes and had higher intake of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains and lower intakes of red meat and trans fats. After adjustments were made, more than two servings of brown rice a week was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Due to low intakes of brown rice amongst the study participants it remains unclear whether higher intakes of brown rice are associated with further disease reductions. Nonetheless the researchers found simply switching white rice for brown rice was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing diabetes. The researchers also looked at wholegrain consumption overall and found stronger associations when analysing wholegrains as a group, rather than brown rice on its own.

Brown rice can be cooked the same way as white rice in the pot, in the microwave or a rice cooker usually for just a little bit longer. You can now even buy microwave pouches – great for the lunch box, workplace or a quick meal for one or two. Next time you are having rice for dinner, why not give brown rice a go. You may find you actually like the tastier, slightly more nutty version, especially now you know how much better it is for you. If you need help acquiring the taste, mix half white with half brown rice, cooking separately of course.

Qi et al, White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women, Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(11):961-969

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