Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Day 141 of our Green Year: Choosing Brown Rice over White

This will not be the first time we have addressed rice as a green issue. As many readers of this blog will remember, we went green awhile back with FreeRice.com on Day 84. However, recently we have found out about the personal and environmental benefits of brown rice. Rice is a staple of billions around the world, and in our household we find it is a good supplement to a variety of meals.

When rice is made, it goes through a variety of processes, including going through a husker to remove the grain husks. Once that process is done, brown rice is made. However, to make white rice, there are added steps that are needed. To get white ice, the inner husk (or bran) is removed and the grain is polished using glucose. This may not seem like much of a difference, but it removes several important nutrients. To get those nutrients back, many companies then reintroduce those same nutrients from synthetic sources. Those lost nutrients, that are not always put back in, include Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folacin, Potassium, Magnesium and Iron. On top of that, the dietary fiber of white rice is a quarter of what is in brown rice.

As for why white rice is worse for the environment than brown rice, the reason is simple. Brown rice takes less energy and less processing than white rice. As well, the synthetic vitamins that are put back into the white rice are produced in factories using several chemicals, whose processes are known to be bad for the environment.

This may not be for everyone, since some find brown rice to be an acquired taste, but we have found it does not taste too bad at all, especially with some nice sauces and spices on it.

So, we will not be going back to white rice, for our sake and the sake of the environment. On top of that, we will buy rice in bulk so that we can save on packaging, or if we can, buy rice that comes in cloth bags that we can re-use.

One note is that brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, thereby using more energy. However, if you pre-soak the ice for awhile before hand, and then cook using the absorption method, you will use far less energy. The absorption method is when you use less water than usual and cover the pot. By the time the rice is ready, most of the water has been absorbed by the rice, or boiled away into steam, thereby helping to cook the rice quicker.