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Product Talk: Brown Rice


As food writer Mark Bittman put it in The New York Times earlier this month – Brown rice isn’t just for hippies anymore.

But I’m willing to bet that most of you don’t eat it very often – or at all. If you don’t, you really ought to try it, not just for a change of pace but because in most cases it really is a better choice, nutrition-wise. It has more fiber and more minerals than white rice, and slightly fewer calories.

Brown rice is simply the less-refined cousin of refined white rice. (Brown rice can be any kind, including exotics like jasmine or sushi rice, but the kinds that are easiest to find are short-, medium-, or long-grain rices.)

During processing, only the outer, inedible hull is removed. The bran and the germ, which are stripped out of refined rice, remain behind in brown rice. That makes brown rice one of those whole grains we’re all advised to eat more often, and gives the clear health advantage to brown rice:

  • On average, brown rice has about four times as much fiber as white – 4 grams of fiber per cup of brown rice, compared to less than one for most varieties of white rice.
  • Brown rice has much higher levels of such nutrients as manganese, iron, selenium, and many B vitamins. While some of these nutrients are added back into enriched white rice, many of the minerals are not.
  • Brown rice gets a NuVal score of 82. Enriched white rice is scored about 30 points lower. (Remember, the higher the NuVal score, the better the overall nutrition of the product.)
  • A study by Harvard researchers indicated that eating brown rice regularly may even help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Convinced yet? You might be if you try some, as long as you don’t compare it to the white rice you’re used to. Brown rice has a nutty flavor and a chewier, heavier texture; it may remind you more of a whole grain like barley, quinoa or even oatmeal.

Simply served plain, yes, brown rice can be a little boring. So incorporate it in other dishes: Serve it as a base for chili or stir-fries; cook it in chicken or beef stock instead of plain water; substitute it for white rice in your favorite pilaf recipe.

And if you’re in a hurry, or intimidated by cooking something new, try one of the faster-cooking or microwave varieties that have hit supermarkets in recent years. Regular brown rice does take much longer to cook than typical white rice, but some of these newer products can be ready in as little as a couple of minutes. So you really have no excuse not to give one a try.

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