Living in Southeast Asia, white rice is a staple in many households. Some of us have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while many of us enjoy white rice at least once a day. These warm, pillowy and fluffy grains are the very definition of comfort food.
However, the way white rice is processed (its husk, germ and bran are removed, leaving behind a starchy kernel) also means that much of its nutrients are stripped. It is also relatively high on the glycaemic index, which is the reason that diabetics are often told to switch to brown rice instead. Another highly nutritious but less familiar option to consider as a white rice replacement is wild rice.
Wild rice is not technically a grain but an aquatic grass. However, it looks like regular rice, cooks the same way and even has a similar texture to rice, which makes it suitable as a healthy alternative to pair with your curries and stir-frys. Here are five excellent reasons that will convince you to back away from boring white and take a walk on the wild side:
It Supports Digestion and Heart Health
Wild rice is high in dietary fibre (more so than brown or black rice) and rich in magnesium, both of which can help to keep you regular, clear out toxins and support a healthy digestive system. Magnesium, along with phosphorus and zinc, is also an essential mineral that supports muscle and bone development as well as nervous system function.
Wild rice is also a heart-healthy choice. It has no sodium content (good for blood pressure) and being high in fibre means it can help to lower bad cholesterol.
It Helps to Build Immunity
A strong immune system is an effective barrier against many harmful viruses and bacteria. Wild rice contains a significant amount of vitamin C, which encourages the production of white blood cells, which protects our bodies against harmful pathogens. Vitamin C is also an essential element in collagen, which is necessary for the repair and regeneration of tissues, cells and organs.
It Is Gluten-Free
If you are avoiding gluten for health reasons, are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, wild rice makes an excellent substitute for regular rice or as a replacement for other carbs. It has a high amount of amino acids and the same amount of protein as quinoa, another gluten-free alternative, but contains fewer calories.
Since it is both a gluten-free and low-calorie food, wild rice is a wonderful addition to your diet if you are on a weight-loss plan. The high fibre content in wild rice also makes it less likely for you to overeat since a little of it goes a long way.
It Has Anti-Ageing Properties
Wild rice is very rich in antioxidants (it has 30 times more antioxidants than white rice, which actually has little to none). The antioxidants combat free radicals that can cause damage to skin, including unpleasant acne scars and the undesirable signs of ageing—wrinkles, frown lines and age spots.
Antioxidants can also help prevent eye problems related to ageing such as cataracts and macular degeneration. So if laugh lines and liver spots are an issue, definitely think about including wild rice in your diet today!
It Is Anti-Inflammatory
Wild rice is an alkaline food (which is the opposite of grains as they tend to be more acidic) and has amazing anti-inflammatory properties. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help to prevent diseases that are linked to chronic inflammation such as arthritis, cancer, depression, diabetes and heart disease. If you have not, then it may be time to add wild rice to your grocery list.
How to Cook Wild Rice on a Stove
Rinse one cup of uncooked wild rice in a strainer. Place in a saucepan and add three cups of water (or a low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth for added flavour). Let the water come to a boil and then reduce the fire, cover the saucepan and bring it down to a simmer. Stir every 5 to 10 minutes. The cooking time is about 40 to 50 mins. Drain off excess water, if any. (If you have one, you may also use a rice cooker to cook wild rice.) Fluff rice with a fork before serving. Enjoy this chewy and nut-flavoured rice with your stir-fry or stew tonight.
Recipe for Wild Rice & Mushroom Pilaf
Comfort food for a rainy day. Melt half a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan. Sauté one diced onion with half a teaspoon of salt until onions soften. Add one cup of wild rice and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add in about two cups of low-sodium chicken broth (or a vegetable broth if you are going vegetarian or vegan) and bring to a boil. Lower the fire and cover the saucepan and cook for about 40 to 50 minutes, which is about when all the broth is absorbed into the rice.
While the rice is simmering, sauté about 250 to 300 grams of sliced mushrooms (you can use any kind you like or better yet, use a variety) in one tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, basically until mushrooms are done. Optional: add about a quarter cup of white wine over the mushrooms and cook for another few minutes, until wine has evaporated. Toss in a tablespoon of chopped chives, leaving some for garnish at the end. When the rice is ready, fluff the rice with a fork and then fold in the mushroom and chives. Delicious!