Tag Archives: brown rice

Why You Should Keep Eating Grains


There’s a lot of grain-bashing going on these days. Is it true that not all grains are created equal? Yes. Should we be thoughtful about which grains we consume? Yes. But, we should not be frightened into banishing all grains from our lives forever just because some of them aren’t up to par. Grains, when chosen carefully, have a world of greatness to offer the human body. Not convinced? Keep reading to find out why some grains are worthy of grubbin’ on.

  • Whole grains eaten as whole grains are better than whole grains eaten as their pulverized friend, flour. When grains are reduced to flour, their surface area expands significantly–and this is true for all flours, no matter if they came from a whole grain initially. This expanded surface area makes it much easier for digestive enzymes to reach the starch inside the whole grain, which speeds up the starch to sugar conversion. Flour products, then, have a higher glycemic index than the whole grain itself.You can be pretty sure you’re eating a natural, whole grain with a low glycemic index if you have to chew it (or if you can see grain pieces in the food). When it comes to grains, the more work your jaw has to do, the better.  Kasha, not cake.  Quinoa instead of muffins.  RIght?
  • Eating homemade sourdough toast isn’t the same thing as eating a fried doughnut. The oily and sugar-laden doughnut is made from refined flour and is arguably nutritionally void. It’ll give you a blood sugar spike, and then a crash, leave you hungry and craving more sugar, and will likely upset your tummy. Homemade sourdough, on the other hand, is as nutritionally dense as it gets. It’s full of vitamins and minerals, won’t spike your blood sugar, and is easy on the digestive system. Read more sourdough greatness here, and allow yourself to eat some (or another fresh, whole grain bread) without telling yourself you may as well have just eaten a doughnut.
  • Sprouted grains are like whole grains on nutrition steroids, and that’s a good thing. The concentration of protein, vitamins, and minerals is much greater in sprouts than in mature grains.The science of sprouts is much like that of sourdough–easier digestion and more bioavailability of nutrients. Sprouts are also an excellent choice for vegetarians. Read more here, and be on the look out for sprouted whole grain products. You can feel good about eating them.
  • Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates. Bodies NEED complex carbohydrates. Bodies CRAVE complex carbohydrates, because they are their main source of energy and fuel. The brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for fuel, and muscles need their fair share, too. Muscle-building requires energy, and again: complex carbohydrates = energy. In terms of calories and energy for muscles, whole grains are the most economical part of a meal. Nutrient density (the nutrient to calorie ratio) is a thing! And whole grains have got it goin’ on. The energy punch they pack is incomparable to fruits or vegetables. What does this mean for you? Whole grains are good for muscles.

See? Grains are not evil doers. In fact, they are a whole lot of good. And you needn’t shun them, or feel terrible about yourself for fueling your body with the quality ones. When it comes to grains, quality and form is key. The rest of the goodness will follow naturally.

Brown Rice in my Begging Bowl Please

A 2010 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine sites research showing that consuming brown rice instead of white b6-brown-rice-lgrice can lower the risk of type II diabetes.  Just in time as the CDC announced last week that the number of Americans with diabetes will range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 by 2050. Compare that to the current embarrassing average of 1 in 10 Americans with diabetes.  More alarm bells ring as we add that to the one out of three children born in 2000 who are destined for insulin shots.  That’s crazy.  Diabetes isn’t a virus.  The condition is preventable; some feel curable, with a better diet and exercise.

I was all smiley to see the NY Times post the link to the brown rice study.  News!  Eating brown rice makes more sense!   People sometimes make fun of me with my hippie dippy brown rice meals.  In the 1980’s as a newly converted healthy food person, I used to pack brown rice in my suitcase when I was going to visit my relatives in the Midwest.  Eyes rolled.  My Uncle Bill used to say – you eat bird seed!

I like brown rice.  I prefer brown rice.  It has texture and flavor even plain and naked.  And the naturally-occurring fiber takes care of portion control.  One can eat mounds of white rice and never feel full.  Not good.  And you can do so many fun things with it (see Golden Spice Rice, Mexican Brown Rice, Fried Rice with Peas and Currants).

Some folks complain that it is too sticky or too crunchy.  You do have to learn how to cook it carefully to produce the best outcome.  Bring it to a full boil.  Lower the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cover and don’t disturb until all of the water has been absorbed.  Let the rice rest 10 minutes before digging in.  A well-made pot (this one is perfect) to cook whole grains in is also helpful.

Tell us your favorite way to enjoy this grain once considered hippie food and that is now preventative medicine.

In Praise of Brown Rice

Tod Davies has a new book out called Jam Today:  A Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got (published by Exterminating Angel Press ).  I had the pleasure of meeting Tod when she was in Seattle to do a book reading/signing.  That was fun, but then I got to read her book – even more fun.  Tod is simultaneously irreverent and reverent about food.  I love her demand for common-sense when it comes to cooking;  I also appreciate her way of cajoling us into changing the way we think about cooking.  Here’s an excerpt from her blog that I was charmed by:

In Praise of Brown Rice

I know there are a lot of you out there who think of brown rice along the same lines as you think of Birkenstocks.  Hemp clothing.  Rasta locks on young white guys.  And I know every time anyone mentions it to you, an inadvertent pained look crosses your face, and you respond automatically with defensive thoughts of double vodka martinis, rare steaks, potatoes, and chocolate cake.

But brown rice isn’t like that.  Not really.  Not in its heart of hearts.  If you knew brown rice like I know brown rice, you wouldn’t just give it a chance, you’d welcome it into your home.  Invite it to meet guests.  Maybe even vote for it for high office.

Brown rice is absolutely terrific.  And I say this as a person who really doesn’t think all that much about health in my food choices.  Wait, scratch that.  I do think about health, but only in the sense of whether or not what I eat makes me feel good.  I never take vitamins.  They just scratch my throat and don’t do much for me one way or the other.  I do eat a lot of salads.  I love the way they taste, plus they make me feel light and energized.  And that, after all, is part of the pleasure of eating.  Sometimes you like to feel full and like you can’t move an inch before you’ve digested.  Sometimes you don’t.  It’d be weird, I think, if you felt one way or the other all the time.

Brown rice, properly approached, will not just be your friend, it will be your friend for life.  It has a nutty, deep, satisfying taste to it, when you make it right (which, by the way, all that moaning on the part of white rice enthusiasts notwithstanding is just not that hard), and you feel great after you’ve eaten it.  It goes with a lot of stuff.  And, as a lagniappe on the side, it’s allegedly terrific for you.  So, I mean, what’s not to like?

I like it a lot.  I think I’ve made that clear.  And after a lifetime spent loving white rice, I find, to my surprise, that when there’s a choice,
I spurn my former love.  This is a taste thing, not a health thing.  Trust me on this.

It’s easy to cook brown rice.  Just measure a cup of the stuff into a pot, salt it, and add two scant cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover it.  Turn the heat down as low as you can (I use a flame tamer), and set the timer for 55 minutes.  Turn it off and let it sit for 10 minutes or so — you needn’t fuss about this; just as much or as little time as you need to get the rest of the meal together.  Fluff with a fork.  Eat in any one of a number of ways.

Or:  bring a huge pot of water to a boil.  Salt.   Add as much rice as you want (1 cup will feed two generously as a main course, or four as a side dish…or…).  Boil till a grain is tender — about 45 minutes.  Drain without being too fussed about getting all the water out.  Put in a buttered casserole dish and stick in the oven, set on low, say 250 degrees, till you’re ready to eat it.  Fifteen minutes, thirty minutes…it can wait this way an hour.

Now…about what you DO with it…have it plain with butter and soy sauce (I love this; they call it ‘children’s rice’ in Japan)…use it as the landing for a stir fry…put something on top of it, to soak up the juices, a piece of marinated broiled fish, a skewer of lamb kebabs, chicken adobo…

It was chicken adobo that made me want to tell you about brown rice.  I cooked a cup of rice to go with the original chicken dish, and then had all these leftovers.  So I put the chicken I hadn’t eaten on top of the leftover rice, deglazed the chicken pot with a half cup of water, poured THAT on top of the chicken, and, slapping a lid on it, stuck it in the frig.

When I got home last night, tired and hungry, I just stuck the pot in a 350 degree oven.  After about a half hour, the house started to smell wonderful.  After forty five minutes, and a revivifying glass of wine, I pulled it out, spooned it onto a plate with some grated carrot salad, and had at it.  Halfway through, I noticed I was making little noises of pleasure.  That rice had soaked up the extra juices and steamed in them, and crisped a little bit at the bottom, and tasted not just heavenly, but the way dinner would taste in heaven after you’d had a long day cloud jumping.  I looked down at my plate and said a ‘thank you’ out loud.

(By the way, chicken adobo is a Filipino dish of chicken legs and thighs cooked in vinegar and soy sauce with lots of garlic and bay leaves and peppercorns until the chicken soaks up the liquid and browns in its own fat.  The carrot salad I had with it, both nights, was just grated carrot mixed with minced green onion, tossed with a little sugar mixed in a little lime juice, a little fish sauce and chili oil added.  Terrific.  Less expensive and tasted infinitely better than any handful of vitamins, and probably a lot healthier for you, too.)

Spicey Baby Food, Baby

CB101818For many years I was a guest speaker for the Evergreen Hospital Post natal mom and baby support groups.  I would haul a butane burner, pan, some toasted brown rice, a little grinder, and tiny cups to serve samples in up the escalator to the meeting room – I needed luggage with wheels.  The room was chock full of moms and babies and toys and blankets so I had to use my big voice.  What I was yelling, while stirring freshly ground rice and water into cereal, was that if I could make this cereal in this room while talking to them, I was sure they could do it at home.  I also brought in some boxed baby cereal (which sort of looks and smells like shredded plastic) and let them decide with their eyes, noses and taste buds which might be better to eat.  The choice was obvious.
Cheered on by the Evergreen’s wonderful Molly Pessl, registered nurse, childbirth educator and Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, I reminded moms that nowhere is it written or proven that it is detrimental to give babies food with flavor.  Why train the baby to prefer bland, tasteless food?  If you do, you will end up with a 3-year old who will demand plain macaroni for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They simply want the empty carbs with no flavor that they are used to.  Molly says, “what’s wrong with giving baby spicy food?” Amen Molly.  Years later pediatricians  came out with the same conclusion. Subsequently, we saw the birth of “cultural” jarred baby food.  Hmm.  Why buy curry in a jar when you could make it fresh for everyone and just give baby part of it?
This fire-in-the-belly I have about feeding babies and children better food has been kicking my hind end down the path toward writing, teaching and now video blogging for a couple of decades.  I rant about it if only slightly prompted.  We can do better for our children.  It doesn’t take that much effort.  Don’t feed baby curry in a jar while you eat take-out curry from the Whole Foods deli.  Save money.   Make a simple curry dish.  Eat together.  Eat the same food together.  It’s a big strand in the tie that binds.