Friday, June 6, 2008

Eat Less Rice

With the rumors running around that the Philippines is currently experiencing a rice shortage, the suggestion of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap that we eat less rice is laudable and timely. He had been unfairly ridiculed for it, just because the idea comes from the administration. But considering all factors it seems a very practicable solution.

If we eat only three-fourths (75 percent) of our usual rice intake, that would mean a 25 percent reduction in the country’s rice consumption. This would translate to more rice and peso savings.

However, most people would say that Filipinos can’t survive without rice. The reality is that the human body is not meant to subsist on rice. In the old age, the caveman did not know how to use fire such that he ate his food raw – fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, and even meat. But not rice, wheat and corn. These grains cannot be eaten raw for the reason that man does not have the system of enzymes to break it down raw.

After thousands of years our diets and lifestyles have changed. Now rice dominates our daily cuisine. In some parts of Asia even, rice forms up to 85 percent of the plate. The rising demand of the growing population has eaten deep into the limited supply

But above economic savings, the more important reason to curve down our rice cravings is our health. For the following strategic and health reasons, it is best to keep to a minimum our rice intake.

1)Health Risk - Rice and other grains like wheat and corn are not chemically different from sugar. One bowl of rice is the caloric equivalent of 10 teaspoonfuls of sugar. It does not matter whether the rice is white, brown or organic. When cooked rice is digested, it becomes sugar and spikes circulating blood sugar within half an hour – almost as quickly as when we eat a sugar candy. And since rice is deceptively tasteless, we tend to consume more sugar by just overeating rice than by swallowing 10 teaspoonfuls of it in one sitting! More so, rice, wheat and corn sometimes come hidden in flour, noodles and bread that serve as rice substitutes. We often end up eating these hidden forms of rice that are digested into sugar.

2)Low on Anti-Oxidants - Rice is very low in the “rainbow of anti-oxidants” which is necessary for the effective and safe utilization of sugar. Fruits, on the other hand, come with a sugar called fructose and are packed with a host of other nutrients that help proper assimilation and digestion.

3)Lacks Fiber - Since white rice has no fiber, we end up eating lots of “calorie dense” food before we get filled up. Brown rice has more fiber, but still contains the same amount of sugar.

4)Surfeit of Salt - As rice is tasteless, we consume with it more salt – another villain in the rise of blood pressure. We tend to flavor rice with curry laden with salt. We are also likely to consume more ketchup and soy sauce, which are rich in salt. Worse, the more rice we eat the less water we will drink.

5)Heavy Stuff - Rice is “heavy stuff”. Even when cooked, it is difficult to digest. If you have digestion problems, skip rice for a few days and will be amazed at how the problem just goes away. When taken in bulk, rice reduces the absorption of vital nutrients such as zinc, iron and the B Vitamins.

If in fact we do have a rice shortage, can we not decrease our consumption to help our countrymen or is it too much of a trouble? Do we take heed or just ignore the facts, and take the risk? What will our answer be to the one tempting question, “Extra rice, anyone?”

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