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Rice: A Nutritional Powerhouse

Your health-conscious patrons will be pleased to find rice dishes on your menu because they know that rice delivers key nutrients and is low in calories and sodium and has only trace fat with no cholesterol or trans fat. 

Rice helps diners get the most nutrition from the calories they consume. Rice plus vegetables, rice plus beans, rice plus small amounts of lean protein foods—mounting evidence suggests that these combinations define a healthful way to eat. And unlike other grains, rice is non-allergenic and gluten free, so most all your patrons can enjoy it safely.

Rice is a complex carbohydrate that supplies about 100 calories per 1/2 cup of cooked grain. Rice protein is unusual in containing all amino acids essential for adults. Rice is also a rich source of many other nutrients, especially thiamine, niacin, phosphorus, iron and potassium. For two-thirds of the world’s population, rice is the foundation food.

Brown, red and black unmilled rices, being 100 percent whole grain, have even more to offer. Because they contain the nutrient-dense bran and germ, they are high in dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin E and minerals. Research indicates that a high-fiber diet may lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and the antioxidants and phytonutrients in brown rice also appear to be protective.

Enriched white rice has even more iron, thiamin and folic acid than brown rice because these nutrients—lost in milling—are replaced by the processor.

Parboiled rice delivers similar nutrition to enriched white rice. The process of parboiling drives nutrients from the bran layer inward before the rice is milled; in addition, most American-grown parboiled rice is enriched for greater nutrient value.

Many of your patrons, especially those with diabetes or a family history of the disease, may be monitoring the glycemic index (GI) of the foods they eat, a measure of how quickly a given food causes blood sugar to rise. Both brown and white rice fall within the moderate GI range; they do not cause blood sugars to rise and fall rapidly. What’s more, when rice is eaten in combination with vegetables, beans or protein, the glycemic impact is generally even lower.