Written by Coxiela L Cabrera
Rice prices are quite expensive. Do we have a cheaper but healthy alternative? A corn expert said mixing rice and corn is an option.
It has long been known that rice is a good source of energy for the body. Most Filipinos cannot let a day pass without eating rice; it’s part of local culture to eat rice three times a day. In developing countries, 70 percent to 80 percent of a person’s calorie intake comes from carbohydrates. In Asia, particularly in the Philippines, rice ranks as the most important staple.
Next to rice, corn is another important food staple. According to statistical analysis of the Department of Agriculture, only about 20 percent of Filipinos in the Visayas and Mindanao eat white corn as their main staple.
If rice, particularly white rice, is too much for the budget, mixing white rice and corn grits could be an option for the health- and pocket-conscious. According to a study conducted by the Institute of Human Ecology in the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB), rice blend (or rice composite), which is a mixture of white rice and corn, has acceptable taste similar to white rice alone.
If shifting to pure corn is difficult, try rice composite or rice blend, Dr. Artemio M. Salazar, research professor in the College of Agriculture in UPLB, advised in a rice-corn grits seminar at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRIce) in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.
Salazar and his research team had started the practice of mixing rice with corn grits about two years ago, experimenting on various ratios of rice-to-corn in cooking. The result was generally good because they used Quality Protein Maize (QPM), an open-pollinated variety of corn that is high in protein and tastes like rice. However, they had two general issues about promoting it: first, the Filipino culture is rice-centric; and second, there is a debate on the quality—which of the two is better: white rice alone or white rice with corn.
From their research, Salazar concluded that eating rice mixed with corn grits has two major benefits: it is more nutritional and filling; and it is cheaper.
Eating rice mixed with corn is more nutritional and filling. “We usually eat rice three times a day. Each meal will take two hours before we digest and turn into glucose. If the glucose did not burn into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), it can heighten one’s risk of having diabetes. Eating food items low in glycemic index (GI) like corn, brown rice, and other staples can lessen the risk of diabetes. Moreover, low GI foods help delay hunger pangs and promote weight loss in overweight people,” he explained.
Mixing rice with corn is also a more affordable choice. In the Visayas, the price of corn is cheaper than rice by P2 a kilo. If rice is mixed with corn using a 50:50 or 70:30 ratio, it is still cheaper than pure rice.
Salazar noted that some Filipinos are hesitant to eating white corn because it is regarded as a poor man’s food and animal feed.
In a cooking demo held during the seminar, Salazar, together with Felicito M. Rodriguez, university researcher at UPLB, sampled various rice-corn blends such as 50:50, 70:30, 100-percent corn grits, and 100-percent rice to an audience composed of mothers and some PhilRice staff.
Imelda Angat, a mother and leader of the Pantawid Pamilya Program in Brgy. Maligaya, said “the taste (of the 70:30 rice-corn blend) was good like rice. I will surely try this at home because I have learned that it is more nutritious, more affordable, and is good to serve to my family.”
At present, corn grits is not yet available in public markets but it can be purchased at UPLB. Salazar said that UPLB is trying to expand its area to be able to supply the needs and demands for corn grits.
Decreased consumption of white rice, as a result, can also contribute to the country’s attainment of food security. If the corn-eating communities will increase, importation of rice will be lessened. This will eventually help the country achieve rice self-sufficiency.