A versatile staple food, rice is the foundation of many diets around the world – particularly in Asia and the Caribbean.
Fried, steamed, rolled into sushi… rice’s popularity is due mostly to it’s malleability; it pairs well with many different foods, and is accessible and inexpensive no matter where you live.
One cup of cooked rice holds approximately 200 calories, most of which comes from starch in the food. Starch is turned into sugar in the body, and often stored as fat. In fact, the consumption of white rice, which has fewer nutrients than brown rice, has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
A Harvard University study published in the British Medical Journal concluded that this risk is especially prevalent in Asian countries, where individuals may eat multiple servings of white rice per day(1).
Making The Rice Healthier
Fortunately, scientists think they may have found the key to preparing rice in a way that is ultimately better for you – and all it takes is a few simple steps.
Sudhair James, one of the researchers behind the method, presented his preliminary research at the National Meeting And Exposition of the American Chemical Society, saying:
“What we did is cook the rice as you normally do, but when the water is boiling, before adding the raw rice, we added coconut oil – about 3 percent of the weight of the rice you’re going to cook. After it was ready, we let it cool in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.”
Why It Works
This simple method to cook rice works by manipulating the chemistry of the starches within the rice, transforming digestible starches into resistant starches, which takes more time for the body to process.
Most starches, white short grain rice in particular, are quickly digested and converted into glucose in the body. While most of it generally gets stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, any excess glucose that isn’t used usually ends up being stored as fat. And over the long run this can become a major contributor to weight gain and a host of other health issues such as diabetes and obesity.
Sudhair James from the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka presented his research during the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. He showed that cooking rice with coconut oil could cut caloric absorption by 10-12%, and potentially up to 50-60% with further research.
This cooking technique of heating and cooling has been studied before, specifically in potatoes(2) – so it stands to reason that the same principle would apply to rice. Indeed, fried rice and pilaf-style rice have more resistant starches than steamed rice.
While researchers have yet to test this theory on as many variety of rice as possible, they are hopeful – if calories in rice can be reduced by a simple preparatory process, maybe the same can be done eventually for other starches and carbohydrates, such as bread. The implications of this are significant in the global fight against obesity and diabetes.
“We as scientists believe that if we are going to do this process on the best varieties and if this method is going to work this could be a massive breakthrough,” James said. “We could lower the calories in rice by 50 to 60 percent.”
How To Cook Rice with Coconut Oil
The chilling time is 12 hours but it’s a crucial step in converting the starches, so make sure you don’t skip this.
- 1 cup white rice
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 3/4 cups water
- In a pot, bring water to a boil.
- Add coconut oil to pot, followed by the rice.
- Cover, lower heat, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Once the rice is cooked, let it cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
This may seem like a lot work to cook rice but if you have blood sugar or weight issues, this procedure can be very helpful. It will naturally increase the resistant starch content of your rice by 10 times, which can help you avoid sugar spikes. In addition, resistant starches are well-known for supporting healthy colon cells and good bacteria in the gut.