Rice might seem like a healthy eating option – depending on what you have with it, of course – but it's not as good for you as you might think. Compared to the usual carbohydrate favourites such as bread or potatoes it's a winner, but it's still loaded with calories and starch.
A single cup of rice contains about 240 calories and 1.6 ounces of starch; Harvard University reckons that a single serving of white rice can cause almost the same blood sugar spike as you'd get from eating pure sugar. And while carbohydrates are an important part of our diet, reducing your carb intake is rarely a bad idea.
Luckily, scientists in Sri Lanka have discovered a way of cooking rice that seriously reduces the starch levels, and which could reduce the calories absorbed by the body by up to 60%. First presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver, it's an easy technique to try, but you'll need to plan ahead.
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First, though, the science. According to Sudhair A. James of the College of Chemical Sciences in Colombo, Western Sri Lanka, rice contains two types of starch – digestible and resistant. And it's digestible starch that's the problem; it's broken down in the small intestine, metabolised into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, says James, after your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, any leftover fuel gets converted into a polysaccharide carbohydrate called glycogen. "Your liver and muscles store glycogen for energy and quickly turn it back into glucose as needed," he explains. "The issue is that the excess glucose that doesn’t get converted to glycogen ends up turning into fat, which can lead to excessive weight or obesity."
Resistant starch (RS), however, doesn't get broken down, so James and his team looked into ways of cooking rice that increased the RS content. The result is a cooking technique that changes the cellular architecture of starch, making it resistant to digestive enzymes and reducing calorie intake by about 50-60%. Here's how to do it:
- First, add a teaspoon of coconut oil to boiling water
- Next, add half a cup of white rice and simmer for 40 minutes or boil for 20-25 minutes
- Once the rice is cooked, cool it in the fridge for at least 12 hours
- Finally reheat your rice that now has about 10 times the amount of resistant starch
Like we said, you'll have to plan ahead if you want to enjoy this healthier rice. And if you want to know more about the science behind this technique, you can find a fuller explanation here.