Rice provides more than one fifth of the calories consumed by humans. This cereal grain is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia and Latin America. Rice is associated with prosperity and fertility, which is why it is traditional to throw rice at weddings.
Rice originated in the Yangtze River valley in China, and rapidly expanded across Southeast Asia, India, and Nepal more than 4,200 years ago. Rice has been cultivated in Africa for 3,500 years. The Moors brought rice to Spain in the 10th century. Muslims also brought rice to Sicily. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then France. In the 1520s, the Spanish introduced rice to Mexico and the Portuguese and enslaved Africans introduced it to Brazil. In 1694, rice arrived in South Carolina. Plantation owners sought out enslaved Africans from the Senegambia area of West Africa and from coastal Sierra Leone for their knowledge of rice cultivation. After 1849, an estimated 40,000 Chinese laborers immigrated to California and began growing rice there.
Because rice cultivation is labor-intensive and water-intensive, it is mostly grown in regions with high rainfall and low labor costs. Rice is typically grown in flooded fields, which deters weeds and rodents. The seeds of the rice plant are milled to remove the chaff (the outer husks of the grain). Continued milling can remove the rest of the husk, called the “bran,” and the plant embryo, or “germ,” to create white rice. White rice keeps longer, but it lacks important nutrients. In the nineteenth century, many Asians who ate mostly white rice developed a disease called beriberi, which was later discovered to be caused by a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1). The vitamin is removed, along with many other nutrients, when the germ is removed. That’s one reason that brown rice is best.
The milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the niacin, 80% of the thiamine, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. By law in the United States, fully milled and polished white rice must be “enriched” with vitamins B1, B3, and iron. But the form of these nutrients when added back into the processed rice is not the same as in the original unprocessed version, and at least 11 lost nutrients are not replaced in any form even with rice “enrichment.”
Rice can be ground into flour for many uses, including making beverages such as horchata, rice milk, and sake. Rice does not contain gluten, so it can be eaten by people with sensitivities to gluten. Rice may also be made into various types of noodles. If you’re going raw, you can eat brown rice after soaking and sprouting over 7 to 30 days.
There are many varieties of rice, but the main distinction is between long-grain and short-grain rice. Long-grain rice tends to remain intact after cooking; short-grain rice becomes stickier. Short-grain rice is used for sweet dishes, for risotto in Italy, and for sushi, which requires a stickier rice to hold the ingredients together.
Rice should be soaked prior to cooking, which saves fuel, decreases cooking time, and improves digestibility. Although people around the world have probably been eating germinated brown rice for thousands of years, the process was rediscovered in 2004, as part of the research during the United Nation’s Year of Rice. Germinating brown rice involves soaking washed brown rice for 22 hours in warm water (32° C or 90° F) prior to cooking it. Germination activates various enzymes in the rice. These enzymes deactivate the seeds natural defenses against being digested, and increase the nutrients you can absorb from the rice. The most highly touted nutrient that is increased tenfold through germination is an amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, which encourages emotional and mental well-being and improves kidney function. Germinated rice contains much more fiber than conventional brown rice, and three times the amount of the essential amino acid lysine. Germination also improves the availability of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin E and many B vitamins. Eating germinated brown rice can lower blood pressure, improve brain function, and relieve some symptoms of menopause. It also may prevent headaches, relieve constipation, regulate blood sugar, and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers, including colon cancer and leukemia.
Beta-carotene can improve the availability of two minerals—iron and zinc—from grains. Eating one medium-sized carrot (about 50 grams) along with each cup of cooked rice results in a 50% increase in the availability of iron and increases the availability of zinc by about 35-40%. Beta-carotene may form a complex with the minerals to help maintain their solubility, and it also may help prevent their getting bound together with phytates in the rice that would otherwise be able to lower their absorption.
Germinated Brown Rice
2 cups brown rice
10 1/2 cups filtered water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1. Measure 2 cups of rice,
2. Wash it thoroughly until water is clear,
3. Put rice in a glass jar or bowl and fill it with 6 cups of filtered warm water.
4. Leave it at room temperature (ideally, the water should be kept at 90 degrees) for about 22 hours.
5. Drain the water.
6. Place drained rice in a pot with tight-fitting lid or in slow cooker and cover with 4 1/2 cups of filtered water.
7. If using the stove top, bring to a boil, uncovered, on high heat; reduce heat to low, cover tightly and cook for about 40-45 minutes, or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. If using the slow cooker, cook on high for 3 hours.
Serving size: 1/2 cup.
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.
Amount Per Serving
Calories From Fat (6%) 7.11
Total Fat 0.85g (1%)
Saturated Fat 0.17g (<1%)
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 199.2mg (8%)
Potassium 84.91mg (2%)
Total Carbohydrates 24.12g (8%)
Fiber 1.08g (4%)
Protein 2.38g (5%)
It is important to use rice that is as fresh as possible; old rice harvested long ago will not germinate.
Brown rice germinates in water at about 85-105 degrees F (30-40 C) in about 20 hours.
To keep the water at such a high temperature, you can use a basking light like those sold for reptiles or a cheap hot plate rigged with a thermometer.
If your soaking water gets stinky, you can change it every 4-6 hours, or you can try germinating your rice in green tea.
If you choose not to go to such measures for rice, you can soak at lower temperatures for longer – perhaps 2-3 days – and achieve nearly the same result.
You can tell you’ve had success if you can see the end of the rice changing color, bulging a little, and perhaps even a tiny sprout.
Cooked rice can contain Bacillus cereus spores, which produce a toxin that can make you sick when left at room temperature, so put it in the refrigerator immediately if you want to store it for later.
This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.
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