RICE (ORYZA SATIVA) - A STAPLE FOOD FOR MANY: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF RICE
RICE, ORYZA SATIVA
Rice is a descendant of wild grasses and belongs to the Poaceae or Graminaceae family of plants along with wheat, maize (sweet corn), sorghum, millet, rye, oats and barley, among others. It is widely cultivated in the
Asia and Pacific region where it is a staple food in 17 countries. It is also a staple in 8 countries in Africa and 9 in North and South America. There are more that 8,000 varieties of rice grown around the world and these are grown in various ways, including, of course in paddy fields in countries which have the monsoon season. Rice is the main food source of energy for more than half the world’s population. However for a balanced diet, pulses such as lentils, leafy green vegetables such as brussel sprouts and kale, and meat need to be added to it.
Rice provides the world’s human population with 20% of its dietary energy supply, while wheat provides 19%, and maize 5%.
Polished white rice has few nutrients left in it and for the sake of health and nutrition one should eat brown rice which is simply rice which has been hulled, in other words the bran and germ layers which contain the essential vitamins, minerals and Omega-3 and
-6 fatty acids, as well as the phytonutrients and amino acids are left intact.
Writing her “A Modern Herbal” in the 1930s Mrs. Maud Grieve said: -
“The chief consumption of rice is as a food substance, but it should never be forgotten that the large and continued consumption of the white, polished rices of commerce is likely to be injurious to the health. The nations of which rice is the staple diet eat it unhusked as a rule, when it is brownish and less attractive to the eye, but much more nutritious as well as cheaper.”
She clearly could see how things were going and warned then that white rice was not very nutritious. However it has since been the rice of choice in the West. Black rice, or Forbidden rice is also nutritious as is Bhutanese red rice, grown in the
Himalayas, but brown rice is readily available, although now, it is not as cheap as white rice as it was in Mrs. Grieve’s day as it has become labeled “macrobiotic “ and “organic” which makes it more expensive than the highly polished white rice.
Rice is believed to have originated in
and primitive agricultural tools and remains of rice dating back to circa 8,500 BC have been found in the China in Yangtze River basin , showing how long it has been a cultivated crop there. Archaeological remains discovered in the Indian subcontinent only date back to c. 2,000 BC. It arrived in China and other parts of the Mediterranean basin from Greece via Arab traders. It was also introduced early into Syria East Africa, and much later to the . The Spaniards introduced it to US South America in the 17th century, as it had been taken to by the Moors in the 8th century. The Crusaders had later taken back to Spain with them; and so it travelled around the globe. France
Today there are several main types of rice which can be found on supermarket shelves:-
· Arborio or Italian rice which is used to make risottos.
· Basmati rice which is long-grained and used in biryanis and other rice dishes on the Indian subcontinent because of its delicate nutty flavour and the fact that the grains stay separate.
· Sweet rice which is sticky and glutinous
· Jasmine rice which may be brown or white, and which is aromatic due to the jasmine flowers in it.
· Bhutanese red rice grown in the
Himalayas which has a nutty earthy taste.
· Black rice (as mentioned above) which is purple when cooked
There are other short-, medium- and long-grained rices too and here in Pakistan we can buy ‘broken rice’ which is cheap Basmati and which can be used in dessert dishes, flavoured with rose water and with coconut, sultanas and pistachio nuts or almonds added to it (much more interesting than a British rice pudding).
Rice is used in traditional systems of medicine for upset stomachs and diarrhoea. In
lemon juice may be added to it, or it is served plain and boiled. Rice can be boiled, drained, allowed to cool then mashed to form a paste which is applied to boils, sores, swellings and pimples in the Indian subcontinent. The sticky, gelatinous variety of rice is used here for stomach upset, heart-burn and indigestion. Greece
Clinical trials have shown that extracts of brown rice may be effective in treating breast and stomach cancers and trials are still underway. It is thought that brown rice can help lower cholesterol levels in the blood, so can help prevent heart disease and arteriosclerosis among other diseases. It is also thought that brown rice can help to lower the risk of Type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
Brown rice contains significant amounts of selenium which assists in DNA repair in cells and which has potent antioxidant actions. It helps to decrease the symptoms of asthma and the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. There are also large amounts of manganese present in brown rice, and this assists hormone production, and also has powerful antioxidant actions.
Brown rice also contains some of the B-complex vitamins including B1 and 3, pantothenic acid, folate, choline and betaine. As for minerals it has apart from those mentioned above, it has calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, phosphorous as well as 18 amino acids including lysine and tryptophan. It also contains a little vitamin E in the form of Alpha Tocopherol and vitamin K.
Annapura is the goddess of rice in Indian mythology, and gets her name from anna which is Sanskrit for rice. For Hindus rice is also associated with the goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It is also a fertility symbol. Annas were also the currency of the Indian subcontinent before rupees, so the word for money was ‘rice.’ There are also associations of rice with the Buddha as he was given rice and milk by a poor woman, so the story goes, and it is given now as an offering to him. Turmeric coloured rice is thrown over newly married couples in Indian wedding ceremonies, and rice flavoured with saffron and topped with gold leaf is also served at weddings, as yellow is the colour of happiness.
In some parts of
symbols and patterns are traced on thresholds and floors in rice powder or made with paste so that the household has good luck. This tradition is centuries old, and is still practised today. Rice paste is also used in the dyeing process on cloth in India . There are festivals held all over India Asia when rice seeds are sown, when the seedlings are planted and when the harvest is gathered in.
Rice extracts can be found in medicines and cosmetics, as it is believed that they can add to the volume and thickness of hair, so they are used in shampoos and other hair-care products, as well as in moisturizing creams as it moisturizes and is said to have anti-ageing properties. A mixture of rice starch and honey is used by some women to reduce the shine on their faces.
To cook brown rice, you need one part rice to two of water and it should be washed thoroughly and cleaned then allowed to soak for 20 minutes to half an hour before draining the water and cooking with salt.