Written by Jaime A Manalo IV


It is no secret that unhealthy lifestyle is key culprit to major fatal diseases in the Philippines and the world over.  From smoking, improper diet, and lack of physical activity—in years, signs of diseases will surface, from reversible to irreversible, all hostile to life.

If lifestyle has a lot to do with the demise of humans, it is by no means a hopeless battle. Changing lifestyle, which is easier said than done, is key. Regular exercise, avoidance of vices such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, stress management, and proper diet may add more days to our lives.

While most Filipinos eat rice every meal, many do not know the nutrients that they take in from every spoonful or handful of rice. While most of us would crave for white rice, many do not know that rice also has other forms and colors, which may prove to be more nutritious.

Brown rice

Much has been written and heard about brown rice. A Google search with “brown rice “as key word has almost 90 M search results , which range from blogs, news items, and scholarly articles. From a virtually unknown form, it now has a separate space in malls and other major food outlets.

Polishing, not its color, distinguishes brown rice from other forms of edible rice, says Dr. Marissa V. Romero, food scientist at the Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Brown rice is unpolished rice, which contains more nutrients than white rice. In Romero’s presentation during the Rice and Nutrition Seminar in Naga City, she cited a 1995 research saying that frequent consumption of brown rice may reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, and stroke. Cancer and diabetes may also be diminished by eating brown rice.

Polishing brown rice to obtain white rice removes 15% of proteins, 85% of fats, 80% of thiamine, 70% of riboflavin, 68% of niacin, 90% of calcium, 75% of phosphorus, 60% of other minerals, enumerates Romero citing the same 1995 study. Indeed, whiter doesn’t always mean better. Brown rice even makes delectable porridge (goto, lugaw).

If brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, sprouting brown rice is even more desirable. Romero explained sprouted brown rice has gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), about 10 times the level in white rice, which is anticancer and good for brain metabolism. It also contains fiber, which is good in managing constipation and in fighting colon cancer plus loads of other nutrients.

Pigmented rice

The poster Health-promoting antioxidants from pigmented rice published in the Philippine Journal of  Crop Science in 2009 by Romero, Nelson M. Panajon, Rosaly V. Manois, and Henry F. Mamucod, all from PhilRice, shows that pigmented rices have more anthocyanins, which act as powerful antioxidants, than white rice. Antioxidants are free radical scavengers with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities. Free
radicals are cell-damaging agents, which are linked with high incidence of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Hence, antioxidants are exterminators of free radicals.

The study also noted that unpolished pigmented rices have more anthocyanins than the polished ones, hence more healthy to eat.

In the Philippines, NSIC Rc19, Tapul, Ballatinaw, Calatrava, Dinorado, Kabankalan, La Castellana, and Malido are among the popular pigmented rices. They are mostly from traditional rice varieties, and are usually found in the highlands.

Acceptability and availability

Despite knowledge on the nutritional superiority of brown, pigmented, and iron-dense rices, availability  and acceptability remain nagging issues. For brown rice, for instance, high cost, short shelf-life, unappealing texture, and longer cooking time are issues that should be addressed.

These issues prove that intensified research to address said knowledge gaps is needed. Additionally, investing in the “development of appropriate processing equipment and improvement of postharvest facilities to encourage large-scale brown rice production” is also in the right direction. Reducing the current P45-50/kg price of brown rice will make it more accessible to the poor and middle-class families.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute