Rice in its many forms figures prominently in many cuisines, especially Asian. But did you know that the starchy liquid we throw away after cooking rice is also a powerhouse of energy and nutrients?
Rice water is basically the water residue obtained after you cook rice in water. Ancient sciences like ayurveda and naturopathy recognize its many benefits and use it for nutritional interventions. And it’s so mild and gentle that even your children can benefit. Here’s what rice water can do.
1. Wean Your Baby
Some Asian communities start babies off with rice water when they introduce solid foods into the diet. It is energy-rich, nutritious, and easy to digest. So if your baby is getting ready to try solid food, rice water may be just perfect for a smooth segue.1 But do keep in mind that rice water doesn’t have the nutrients present in milk or baby food and shouldn’t be used as a replacement.
2. Treat Diarrhea
Rice water can be used to treat diarrhea in young children. A study that compared the use of oral rehydration solution (ORS) with rice water found that the group that took rice water had significantly fewer bowel movements. The consistency of the stools was also more frequently watery in the group that took the ORS solution. Rice water provides more calories than ORS solution and releases carbohydrates slowly in the intestine. It can be used along with ORS and solid foods to help your child recover from diarrhea. However, if your baby is under 4 months, do check with a doctor if rice water is appropriate for them.2
3. Get A Shot Of Vitamin B
Rice is a rich source of vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6.3 These vitamins help our body to convert and use the food we eat into energy. They also keep us healthy in various ways. For instance, riboflavin is good for your vision and skin; niacin supports the nervous and digestive system; and vitamin B6 is important for the development of the brain.4 These water-soluble vitamins leach into rice water when the rice is boiled. So if you want to give your child a vitamin-rich drink, rice water’s the way to go!
4. Soothe Eczema
Dry, scaly skin can make your child miserable if they have eczema. In some cases, the itching can be so bad that they may not be able to get a good night’s sleep. But rice water may be able to help. A study found that exposing irritated skin to bath water containing rice starch twice a day for 15 minutes led to a 20% improvement in the healing capacity of the skin. Rice starch has also been found to improve skin barrier function (measured by the loss of water through the skin) in people with eczema.5 If you’re wary about the chemicals in topical creams and ointments and don’t want to overexpose your child to these, rice water could be a gentle solution free of side effects.
5. Boost Energy
Rice water is rich in carbohydrates and a great source of energy. So whether you want to perk up a tired baby or fuel up a teen who has a million things to do, rice water can come in handy.
How To Prepare Rice Water
[pullquote]Want to pep up rice water? Add cumin or grate some ginger in for flavor. You could even add split mung beans to the rice water for a shot of protein. This will double up as an easily digestible, nutritious, and tasty drink for your child.6[/pullquote]
One of the great things about rice water is that it’s so easy to prepare:
- All you need to do is boil a liter of water, add a cup of rice, and cook for around 10 minutes till the water is starchy.
- Then pour the liquid into a container and you’re good to go!
- Once the liquid has cooled to room temperature, you can give it to your child.
- You can also add a pinch of salt or sugar to the rice water if you want to.7
- About 1–2 quarts of warm rice water can be had through the day in between meals.8
Do keep in mind that this is meant only for babies older than 4 months. Also, if your child has diabetes, go easy on the rice water. Limit intake to 1 or 2 cups a day. You could also dilute the rice water to tone down the starch content.
|↑1||Dalal, Tarla. Baby and Toddler Cookbook. Sanjay & Co, 2001.|
|↑2||Tavarez, L. A., M. Gomez, and H. R. Mendoza. “[Management of acute diarrheal disease with rice water].” Archivos dominicanos de pediatría 27, no. 1 (1991): 20-4.|
|↑3||Basic Report: 20037, Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑4||Vitamin B. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑5||De Paepe, Kristien, Jean-Pierre Hachem, Els Vanpee, Diane Roseeuw, and Vera Rogiers. “Effect of rice starch as a bath additive on the barrier function of healthy but SLS-damaged skin and skin of atopic patients.” Acta dermato-venereologica 82, no. 3 (2002): 184-186.|
|↑6||Khalsa, Karta Purkh Singh, and Michael Tierra. The way of ayurvedic herbs: The most complete guide to natural healing and health with traditional ayurvedic herbalism. Lotus Press, 2008.|
|↑7||Natterson, Cara Familian. Your Newborn: Head to Toe-Everything You Want to Know About Your Baby’s Health Through the First Year. Little, Brown, 2009.|
|↑8||Kshirsagar, Manisha, and Ana Cristina Magno. Ayurveda: A Quick Reference Handbook. Lotus Press, 2012.|