By Anaïs Bailly-Mompoint, LMSW

Rice/du riz/diri/arroz! Whichever your reference, it is as important as bread and water in terms of consumption in many communities, including Caribbean natives, descendants, and immigrants. Rice is enjoyed by more than half of the 7 billion of people around the world and is a staple in many cuisines. In fact, some—Haitian men included—do not consider a meal complete without a side of rice. Yet, most of the trendy western world diets advise either consuming less rice, replacing it by brown rice or banishing it from our meals altogether.  One of the arguments used is that white rice consumption is linked to a higher risk of diabetes and obesity.

Allow me to speak on behalf of Haitians and Haitian food lovers everywhere, but while that brown rice may be somewhat alright with Legumes during your dieting, it will not go well with that sờs pwa (beans in gravy) under any circumstance! Trust me, I’ve tried it! So what if I told you that you can enjoy that Long Grain Madame Gougousse Jasmine Rice (or any of your favorite brands) in a healthier way with just a simple trick? Indeed, scientists at the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka have uncovered a way for the calories in rice to be cut in half based on how you prepare it. Research team leader, Sudhair A. James states, “if the best rice variety is processed, it might reduce the calories by about 50-60 percent.” For those who must have rice multiple times a week and still want less inches around the waist, this is more than great news!

Before I tell you the secret let’s address the science. Rice is filled with starch which converts into glucose and later the excess that is unused by the body becomes fat. Yes, the fat that contently sits at your midsection making you unbutton those jeans after dinner. James explains the composition of the rice can be altered during a simple regimen. OK, I’ll stop teasing and tell you what it is: Coconut oil! Add that to the endless list of the “good-for-you” things this super food can do! Here are the steps: first, start by washing the rice only once. This helps remove the excess starch that’s been accumulating in the sac/bag without stripping away all the other minerals and vitamins. To name a few these include, magnesium, phosphorous, niacin, manganese, selenium, thiamine, folic acid and iron. We’re still talking about white rice here in case you’re having a moment of disbelief. Second, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for every cup of rice (go easy on the salt). Next, forget what you’ve seen the matriarch in your family do and skip that plastic bag to cover the rice. I mean it, leave it for what it was intended to—recycle! Simply use a tight lid (or if you can’t quite find the cover to your favorite pot, use some aluminum foil and any lid) to ensure a proper steam of 20 minutes. Without getting tempted to eat right away, place the rice in the fridge to cool for 12 hours. Finally, reheat and enjoy!

That last part may have taken you aback for a second. I know it did for me, as I enjoy fresh out of the pot, steaming rice. So back to the science aspect. James explains “the cooling is essential because amylose, the soluble part of the starch, leaves the granules during gelatinization.” He further explains that “cooling for 12 hours will lead to formation of hydrogen bonds between the amylose molecules outside the rice grains which also turns it into a resistant starch (RS).” Reheating the rice after cooling it does not impact the RS levels notes the research. So if you’re like my husband who sees no point of making rice without having gratin—(pot-bottom as commonly referred to by our Caribbean neighbors or the slightly burnt and crispy part of the rice found at the bottom of the pot)—you can certainly enjoy the reheating process as it means even more of that salty crispy goodness!

So at your next rice-making session (which I know will be sooner than later), try it out and let me know. The added aroma and taste from the coconut oil is unmatched. You’ll rest assured that your bowl of rice is not only delicious, but it’s more nutritious. Voila, with a simple trick, you’ve joined me on the journey of enjoying life one better decision at a time!

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