Unpolished rice vs. white rice

By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

“ In fact, unpolished rice is a complete food. Would you believe it contains protein? Yes, dear reader, rice has protein, too, so don’t go into the common mistake of branding rice as carbo. ”

Passing by the Baguio City market yesterday reminded how devitalized our rice is. Most of the rice display is white rice or well-milled rice. Compared, though, with the displays 10 years ago, the present market display is a big improvement, because, now there is unpolished rice- usually red or black. Thank God! Previously, we had to buy our unpolished rice in Abatan 90. This was the unpolished red rice variety which is popular among the iBenguet as “para tapey”. The vendor would be very surprised when we tell them it is our rice. It seemed unbelievable to them that the “menkuspang” (rough) and “natangken” (hard or chewy) unpolished red rice could be food. Well, dear reader, that is the best rice. Of course, there are a lot of red rice varieties – chorchor-os of Barlig, gumiki of Sadanga, kintuman, etc. There is also unpolished white rice which is called “brown” rice. Some are softer, some are aromatic. What’s important is that the rice you are eating is unpolished.
If we look back in our history, in all rice eating countries, the rice that people were eating then was unpolished. Why do I say this? Because the rice mill, the “kiskisan”, which “polishes” the rice till it is white, is a product of the Industrial Revolution and that was in the 18th century to the 19th (1760-1840) which started in Britain. Britain is at the other side of the globe so when do you think those big kiskisan arrived in the Far East, to the Philippines? There’s a research of the rice terraces in Ifugao which showed that the rice mill was introduced there in the 1970s. I can remember that our rice in the 1960s (that’s how far back I can remember) from Tabuk was white. It was well-milled. Before the kiskisan, our rice was hand-pound and hand-pound rice is unpolished. Pounding by hand leaves most of the nutrients intact.
What happens when rice is well-milled? Polishing brown rice to obtain white rice removes 15 percent of protein; 85 percent of fat; 80 percent of thiamine, 70 percent of riboflavin, 68 percent of niacin, 90 percent of calcium, 75 percent of phosphorous and 60 percent of other minerals. (Ramon Efren Lazaro, www.science.ph) Imagine giving all these magnificent nutrients to the pig in the form of rice bran (opek). Modern studies show that eating brown rice or unpolished rice (can be brown, red or black) may prevent the occurrence of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol levels, heart disease and stroke. This is explained by the fact that unpolished rice contains much fiber and vitamins and minerals which are necessary for our health and well-being. Fiber is a very important part of our diet as it is the broom of our intestines and thus it prevents colon cancer. Diabetics are advised to eat unpolished rice because the glycemic index is low and its energy content is released slowly so that blood sugar is kept steady unlike white rice. White rice is “refined” rice and is like refined sugar which spikes your blood sugar. So when you eat white rice, remember that you are like eating white sugar. Diabetics and those who want to lose weight are also advised to limit rice intake -this should be qualified to mean white rice. Limit intake of white rice. Switching to unpolished rice will naturally limit your rice intake, especially, if you get the variety that is “menkuspang”.
One other scientific test for the life-giving quality of food is that if it grows, then it is “alive”, it has vitality and thus will provide superior life-giving energy to the diner. Try soaking white rice and unpolished rice in water. White rice will just disintegrate while unpolished rice will germinate. Amazing! Unpolished rice still has the germ which is the life-giving component. This germ is removed in white rice.
In fact, unpolished rice is a complete food. Would you believe it contains protein? Yes, dear reader, rice has protein, too, so don’t go into the common mistake of branding rice as carbo. Well, for white rice, you can label it as “carbo” because what you have is the starchy part of the rice. So if you wash white rice, your wash water will be very cloudy. But when you wash unpolished rice, your wash water is clear. Unpolished rice is superfood.
Further, milling rice till its white has at least 10% less milling recovery. So imagine the rice we can save if we use and promote brown or unpolished rice. 2013 was declared as the National Year of the Rice and the Department of Agriculture, for a time, promoted brown rice. It’s just sad that the promotion is not that aggressive. For all the benefits we get from brown rice and other unpolished rice, there should be no hindrance for its use and promotion as our staple food. What is even disappointing is that there are attempts to influence Filipinos not to eat so much rice and eat bread instead. What??? (more on this next issue)
Aside from its health benefits, unpolished rice keeps weight right and steady. One cup unpolished rice has about 216 calories while one pandesal has 130 calories. This means that eating 2 pieces pandesal would be like eating 1 cup rice. So what’s keeping us from eating brown rice or unpolished red rice? Praise God, there are now a lot of rice mills that produce unpolished rice and so these are available even in supermarkets and wet markets and barangays. July is Nutrition Month and the theme this 2019 is “kumain ng wasto at maging aktibo… push natin ito!” . Start eating right with unpolished rice. ***
“I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” Jeremiah 32:41Top of Form

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