All photography: Frenchescar Lim / Art direction: Alice Chua
Our plates are practically naked without this fluffy white favourite, but to amp up your well-being and consume less processed food, contemplate a new colour scheme. “There are healthier alternatives to white rice,” confirms Sarah Sinaram, manager of dietetics at Mount Alvernia Hospital. “The husk, bran and germ that are removed when white rice is made are the most nutritious and fibre-rich parts, so other rice options can help us feel fuller for longer and control blood sugar levels.” Turn the page for some substitutes worth trying.
1. PURPLE RICE
It’s also known as “forbidden rice” because it was grown exclusively for the emperors of China during the Ming dynasty. A short-grain version of black rice, it’s richly fragrant and has a purple hue that slowly deepens when cooked. Thumbs up for: Its antioxidants. Spoon for spoon, it equals blueberries for antioxidant content. The iron content is twice that of brown rice too.
Serve it as: The key ingredient for a sticky-rice recipe like coconut rice soup, or a Persian rice salad with cucumber, sumac and preserved lemons.
2. BROWN RICE
It’s unpolished whole grain rice containing the germ and bran. Its nutty flavour and “bite” mean it’s a winner with zingy salads.
Thumbs up for: Packing around five times the fibre and double the iron of white rice. Let’s not forget the B vitamins and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth.
Serve it with: A herby lemon tabouli salad, traditional thunder tea rice, or use it as a healthier alternative in sushi.
3. RED RICE
It’s native to Thailand and Bhutan, comes unhulled (its outer layer remains), and boasts a chewy texture. Antioxidant-rich anthocyanins provide it with its striking red shade. It’s known to reduce inflammation and is said to boost the immune system.
Thumbs up for: Containing six times the amount of zinc in brown rice, plus anti- ageing antioxidants. Red rice also needs a shorter cooking time than brown rice.
Serve it with: Anything you’d serve with jasmine rice, like a Thai curry. Or use it in a fried rice dish with prawns, peanuts and fresh coriander.
4. BLACK RICE
It’s a rare, ancient grain with a dark-coloured bran layer and a delicate, floral taste.
Thumbs up for: Having the highest protein content of all rice types and three times the amount of fibre in brown rice.
Serve it with: Sweet dishes. It makes a delicious breakfast porridge with coconut cream, almond milk and banana or a traditional Chinese black sesame cake.
5. WILD RICE
It might be called rice, but it’s actually not! This grain native to North America is harvested from wild grasses growing in shallow streams and small lakes. Thumbs up for: Being rich in vitamins C and E as well as having impressive folate levels which are important for mums-to-be. It also has lower calorie and carbohydrate counts than “real” rice varieties.
Serve it with: Earthy mushrooms and fresh parsley in a pilaf, or chicken casserole with toasted almonds.
All rice comparisons and information from Sarah Sinaram
This story was originally published in the March 2016 issue of Her World magazine.