A healthy twist on rice pudding, this dish combines cooked white rice, flax and chia for a nourishing new breakfast option.
You know how you see all those RD-approved “Eat This Not That” posts? And you know how they always recommend brown rice over white rice?
This is not one of those posts.
I’m about to peel back the curtain and share this startling news with you — I love and frequently eat white rice.
Gasp. I know. An RD eating white rice? Whoever heard of such tomfoolery.
It’s like this. The recommendation to eat brown rice is one I support… if you like brown rice. But if you don’t, I don’t think white rice deserves a bad rap (I also don't think you should "give up" on brown rice, you never know when you may like it). But realistically there are millions, dare I say billions, of people around the world eating white rice and leading happy, healthy lives without nearly the rates of obesity we have here in the US.
Somewhere in our zeal to encourage people to eat more whole grains and high fiber foods — which I agree with — we’ve demonized foods like potatoes and white rice, when really they have redeeming qualities, beyond just their taste (‘cause let’s be honest -- a baked potato and a bowl of white rice require little more than a touch of salt and maybe a pat of butter to be oh so simply delicious.)
I’ve talked about before why potatoes don’t deserve the bad karma they’ve been given. But today, I’m gonna share with you this little secret that I feel like doesn't get near enough attention as a reason to enjoy white rice. Are you ready for it?
Say it with me “Resistant Starch.”
As much as I’m fascinated by making a swoon-worthy gluten-free biscuit, I’m equally as fascinated when the nutrition community actually uncovers something “new” about our food… and these days, often that newness can be found in our guts. And by guts I don’t mean a hunch or suspicion… I mean what’s going on with digestion that we never knew before, as is the case with some forms of resistant starch.
If you’re not familiar with resistant starch, it’s basically starch that’s resistant to digestion. Simple name. Simple concept.
But where you find resistant starch and all the benefits it may provide are a little more complex. Emerging research points to benefits that may include weight control, improved insulin sensitivity and possibly even feeling more satisfied after meals. None of this is terribly surprising if you consider that we often recommend “fiber-rich” foods for these same benefits, and resistant starch is just another type of fiber, really.
But what I find more interesting is what happens when that resistant starch reaches the... um, well "end of the road" in your digestive system -- the colon. While this starch isn't readily available for our bodies to digest, it's good fuel for the bacteria living in our lower GI tract. As the bacteria begin to break down the starch they produce short-chain fatty acids that are believed to offer significant colon health benefits.
What's also surprising in this whole RS conversation are some of the foods that contain it, which might otherwise be viewed as low-fiber foods — like rice. Apparently, when rice is cooked and cooled, it changes the structure of some of the native starch in the grain and renders it “resistant” to digestion. "How much" is still the big question and differs based on cooking method. If you’re a food science nerd and want to dig even deeper into this, you might also enjoy reading about how “tinkering” with the cooking method may reduce the calories by as much 50%.
I’d be lying if I said that I think white rice and resistant starch are the only (or even the very best) way to get fiber or boost digestive health. But in a day and age where we’ve somehow managed to make rice out to be the bad guy in the carbohydrate conversation, I think it’s worth noting that there truly are nutritional attributes we’re just beginning to uncover about this beloved grain.
If I haven’t sold you on resistant starch, and you lean to the more pragmatic side of life, then consider what my colleague Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, owner of Cherry Creek Nutrition, Inc., said when I asked her if she personally recommends white rice as a healthy grain.
“I do recommend white rice as a nutritious option for families, especially for kids who don't like brown rice. I also include it on my menu at home for my own family. Research shows that consumption of rice in general, whether it is white or brown, has a positive impact on health and children who eat rice have an overall better diet quality and nutrient intake- especially since it pairs so well with other nutrient rich foods such as vegetables, beans and lean protein. White rice is also enriched with key nutrients such as iron and folate. It's versatile and great to create veggie rich stir-fries with or rice bowls for dinner. I recommend for families to aim for the recommended 1/2 of total grain intake as whole grains- and to continue to offer a variety to children, as it often takes multiple attempts.”
Now if you’re wondering why I have rice on the brain, it may be because I returned home last week from touring rice farming and packaging courtesy of Uncle Ben’s.
(Disclosure: My attendance on that trip was courtesy of Uncle Ben’s, but I was not asked to write or compensated for this post).
On the trip, I learned a lot about rice:
- How “normal” a rice farm looks compared to other farms I've seen. I confess, I had this whole flooded field/rice patty vision that was so totally wrong.
- How much rice is grown in this country. Nearly 85% of the rice eaten in the U.S. is grown in the U.S. Check the rice in your pantry. I bet it’s USA grown.
- How much rice this country provides to other countries and how valuable it is. The bag below is a brand of Uncle Ben's that is apparently the finest rice served in the Middle East and only prepared for special occasions like weddings.
- How seriously Uncle Ben’s takes ensuring the quality of their products. This sweet lady is Karen, and her entire job every day is to open up every batch of Uncle Ben’s rice that’s been packaged for sale and test it to make sure it meets quality standards.
- How, along with quality, Uncle Ben's takes allergens very serious. I was not only amazed at the amount of allergen prevention procedures I saw, but also the constant reminders posted throughout the plant about why allergen prevention is important — including real-life pictures of both adults and children and the consequences of allergic reactions.
I also realized on this trip that classic parboiled rice may be a better choice for folks like me who are interested in upping the resistant starch in their dishes (remember what I said about the cooking and cooling? That's the basis of parboiled rice).
In fact, as I dug a little deeper I found that any of the ready-to-eat varieties of parboiled rice (here are the ones Uncle Ben's makes) are even higher in the type of starch that converts to resistant starch when cooked, making that product an absolute no-brainer for busy weeknights.
But for those busy mornings when I want to change up my breakfast routine, today's recipe takes over. This Make-Ahead Breakfast Rice Pudding reminds you of a cross between overnight oats and a rice pudding dessert. The simple act of cooking the parboiled rice and cooling overnight means more resistant starch in this dish. And I can tell you from experience, it’s amazingly satisfying and will keep you full all morning.
Please tell me you’ll give rice for breakfast a try. Better yet, you and your kids whip up a new rice recipe for your own breakfast and submit it to Uncle Ben's as a part of their Ben's Beginners contest. Five families will win $15,000 for their family plus a $30,000 cafeteria makeover. Now that would be a version of Eat This Not That I'd much rather see!
Thanks for stopping by today! Now tell me -- Have you heard of resistant starch? Are you a white rice eater like me or is it brown, brown-only for you? ~Regan
Overnight Breakfast Rice Pudding
Serves 6 to 9
- 1 cup parboiled white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
- 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- Pinch of nutmeg and allspice
- 1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
- Cook rice according to package directions.
- Once rice is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients and pour into dish. Refrigerate overnight.
- Serve cold or re-heated and topped with additional fruit/nuts, if desired.