Here in Louisiana, we like rice with just about everything! Every year down in Crowley, September yields the Rice Festival with a very popular rice cook-off that has even attracted the attention of the Food Network. There are different varieties of rice grown throughout Louisiana and throughout the United States. In 2012, Louisiana alone produced 2.6 billion pounds of rice on over 391,000 acres of land. The total value of Louisiana rice production last year was $483 million. There are approximately 1,030 rice farmers in the state. Needless to say, rice is a very important commodity for our state.
Rice is sodium and cholesterol free; it has only a trace of fat, but contains no trans-fat or saturated fat. A half cup serving of white rice contains 103 calories and 0.5 grams of fiber. A half cup serving of brown rice contains 108 calories and 2 grams of fiber. Rice is a good source of complex carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly. It is an energy food, supplying fuel for the body’s physical activity. Rice is nutrient dense and contributes over 15 vitamins and minerals such as folate and other B-vitamins, iron and zinc. Brown rice is a 100% whole grain. One cup of brown rice provides two of the three recommended daily servings of whole grains.
There are several different types of rice. Long grain rice has a long, slender kernel, three to four times longer than its width. Due to its starch composition, cooked grains are more separate, light and fluffy. Medium grain rice, when compared to long grain has a shorter, wider kernel that is two to three times longer than its width. Cooked grains are more moist and tender than long grain. Medium grain rice has a greater tendency to cling together. Short grain rice has a short, plump, almost round kernel. Cooked grains are soft and cling together, yet remain separate and are somewhat chewy, with a slight springiness to the bite.
There are also different forms of rice such as brown rice, regular milled white rice, par-boiled rice, and precooked rice. Brown rice has the outer hull removed, but still retains the bran layers that give it a tan color, chewy texture and nut-like flavor. Retaining the nutrient-dense bran layer makes brown rice a 100% whole grain food, rich in mineral and vitamins, especially the B-complex group. Regular brown rice cooks in 40 to 45 minutes. Regular milled white rice has the outer husk removed and the layer of bran milled away until the grain is white. Most U.S. milled rice is enriched after milling. Par-boiled rice is rough rice that has gone through a steam-pressure process before milling. This procedure gelatinizes the starch in the grain and ensures a firmer, more separate grain. Precooked rice, also called quick-cooking or instant rice, comes in white or brown varieties that have been completely cooked and dehydrated. This process reduces the time required for cooking.
Here are some interesting facts about rice. Rice is the primary dietary staple for more than half the world’s population. Each year, about 19 billion pounds of rice is grown in the United States in states such as Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi. Eighty-five percent of the rice consumed in the United States is grown here. The average American consumes about 24 pounds of rice per year.
So, this month, eat your rice! Try different types, and to pack in a little more fiber and nutrients in your diet, go for brown rice. If you feel like you can’t switch to brown rice right away, try ½ white and ½ brown in a dish. For more information on rice or any other nutrition topics, please contact the Rapides Parish Extension Office at (318) 767-3968 or visit us on the web at www.lsuagcenter.com/rapides.