Rice is a very important grain. It is the number-one staple food in dozens of countries, providing an inexpensive and readily available source of energy. In fact, 20 percent of the world's dietary energy comes from rice. It is nutritious — but it is far from perfect due to its high starch content.
Here's why that's an issue — and a surprising way to actually mitigate rice's less-healthy aspects with one simple, surprising cooking method.
Rice & Starch
Rice has the highest level of carbohydrates of all the commonly eaten grains in the world. Why is that a problem? When consumed, starch breaks down into sugar, and that sugar — unless burned — translates to fat.
So when two researchers from Sri Lanka discovered a simple cooking technique that quickly and easily converts those starches into something potentially better for you, it was very good news.
The Magic of Coconut Oil
Sudhair James, an undergraduate student at the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka, along with his supervising professor Dr. Pushparajah Thavarajah, found that adding a lipid (in this case, coconut oil) to rice when cooking and then rapidly cooling the rice immediately afterward changed the composition of the rice.
The addition of the fat during cooking transformed most of its digestible starches — which are the less desirable kind, because they easily turn into sugar — into resistance starch — the more desirable kind, because it takes the body much longer to break them down.
This simple addition actually reduces the number of calories in rice by 10 to 12 percent, and it has a potential to reduce calories further, up to 50 percent.
How to Use This Method
Their method is dead simple:
- Bring the cooking water for your rice to a boil.
- Add 3 percent of the weight of the rice in coconut oil.
- Then cook the rice as usual.
- When it is done, cool it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. The oil interacts with the starch and "changes its architecture," explained James in an article in the Washington Post recently. "Chilling the rice then helps foster the conversion of starches. The result is a healthier serving, even when you heat it back up."
James and Thavarajah have tested this method on 38 of the higher-starch rices available in Sri Lanka, and they believe that the results will only get better as they test the remaining, lower-starch rices.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)