Jun 19, 2017

Rice is nice, Eat without fear

Over the past few days, news about plastic rice went viral all over social media. If we stopped for a minute and thought whether the news made any sense before sharing, we could have stopped it from going viral.

Do take a few minutes and watch this well-explained video on 
- why plastic rice is not an economically viable option, even if it was a reason to sell adulterated rice
- why a ball of cooked rice will bounce

Our farmers are already facing issues of drought, selling below MSP and what not….Do we have to burden them more by spreading such illogical rumours and curbing the demand for rice?

Is this a conspiracy of Western corporations who are behind these rumours, in their grand plans of controlling India’s food market? Maybe, I’m not sure. But from our side, let’s be responsible citizens and stop spreading rumours about plastic rice in social media. 

Even before this rumour started, rice has been blamed for the rise of diabetes and obesity related issues.

I have been a strong proponent of millets but I don't recommend making the switch completely from rice to millets. 

If you observe the food patterns of urban middle class, 40+ aged people from South India, most of them have switched to oats for breakfast and wheat chapathis for dinner. People with diabetes strongly believe that wheat chapathis are the best dinner option for their health. I’m curious to know how this all started, what triggered people to make the shift and end up believing that chapathis are "good for diabetes".

Let's do a quick comparison between rice and wheat (Source):
  1. The calories in rice (362 Kcal per 100 gms) and wheat (348 Kcal per 100 gms) are almost the same. 
  2. Wheat has slightly more fibre as compared to rice (2 gms vs 1 gm per 100 gms of grain). But the commercial, packaged wheat atta we get from supermarkets is already stripped off all fibre, so the reason that chapathis have more fibre than rice doesn’t hold any value. 
  3. Wheat is also better when it comes to proteins (11.8 gms vs 6.8 gms per 100 gms of grain). BUT most rice-eaters don’t eat rice as it is, we usually have it with protein-rich dals/sambhar etc.  
  4. Carbohydrates in rice (78.2 gms per 100 gms) is more as compared to wheat (71.2 gms per 100 gms). 
  5. Glycemic index of rice is also high as compared to wheat. BUT the typical Indian meal that is served along with rice (dal, vegetables, sambhar, rasam etc) ensures that glycemic index is lowered and it becomes a well-balanced meal. 
Keeping aside these modern nutrition metrics aside, this is what I believe in:
- Rice is predominantly grown in the South. Our traditional food principles recommend that you eat food that grows in the same region you live in. So if you are living in South India, rice should be your staple diet. The same rule applies to millets. Millets are cultivated in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. So it makes sense to include more millets if you live in any of these three states. 
- Wheat is considered to be “heat-generating”. Typically, in the rural, dry regions of North, people consume wheat rotis with onion slices. Onions are cooling and so they balance out the heat from wheat. Same principle is applicable when rotis are served with a few slices of cucumbers, lemon or buttermilk. So if you live in Chennai and you are eating chapathis everyday for dinner in these hottest summer months, please make sure you balance the heat with ingredients that are cooling OR switch to rice which is inherently cooling.

Instead of white polished silky rice, let our choice be brown rice / semi-polished rice / hand-polished rice, where most of the bran is retained, giving satiety, fibre and B-vitamins. 

“India had nearly 1,10,000 varieties of rice till 1970 and this diversity has been lost to posterity as a result of the green revolution with its emphasis on mono culture and hybrid crops. Now, only 6,000 species or varieties of rice survive. The destruction of the rice diversity of the country is a contribution of the green revolution”. (Source)
With such plastic rice rumours and falsely-believed news of rice being the sole reason for diabetes, I’m afraid we might end up losing those remaining rice species as well.  Let’s support rice and rice-growing farmers, please.

P.S. You know what makes me cringe - a few nutritionists advocating mock cauliflower rice in place of regular rice, so you get the same texture and "feel of eating rice”. 
“Mudiyala daa saami” ….Roughly translated to "I can’t take it anymore, God!” :-)

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