Rice is a staple of the cuisines of many nations. Even here in North America, we consume a lot of rice. It’s versatile and delicious, but like other starchy foods, it has one very large flaw: it isn’t that good for you. Consumption of white rice has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. One cup of cooked white rice has roughly 200 calories, most of which comes in the form of starch which turns to sugar in our bodies and then often straight to body fat. But what if there were a simple way to tweak rice ever so slightly to make it much healthier? Scientists have discovered a way to cut the calories in rice simply by how it’s cooked.
Sound crazy? The science behind it is simple: white rice is made up of two different starches, digestible starch (glucose, which is what turns into glycogen) and resistant starch, which takes a long time to digest and isn’t converted into simple sugars. Cooking certain foods like rice, potatoes, and peas can alter how much of each type of starch exists in a food. What reserchers did was cook the rice as one normally does, but before adding the raw rice to the boiling water they added coconut oil (about 3 percent of the weight of the rice they planned to cook). After cooking, they cooled the rice in the fridge for approximately 12 hours. That’s it! The oil interacts with the starch in the rice and changes the chemical composition. Chilling the rice further helps the conversion of starches to resistant starch. The result is a healthier serving of rice, even when reheated.
More research needs to be done on this method, but the scientists hope that this slight modification in how people cook rice will help combat obesity rates around the world. They note that the reduction in calories depends on the type of rice you use. Also, while they tested 38 different varieties of rice, so far they have only measured the chemical outcome of the least healthful (white rice). However, that variety still produced a 10-12 percent reduction in calories. For the healthier varieties, they expect to see a reduction of 50-60 percent in calories with this cooking method.
So, there you have it. But, I have another solution that will cut the calories by 90 percent. In your favorite Asian or Indian dishes, substitute “zoodles” (spiralized zucchini noodles) or spaghetti squash for rice. If you want more of a rice like shape and texture, try riced cauliflower. Not only is this substitution healthier in terms of less calories, it is a more nutrient dense way to consume your calories. The fiber in the zucchini or spaghetti squash also leaves you feeling more satiated, even when consuming less calories. And, as we all know, fiber is critical to good digestive health. We use this quick and easy healthy substitution here at our house. When we get take-out from our favorite Thai or Indian restaurants, we cook up some zucchini noodles and serve it over that. We don’t even miss the rice. Not even my husband who is known far and wide by how much he used to love rice.
Read more about the research here.