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Rice and shine

With its immense nutrition value, rice remains the staple food for many in the world

RICE HAS been the most important crop in human history for the last 7000 years, a fact underlined when the UN, on October 31, 2003, proclaimed 2004 as the International Year of Rice (IYR).

Rice arose in the region from south China to the Ganges, Southeast Asia, and the deltas and river valleys of the Brahmaputra, Mekong, Irrawaddy and Yangtze. The crop and techniques of its cultivation eventually spread to Greece, Africa, Korea, Japan and lastly to North America.

Today, the nearly 120,000 varieties of rice sustain two-thirds of the world's population, provides one-sixth of the per capita protein and nearly a fifth of the energy humans expend per capita.

Apart from being a staple food, the grain is also a source of bran oil that is useful in cooking and soap and insecticide manufacturing. Sake, a drink made in Japan from fermented rice, is only one among hundreds of varieties of rice wines across the world. Rice flour is a common ingredient in infant formulas, talcum powders and jewellery polishes.

White rice, formed when brown, lightly milled rice grain undergoes further milling to remove the outer bran layers, is the most common form on dining tables.

Brown rice is more nutritious than the white grain because the bran layers are rich in minerals, B-complex vitamins and protein, but its tan colour, chewy texture and mildly disagreeable flavour make it less popular than white rice. Rice that undergoes milling only after being soaked, steamed and dried is parboiled rice.

This type takes a bit longer to cook but it retains more nutrients than white rice because the parboiling gelatinizes the starch and protects nutrients during milling.

100 gm of milled rice contains 345 Calorie, with nearly 78 gm of carbohydrate that includes starch, glucose, raffinose, sucrose, dextrin, fructose and galactose sugars. The protein content of rice is low but it is of relatively high quality. It is rich in arginine, tryptophan and histidine but is deficient in lysine and threonine amino acids. Legumes, on the other hand, are rich in lysine but lack methionine. Therefore, a meal of cereal and legumes is an excellent source of protein with a full range of essential amino acids.

A cup of cooked brown rice meets nearly 15 percent of the daily thiamine, niacin, iron and phosphorous requirement. Brown rice contains more dietary fibre than white rice.

"Golden Rice", created by Swiss and German scientists who inserted beta-carotene genes from the daffodil into the rice genome, contains substantially more Vitamin A than natural varieties. Because rice contains no gluten, it is ideal for those who cannot consume wheat because of gluten sensitivity.


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