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How to Properly Cook Rice

Rice, whether long-, medium- or short-grain,1 is a staple in many countries like India, China, Japan,2 Korea,3 Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.4 It can be enjoyed savory or sweet5 and pairs well with various ingredients. Some common types of rice include white, brown, red, black6 and wild,7 although you may also encounter other “special” types of rice like jasmine, basmati and Arborio.8

Still don’t know how to cook rice? It’s not too late to learn. Having knowledge on how to cook this grain may come in handy the next time you need new ideas for your meals. But before you start cooking, here’s a reminder on why you should limit your rice intake — and why the right cooking technique matters.

Rice may offer health benefits if cooked this way

One caveat with rice is that it is high in net carbs and excessive consumption can raise your risk for insulin resistance, which is why you should moderate your intake. If consumed in excess, rice and other wheat-based foods like bread and pasta can also damage some of your gut’s tight junctions, which help maintain intestinal barrier function and allow ions, nutrients and water to pass through,9 since the grain itself contains high amounts of lectins. However, there may a way to sidestep this — as long as you follow this cooking technique.

Studies show that there are three steps to improving rice’s nutritional content: cooking, cooling and then reheating. The last two steps are crucial, because when cooled and reheated, rice, as well as other high-net carb foods like potatoes, bread and pasta, becomes digestive-resistant.

Digestive-resistant starch acts as a type of indigestible and low-viscous fiber that ferments in your large intestine and acts as a prebiotic. It passes through your digestive system without being broken down, so it doesn’t raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. Digestive-resistant starch also bulks up your bowels for easier elimination.  

Studies found that cooling then reheating cooked rice makes it digestive-resistant through a process called starch retrogradation.10,11 Once in this form, you may be able to unlock its potential health benefits. This is better than just eating freshly cooked rice. Consider this: A 2015 Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition article reported that eating cooked rice that’s been cooled for 24 hours then reheated was found to better reduce the body’s glycemic response compared to eating freshly cooked rice.12

Authors of a 2012 Nutrition Research and Practice study also noticed that rats that ate rice that was heated and allowed to cool several times had improved gut function, increased stool production and reduced cholesterol levels, and were less likely to gain weight.13 To read more about digestive-resistant starches, read this article.

Other health reminders when eating rice 

But even with the potential to become a digestive-resistant starch, I still advise keeping your net carbs below 15 or 20 grams per day as a general rule, until you’re metabolically flexible and have recaptured your ability to burn fat. Once you’ve reached this point, grains can be reintroduced and can be part of a healthy diet.

Where you get your rice is also important, as rice can easily absorb arsenic and metals such as cadmium from the ground it’s grown in.14,15 In fact, research is full of reports of rice being heavily contaminated with arsenic that may lead to side effects like sore throat, irritated lungs, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.16,17,18 So, as much as possible, opt for organic varieties.

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