In terms of looking at healthy eating habits, any research about people’s diet in China that does not take rice into consideration would be incomplete, regardless of how much or how little we might value rice as a healthy food option. It is so popular in the country, it has to be considered when assessing most healthy Chinese food because rice is so often included.
Despite all the health warnings, the anti-carb trend, which reached its heyday during the Atkins Diet mania in the late 90s and early 2000s, many of our attitudes about how to diet effectively hasn’t changed for the better. A lot of people still regard carbohydrate as the enemy. They blame it for their love handles, bingo wings, and other wobbly bits, and hence the source of all sorts of ailments associated weight gain.
While there is some truth is this view, perhaps we should not merely be focusing on rice in terms of its position on the Glycaemic Index. In this instance, considering also, the rice eating habits of Chinese people, could just about tip the balance and push rice into the healthy Chinese food category.
In other words, as well as the nutrients and the calorific value of rice, when and how people eat the grains in China is important and a positive factor. That is if one takes a somewhat unorthodox view of what can be considered to be a healthy Chinese food.
Now, you may be thinking that rice is not bad, but it’s stretching it, to claim that’s it’s a healthy Chinese food, based on my reasoning so far, but consider this curious thought: it’s advisable to consume everything in moderation, even super foods. Okay, let me put it another way: our eating habits, regarding even super foods, are crucial in ensuring that they remain healthy for us.
What are carbohydrates?
Well, in laymen terms, they are sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, milk products, as well as vegetables. They are macronutrients and therefore one of the three top ways the body obtains energy. They break down inside of us to form glucose, which is then moved around the body through the blood to enable muscles, essential cells and the brain to function properly.
So, while rice might not be the healthiest form of carbohydrate, in China where it is consumed in vast quantities, it plays an essential role in the body. That makes it a relatively healthy Chinese food.
Other important benefits of eating rice
• It helps the body absorb calcium.
• It assists in lowering cholesterol levels and regulating blood pressure, thanks to its fiber content.
• It provides essential nutrients for the friendly bacteria that help us digest food in the intestinal tract.
Of course, without considering other carbs, my argument as to why rice should be seen as a healthy Chinese food, more so in China, is still somewhat spurious at this stage. There are, after all, better carbs, which are similarly filling, even healthier, and can be added to most dishes, just like rice.
What healthier carbs can we eat instead of rice?
• Pasta, noodles, couscous, bulgur wheat, millet, quinoa, cornmeal, oats, barley and rye
• Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips and turnips
However, what can make rice better than a lot of other foods very much depends on eating habits. Rice might be a staple food, but more importantly, it is a filler. Eating it with any meal can help curb one’s appetite, thereby reducing one’s craving for less healthy options, such as deserts, or even breakfast meals which are loaded with sugar, fat, and additives. It can also help reduce passive snacking which, if not kept in check, can have a considerable impact on one’s weight and therefore on one’s health.
So, what is healthy about Chinese rice eating habits?
The Chinese may eat a lot of rice, but they do not consume excessive amounts in one sitting.
A typical breakfast or morning tea, would probably consist of:
Congee, a mild-flavored rice porridge cooked with plenty of water to soften the rice for a long time, or rice dumplings made from steamed glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves, or rice noodles. Again lunch might consist of noodles or rice, with some meat and vegetables, and no more than three different dishes. Dinner, which is the most important meal for a lot of Chinese people will often include soup, a variety of meats and vegetables and of course, some rice.
So clearly, based on a theory that rice is one effective filler that is healthier than many other foods, Chinese rice eating habits as demonstrated in the two examples above, can keep the amount of fat, sugar, and cholesterol consumed in between meals, to a minimum.
Other health benefits
Rice is a complex carbohydrate that has no sodium or cholesterol and barely any fat.
Rice bran oil contains antioxidant properties that promote cardiovascular strength by reducing cholesterol in the body.
Rice, especially brown rice, has cancer-preventing properties. Its insoluble fiber can protect against various types of cancers. A number of scientists and researchers believe that such fibers interfere with the development and metastasis of cancerous cells.
The husk is known to have diuretic as well as digestive benefits, and may be effective for the treatment of dysentery.
Although the research is not conclusive, brown rice is said to contain levels of nutrients that stimulate the growth and activity of neurotransmitters, which help to slow down Alzheimer’s disease.
Authentic white basmati rice, surprisingly, has a lower ranking of 52 on the Glycemic Index, compared to brown rice, which has a rating of 55, while other types of white rice average around the 79 mark on the Glycemic Index.
Do not underestimate the goodness in rice. However, if you’re in China and considering healthy Chinese food options, no other carbs will be more abundant. So the age-old advice and cliché will apply: eat everything in moderation, even rice.
…If you know someone who wants to lose weight but is addicted to rice, please share this article with them.