Want To Cut The Calories In Your Rice? It's All About Chemistry

Rice is a popular food the world over, especially in Asia. It tends to be fairly high in starchy calories that can eventually turn into fat if one isn't tearing about wearing it off. While the obesity epidemic has not really hit Asia yet, people there are starting to gain weight as they are eating more and more rice. What to do? Scientists in Sri Lanka have found a simple fix in the way rice is prepared that can cut calories by up to 50%.

Uncooked Rice (Photo by FASTILY (TALK)/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Uncooked Rice (Photo by FASTILY (TALK)/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)

White rice is a popular food because it pairs so well with so many other foods without disrupting the taste. It is also relatively cheap in many parts of the world. In Asia and the Caribbean many people have rice with every meal which makes it a significant portion of their daily calories. Like so much of the world they are consuming more and more rice and gaining more and more weight. White rice has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes as well.

A single cup of rice carries a whopping 200 calories that are almost entirely comprised of starch -- which turns to sugar as it is digested. What if there was a really simple way to prepare rice that would reduce the number of calories by up to one-half?

Scientists at the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka have used some basic chemistry techniques to cut the calories and add a few other healthy effects. Best of all it only requires a few simple steps to accomplish.

All you need to do is begin to prepare your rice as usual but before you put it in the water you add oil. In the case of this research they used coconut oil since that is what is most commonly used in Sri Lanka. You need to use about 3% of the weight of the rice. After the rice is cooked you place it in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. That is all there is to it. Even reheated the rice still has fewer calories.

Cooked Rice (Photo by KVDP/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Cooked Rice (Photo by KVDP/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)

Adding a lipid (fat) and then cooling the rice shifts the white rice from being an easily digestible carbohydrate to being less digestible and reducing the amount the body will convert to sugar and eventually fat in the body. The researchers have tried this with several different types of rice and found that all were drastically changed for the better using this method. 

Basically the oil interacts with the starch in the rice and changes its structure and cooling it helps finish off those changes. The different types of rice were reduced in calories by different amounts, but the researchers expect that better quality rice will produce better results based on what they have observed so far. Continued research is planned with more varieties of rice and other types of oil, such as sunflower oil.

It is still better to use brown rice rather than white rice when you can, but there are times when white rice is better -- particularly for people with digestive issues. At least there is hope for reducing calories simply and naturally for rice.

Source: The Washington Post