Brown rice is gaining increasing popularity as a new-age health food. Why is this so? What is so great about brown rice? And most importantly, how about giving brown rice as first food for your baby?
Like all whole grains, brown rice contains the bran, germ, and endosperm (all parts present in a raw grain). The outermost fibrous bran layer and nutrient-rich germ layer are intact in brown rice. However, these parts are lost from rice when it is milled and polished to get white rice. While these refining processes make the rice smoother and better in texture and make it last longer, the resultant white rice no longer has the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and only the starchy white rice is left behind.
What different kinds of rice are available?
There are around 40,000 types of rice in the world, most of which can be polished or kept unpolished to produce brown or white rice. Rice can mainly be divided as per their size:
This kind of rice is shorter and contains the maximum starch. When cooked, they are stickier and form clumps. They are used for risottos, rice puddings, etc.
This kind of rice is two times as long as it is wide. It contains more starch than long-grain rice and less than short-grain rice. When cooked, the grains stick together but don’t clump like short-grain rice.
Long-grain rice is three times as long as it is wide. It has less starch; so, when cooked, it holds its shape well and the rice grains remains separated. They are perfect for biryanis and other Asian dishes.
Benefits of choosing brown rice over white rice
In addition to the obvious nutritive superiority of brown rice because of its intact structure, there are other valuable health benefits and advantages of eating brown rice.
Anti-allergic & Easily Digestible
At the 6-month mark when you start feeding your kid solid foods, your pediatrician will tell you to start with rice cereal or rice porridge for babies. This is because most kids are not allergic to rice. Some kids can be allergic to gluten, but rice is allergen-free and therefore recommended over other cereals.
A lot of parents also believe that brown rice is difficult to digest for kids. But the fact is that brown rice is insoluble fiber and therefore travels through the intestines without changing much. It helps to move bulk through the intestines and hence aid in digestion. This is how brown rice helps smooth digestion and prevents constipation in kids.
Prevents constipation in kids
Brown rice is a rich source of fiber and other minerals that regularizes bowel movement in kids and reduces constipation in infants. As brown rice contains insoluble fiber it helps in fecal bulking and easier bowel movement in kids. It also binds with toxic substances and helps them to leave the body, keeping the colon clean and healthy.
Brown rice will keep your kid fuller for a longer time
As brown rice has a high fiber content, your kid’s body will digest it slower than white rice.
Due to its high fiber content, your body digests brown rice much slower than white rice. It will keep your kid fuller for a longer duration and help prevent snacking between meals. This means that your kid gets all the necessary nutrients for his/her development without the harmful excess calories that come from snacking on high-calorie foods. This dietary pattern goes a long way in ensuring that your child does not end up being obese as a kid or as an adult. This is especially crucial, given the obesity epidemic that is hitting all developed and developing countries and is responsible for the sharp increase in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer cases.
Brown rice helps in preventing energy spikes in kids.
Brown rice has a low glycemic index (GI). It basically means that feeding brown rice to your kids will keep their blood sugar in check and not spike it like it would with white rice. So their energy levels will stay constant and they will not feel drained out.
Increases immunity in kids
Brown rice is a rich source of a mineral called selenium. Selenium helps in boosting immunity in kids. This results in preventing several infections and diseases like common cough, cold, fever, flu which are seen commonly among kids.
Rich source of antioxidants
According to a study, brown rice is a rich source of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase. These antioxidants protect the cells from oxidation damage during energy production. Antioxidants help your kid to fight various infections and diseases.
Promotes bone health
Brown rice is a rich source of magnesium and calcium. These minerals are essentials for bone development and provide the bones their structure. In the initial stages of development, it is essential for your kid to receive all these minerals for efficient growth.
Healthier kids, healthier adults
Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes
Several research studies have shown that consuming brown rice rather than white rice keeps weight and blood sugar in check, lowers cholesterol levels (mainly because it contains an additional nutrient GABA, regularizes kidney function, and reduces inflammation (the cause of several lifestyle diseases).
Brown rice: The environment friendly choice
Did you know that brown rice is not only healthy for our kids but also benefits the environment? Since there is no processing involved in brown rice, a lot of energy is saved. In contrast, the processing involved in preparing white rice consumes a lot of energy.
Also, nowadays we find “enriched white rice” which is basically a version of rice where the synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back to white rice to make it healthier. These synthetic vitamins are produced in laboratories and factories using chemicals. These chemicals also have an adverse effect on the environment.
It is simple – less processing translated into less harmful effects on the environment. By choosing brown rice over white rice, we are not only choosing a healthy body, but also helping the environment.
Myths about brown rice
There is a lot of talk about the presence of arsenic in brown rice and as parents, we get wary of feeding any such controversial foods to our kids. But what exactly is arsenic and how does it affect us?
Arsenic is a metal found in soil and water. It is present in all plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, etc. So, most foods we consume contain trace amounts of arsenic. Brown rice is no different. It too contains arsenic, albeit in a slightly higher amount than in other foods because brown rice absorbs a lot of water while growing.
How to remove arsenic from rice
In order to reduce the amount of arsenic present in rice, use these tips:
- Soak the rice overnight, which will help to open the grain and let the arsenic permeate into the water.
- Before cooking the rice, remove the water and rinse it thoroughly with fresh water multiple times.
- Add 5 parts of water for one part of rice and cook. Ensure that not all the water dries out while boiling because this will cause the arsenic present in the cooking water to get reabsorbed in the rice.
- Now rinse the cooked rice one last time with hot water and serve.
According to health experts, the benefits of feeding brown rice to your kid significantly outweigh the harm caused by the trace amounts of arsenic present in it. Basically, they recommend brown rice cereal as a “first food” for your baby.
How to incorporate brown rice in your child’s meals
Like any whole grain, brown rice also has a more complex texture than refined rice. Babies tend to start liking food that they are repeatedly exposed to at an early age. Thus, it is important to feed this complex textured food to your baby at stage-1 of baby diet.
There are several ways to feed brown rice to your baby. Check out these easy recipe ideas.
- Add breast milk to the brown rice porridge mix to increase its nutritive value and make it easier for your baby to adapt to the new taste
- Prepare brown rice and add some crushed fruits on top to make a rice fruit pudding
- Add pureed fish/chicken to brown rice to increase its nutritive value
- Make a thick soup with brown rice and add some crushed nuts
- Cook brown rice khichdi and add some ghee
- Prepare brown rice porridge with some veggies and garlic in it
Remember, DO NOT add any flavoring agents like salt or sugar to the food when you are just starting your baby on solid foods.
Brown rice does involve more preparation time compared to white rice, but the health benefits for your baby are significantly high and make the effort worthwhile.