Written by Charisma Love B Gado


How do we love our rice? We need not to count the ways as many of us think that we could barely survive a meal without this staple food.

But there’s danger with this too much love for rice.

Rice and diseases

Archaeological records reveal that grains didn’t exist until humans domesticated annual grasses, at most 12,000 years ago. In our country, rice was not a staple cereal until the Spaniards introduced the plow. Before our conquest, rice was highly valued and considered as the most esteemed cereal that “even datus with many slaves ate root crops in certain seasons.” About the 19th century, gabi, yam, and millet were replaced by corn, kamote, and rice as staples.

Some contend that this shift to grain consumption led to diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, a complex ailment caused by high levels of blood sugar that cannot be processed by the insulin hormone. The Philippine Department of Health has listed diabetes as the sixth leading cause of death in 2012.

Medical researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, revealed that those who eat three to four servings of rice a day had 55 percent higher risk to develop diabetes than those who ate one to two servings a week.

Eating too much rice is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease (condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food), auto-immune diseases, poorer dental health, stroke, and coronary artery disease.

But why do we crave for grains such as rice so much? Experts said that because grains are essentially sugar, they contain enough opioids that make grains addictive.

Eating rice for health

The Food and Nutrition Institute revealed that Filipinos had imbalanced diet with plate half-full of rice, consuming more rice than what is recommended as healthy.

Joy Bartolome Duldulao, a chemist based at Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) , said we are eating more eating more rice than other food groups such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins, when rice and other grains should only be ¼ of our meal plate. He also said that we eat too much carbohydrates that we pair rice with pansit (also a carbohydrate source) during meals.

“Filipinos depend mostly on rice for energy and eat rice more than what is recommended,” he said.

To lessen the danger of too much carbohydrates, Dudulao said we may diversify our diet by trying other sources of carbohydrates such as corn, cassava, and sweet potato. A cup of rice, he said, could be substituted with 1/3 cup of corn; 2/3 cup, cassava; and 5/6 cup, sweet potato.

Eating highly fibrous unpolished rice or brown rice is also healthy option for Filipinos. Brown rice or unpolished rice is produced by removing the husk or the outermost layer of the rice grain during milling.

Dr. Marissa V. Romero, PhilRice food scientist said frequent eating of brown rice may reduce cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, heart diseases, hypercholesterolemia, and stroke.

Pigmented rice such as black, purple, or red rice are also more nutritious than white rice. NSIC Rc19, Tapul, Ballatinaw, Calatrava, Dinorado, Kabankalan, La Castallena, and Malido are good sources of antioxidants because they contains anthocyanins, “ which are effective free radical scavengers with anti-inflamatory and anti-cancer activities.”

Rice would love us back when we eat it right. Less rice may mean less occurrence of diseases and better health. No worries now in taking in rice, as long as we eat it right.

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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