My husband summed up most people’s feeling about brown rice when he said, “It takes twice as long to cook and doesn’t taste as good.”
Being a dietitian, I tried for years to fall in love with brown rice, and while I now enjoy eating it, I admit it was a hard transition.
So is white rice really that bad for you?
In fairness to white rice, there are billions of people worldwide who eat white rice daily as their staple food, many living free of chronic disease. White rice has a longer shelf life and is more energy-efficient to cook. It is also more versatile and has a more subtle flavour for soaking up delicious sauces and curries.
So why eat brown rice?
Firstly, in the process of removing the bran from rice and making it white, you essentially lose all of rice’s nutrition – B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, fatty acids and fiber.
Enriched white rice has the B vitamins added back, but other than that, you are looking at a pretty simple carbohydrate, void of any micronutrients.
Secondly, in terms of satiety, there is no comparison. Brown rice is a food you don’t overeat. I don’t know if it is the fibre or the fact that it isn’t as tasty, but as my husband is keen to point out, “you don’t go back for seconds with brown rice.” White rice, on the other hand, is a food that you will eat a lot of (especially when covered with butter), and you never feel very full.
So how can I make the most of my brown rice experience?
Keep an open mind – think about all the extra nutrients you are giving your body.
Plan ahead – brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook. Soaking rice prior to cooking (30-60 minutes), reduces cooking time.
Brown rice needs more water than white rice – usually a 2:1 ratio of water to rice.
Brown basmati rice tends to cook a bit fluffier than regular long grain brown rice.
A good “brown rice initiator” is to use it as part of a casserole, rather than on its own. Cabbage rolls, Mexican bean and rice casseroles are good places to start.
If you’ve tried and cannot warm up to the idea of brown rice, consider other whole grain alternatives like quinoa, millet or wild rice. If that doesn’t work, be mindful of your portion of white rice.
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.