Rice is good for everyone – all year round! This means, despite your metabolic constitution or dosha, rice is a healing food. In Western nutrition, we look at rice in terms of calories, fat grams, carbs, and fiber content. Consequently, many people don’t eat rice fearing weight gain. Referring to the old adage, “We are what we eat,” most assume that eating high-calorie foods will cause weight gain.
But hang on just a second. The habit of eating rice is a little more nuanced than the adage. According to Ayurveda, “It is not what you eat but what you are able to digest that counts.” This takes us to the difference between brown and white rice. It’s not the fiber or the calories in rice that matter but the quality of the rice you eat, when it is eaten, who eats it, and how robust your digestive system is.
The Nutrients In White Rice And Brown Rice
There is a time for brown rice and a time for white rice. Brown rice is considered healthier as it is unprocessed or unpolished. Each grain of brown rice still has its outer shell or bran, which is full of B vitamins, trace minerals, and fiber. This means it contains more nutrients and vitamins than other forms of polished rice.
Nineteenth-century industrialism brought significant advances to the food industry and one of those was milling. In the milling process, the outer shell or bran is removed to get white rice. Although white rice has less fiber than brown rice, it has a high nutritional value and proteins. And with no outer shell, white rice is much easier to digest.
The Role Of Agni
It is important to consider the state of your Agni (digestive fire or metabolism) when eating. A strong Agni indicates a pretty robust digestive system. And in summer, your Agni becomes weak and it gets difficult to digest heavy foods like brown rice. Therefore, white rice is your best choice in summer. In winter, however, your Agni is in a much better shape and is strong enough to digest brown rice.
However, you need to take into account your strength as an individual and your constitution. Each person is different, and there is always that one person with a robust digestive system throughout the year. For those of you who are a little more sensitive to the seasons and who have a weak Agni, go for the easily digestible white rice.
Why Is Brown Rice Difficult To Digest?
Brown rice contains substances called phytins and phytic acids in the bran. These compounds reduce the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc. But what makes phytins bad for you is this – it is considered a natural insecticide. While it’s great for growing rice, it isn’t so great for those of us with a weak Agni.
Remember, some people are strong enough to digest these phytins with ease. But those with a weaker constitution might experience increased food sensitivities, allergies, and other signs of impaired digestion with brown rice.
How To Remove Phytins From Brown Rice
To improve the digestibility of brown rice and eliminate the harmful phytins, you can use these 5 easy mechanisms:
- Chew: Chewing acts as a natural milling mechanism and will break down the rice bran. For this to work, you need to chew each mouthful of rice at least 40 times.
- Pressure-cook: This works as well as it does for beans. Pressure cooking breaks down the difficult-to-digest elements and makes brown rice healthier.
- Pre-soak: When we pre-soak grains, seeds, and nuts – which we do a lot in Ayurveda – it breaks down the outer layer of bran. This makes the rice easier to digest.
- Germinate or sprout: The process of sprouting removes the outer bran and neutralizes the phytic acid.
- Ferment: Soaking brown rice in warm water for days reduces the level of phytic acid and enhances the digestion and assimilation of the rice.
Working With Your Dosha
In Ayurveda, we recognize and understand that everyone is different and that each and every person needs different things to live a healthy life. Your genetic makeup or bio-individuality type is known as your “dosha.” This dosha governs your metabolic constitution, personality, and even your physical characteristics. It is, in essence, what makes you “You.” By discovering your dosha, you can determine what foods to eat, what exercises to do, and what lifestyle choices are best for you.
This is a form of healthcare as it’s supposed to be – personalized, easy to implement, and incredibly beneficial. We hope you enjoy and benefit from it!