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Title: Making rice even healthier!

item Pinson, Shannon
item TARPLEY, LEE - Texas Agrilife Research

Submitted to: Experiment Station Bulletins
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/24/2010
Publication Date: 10/1/2010
Citation: Pinson, S.R., Tarpley, L. 2010. Making rice even healthier! Texas Rice Experiment Station Bulletins. X(8):1,6-8. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Rice is a naturally healthy food, but what if it could be made even healthier? Would Americans eat more rice if it could be advertised to be a 'New and Improved' source of calcium to promote bone growth, or iron to prevent anemia? Grocery stores are full of foods that are vitamin enhanced to attract consumer interest. Calcium fortified orange juice and bottled water with vitamins added are two relatively recent examples, while iodized salt, enriched bread, and breakfast cereals 'fortified' with essential vitamins and minerals have been available for decades. Synthetic food additives such as those in orange juice, water, and cereal can enhance the nutritional value of foods, but are not allowed in organic foods, which is a rapidly growing food sector. If, however, the products can be 'biofortified', meaning their nutritional enhancements are accomplished through traditional plant breeding and genetics, then they can attract consumers through both organic and traditional food markets. Rice is a naturally healthy food, not just for what it contains, but also for what it does NOT contain. Rice is a healthy choice for persons with hypertension because it is naturally free of sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats. Cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and corn contain glutens that can trigger severe dietary allergies in people that have celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis. Rice, on the other hand, is gluten free, and this hypogenicity of rice is one reason it is valued as an energy source and thickening agent in baby foods. Brown rice is also a good source of other essential nutrients including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, iron, and potassium. However, during the milling process that converts brown rice to the more-often-eaten white rice, the quantities of these nutrients are reduced. More than 70% of the white rice eaten in the U.S. is 'enriched', meaning that thiamin, niacin, iron, and folic acid have been added to the outside surface of the uncooked white kernels to bring the overall nutritional level of the cooked white rice up to or higher than that of the whole grain (brown rice) for these vitamins. Rice provides more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than simple carbohydrate foods such as white bread, pasta, or dessert pastries, making it a healthy option as an essential energy source in the U.S. Unlike in the U.S. where food is varied and plentiful, rice is the staple food for two-thirds of the world’s population. Unfortunately for those who rely on rice for subsistence, the rice grain is not a concentrated source of several essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc. More than 3 billion people suffer from iron and zinc deficiencies worldwide, many of them in underdeveloped countries where white rice is a mainstay at every meal, and external enrichment of the rice is not a viable option. Furthermore, rice grain can become concentrated in anti-nutritional elements such as arsenic or cadmium if grown with contaminated water. High arsenic irrigation water, and thus high arsenic rice, is a dietary concern in parts of Bangladesh, for example.