Wednesday, September 18, 2013

White, Brown or Purple?

“Kamurang tumbuk ini padi,” my mother said as she pointed to a stack of winnowing trays filled with paddy which had been put under the hot sun for half a day. I was ten and the other kids who were included in ‘kamurang’—the Sabahan version of ‘kamu orang’—were all younger than me. Although there was a rice mill some thirty minutes walk away we often pounded our rice because my father preferred pounded rice. I liked the milled (white) rice because the nasi felt smooth on my tongue. Pounded rice was rough and scratchy.
White rice

 Little did I (and everybody else) know that pounded rice—or brown rice—would become an expensive item in the not-too-distant future. Little did we know too that the rice we were consuming was loaded with nutrients that were absent in the polished rice eaten by the town folks. To many people in those faraway days, only villagers ate the rough, scratchy brown rice as they couldn’t afford to send their paddy to the rice mill.
Brown rice

Today it’s a different story. Various types of ‘non-white’ rice are now flooding the market because more and more people are looking for healthier alternatives to white rice. Contrary to what some of my friends believe, it is not the colour that makes brown rice more nutritious but it’s the nutrients that are retained in the grains after the milling process.
Google Image

Brown rice is produced when only the husk is removed—like in pounded rice. The intact bran gives the grain an off-white tone. Most of the nutrients are contained in the bran and germ. Further processing will remove the bran and most of the germ and the rice appears whiter but at this stage the rice is still unpolished.
Polishing makes the rice grains smooth and white. It is not for cosmetic reason only that the grains are polished. It is also to purposely remove the layer of essential fats which, having been exposed when the husk is removed, are susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation turns the rice rancid and, therefore, shortens the shelf life of the grains.
Brown rice

 When the grains are polished most of the vitamins and minerals are lost and all the dietary fibre and essential fatty acids are stripped away too. White rice is mainly carbohydrates with none of the health-giving nutrients it is meant to have.
 It doesn’t matter whether the grains are yellow or red, purple or a shade of green. If they have been polished they are no more nutritious than white rice.
Brown/unpolished rice; note the germ of each grain is intact

 As I cook some brown rice porridge for my grand-baby I think back to those days when my siblings and I had to pound our paddy and I wondered if my father had known that the rough brown rice was superior to the smooth, white rice.

1 comment:

  1. I am sure you remembered winnowing with this: