Having started exercising on a regular basis, I've also started keeping an eye on the food that we eat. Through one of my friends, I came to know about the benefits of brown rice. I did some research about brown rice on the internet and here's a succinct summary of my findings:
§ What is Brown Rice?
Brown rice is also called 'unpolished rice' and is brown in color. It is actually how the rice would look before it goes through the entire process of polishing. Every rice grain has an outer layer of a slightly stiff cover called the 'hull' or husk. The husk is always removed from the seed for both white and brown rice. Under this layer is a thin brownish layer called the 'bran' layer. This brownish layer on the rice seed clings to the seed and is removed through a polishing process. In the case of brown rice, the brownish bran layer is left intact and only the top stiff cover is removed.
§ Health Benefits
The most important benefit of brown rice is that it is rich in fiber, which is present in the brown bran layer of the grains. The health benefits of a high fiber diet are being stressed by medical experts and this alone is a very good reason why you should eat brown rice instead of the regular white rice. The health benefits of high fiber content foods are numerous, it reduces the possibility of heart diseases, helps avoid abrupt spikes in sugar levels, helps digestion and reduces constipation etc. Some medical tests have indicated that the health benefits of brown rice could include controlling high blood pressure. Besides high fiber content, brown rice also contains other nutrients like, B vitamins, manganese, selenium and iron. By eating brown rice, you will also get the health benefits that such nutrients give the human body.
If you thought that brown rice would be cheaper than white rice as it is only partially processed, you are wrong. You will find that in most shops and grocery stores, brown rice costs much more than white rice. This is primarily due to the shorter shelf life as comapred to the whote rice. Brown rice develops a rancid flavour if stored unrefrigerated for more than 5 to 6 months. This is due to the natural oils in the bran layer becoming stale with time. Another reason could be that brown rice despite its growing popularity, has a total consumption that is less than white rice. The economies of larger production scale work in favour of white rice as far as pricing is concerned.
If you look at the brown rice grains, you will notice the brownish bran layer that clings to the grain. In the normal process used to get white rice, this bran layer would be taken off in a polishing process. It is this bran layer that can be affected by prolonged storage and give the brown rice a rancid flavour if stored for more than four to five months. The rancid flavour of brown rice when stored for long periods, is due the natural oils in the bran layer of the rice grains becoming stale. You can increase the shelf life of brown rice by refrigerating the (uncooked) rice. However if you make a direct comparison, white rice has a longer shelf life as compared to brown rice. When you shop for your brown rice, check the manufacturing date on the packet and choose a store that has a high customer turnaround.
If you compare the texture of brown rice and white rice after cooking, the brown rice will have a much firmer texture than white rice. It is this nutty kind of flavour that makes people love brown rice once they have tried it. White rice on the other hand gets a little more soft when cooked. Brown rice has an appetising flavour of it's own, on the other hand white rice is often enhanced with other flavours. Some Asian countries have become experts in adding flavour and fragrance to white rice. This is very rarely done in the case of brown rice and the natural flavour of this rice is one of the reasons for it's growing popularity.
Most of us are quite used to cooking white rice and the basic concept remains the same when cooking brown rice too. However, when you make brown rice make sure that you allow the rice to soak in the water for around 25 to 30 minutes before turning on the heat. This is the right way to cook brown rice as the grains are a bit more tough and stiff. Soaking in water before cooking the brown rice helps to soften the grains. Cooking the brown rice with too much of water makes the grains stick together and feel like a paste. On the other hand using too little water to cook brown rice will, make the grains too stiff and will also not bring out the full flavour of brown rice. Many cooks would offer advise on how to cook brown rice, but it is best for you to learn the basics and then do the fine tuning to suit your taste. When working out the proportion of water to be added to cook brown rice, start out with a 1:2 ratio. This means that you add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice. Complete the brown rice cooking and check the texture of the rice by eating a few cooked grains (allow to cool sufficiently before trying this). This will give you a starting parameter to work with and you can then make subtle changes to the time that the rice is soaked (before cooking) and also the proportion of water and brown rice.
If you have never eaten brown rice before and would like to make a start, a good idea would be to mix one portion of white rice and one portion of brown rice when cooking. Gradually reduce the proportion of white rice and allow the brown rice to be the major portion in your rice consumption. You will soon start liking the full, rich nut like flavour and texture of brown rice. Continue with your brown rice diet and if you ever try white rice again, you will immediately feel that it has a bland and starchy flavour that does not impress you. Few people change back to eating white rice after having eaten brown rice for a couple of months.
Make sure that you see the packing date on when you buy brown rice. You should ideally consume the brown rice within 3 to 4 months from the packing date. Refrigerating it in a tightly sealed plastic bag can increase the shelf life to around 5 to 6 months. Storing brown rice beyond this period gives the rice a stale rancid flavour.
You might find that some brown rice seeds are very brown while others look like they have been partly stripped of the bran (brown layer). This is because the polish process may be completely left off (fully brown seeds) or partially done. In cases where the brown rice is partially polished, the seeds could appear to have a lighter shade of brown or even appear a bit patchy with brown and white patches. The cooking time and soaking time for the rice might differ based on the extent to which the rice is polished. A little practice would enable you to work out the right amounts of soaking time and the right quantity of water to be added when cooking your brown rice.