Most of us know rice to be bad for us due to its high carbohydrate content and therefore believe we should avoid it. As a rice lover myself, I cannot imagine completely eliminating it from my diet. While rice tends to get written off as unhealthy and calorie-ridden, not every variety is so. Further, swapping rice for multi grain processed bread or whole wheat rotis need not always be the healthier option.
Depending on your dietary requirements, rice can go from being avoidable to completely essential. Here are some characteristics of rice to take into consideration the next time you are trying to plan your meal:
- Rice comes in three varieties: long-grain, medium-grain & short grain. Each has a different starch content, cooks differently, and might be used specifically for certain dishes only.
- What distinguishes white rice from brown rice is the polishing process. In white rice, the outer husk is removed and the grain is polished to look white and attractive. This polishing process reduces the nutrients presents, and the removal of the husk reduces its fibre content.
- Red & Black rice gets its unique colour from anthocyanin which is loaded with antioxidants. They have a higher nutrient content when compared to white and brown rice but tend to be more expensive and take longer to cook.
- Wild rice is actually a grass, native to North America. When cooked it splits open and is high in protein and fibre.
Long Grain Rice: This variety has a dry, light texture which becomes fluffy when cooked. Due to its low starch content, the grains do not stick together when cooked. You can find white & brown varieties of long grain rice. It most popular use is in Rice Pilaff, Biryani and as an accompaniment to light gravies.
E.g. Basmati (India & Pakistan) & Jasmine (Thailand)
Medium Grain Rice: Tender and moist, this variety contains a lot of starch which causes the grains to stick together when cooked. You can find white, brown and red variations of the medium grain variety. It is most commonly used for sweet dishes, rich meaty curries, stir fry, etc.
E.g. Black Rice (China), Matta / Rosematta Rice (India)
Short Grain Rice: This variety is short and plump. It has a high level of amylopectin, which makes it very sticky when cooked and causes it to clump easily. It can absorb more liquid, making it ideal for risottos, stews, soups and stuffing. It ability to clump allows it to be shaped easily for dishes like Sushi.
E.g. Valencia Rice (Spain), Glutinous / Sticky Rice (Asia) & Arborio Rice (Italy)