One of the staple crops of the world, rice can be found in dishes all across the planet. Every culture adds its own flavor to this international necessity. The irony? Rice is packed with empty calories. A whopping 200 calories come packed in every cup. Most of those calories are starches, which are notoriously fattening.
Luckily, scientists have devised a cooking hack to make the international staple much healthier. At the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka, undergraduate Sudhair James and his mentor, Pushparajah Thavaravja, are experimenting with a way of cooking rice that not only reduces calories by 50%, it also enhances the health benefits.
What’s their technique? They start as usual by heating some water, “but when the water is boiling, before adding the raw rice, [they] added coconut oil - about 3% of the weight of the rice you’re going to cook.” They then let the cooked rice cool for 12 hours. This remarkable trick relies only on the chemical properties of coconut oil to do its magic.
At the core of this discovery is the science of starches. Thavaravja says there are two types of starches: digestible starch (the fattening kind) and resistant starches, which yield fewer calories. The more resistant the starches in a meal, the fewer the calories. This cooking method was designed to make rice’s digestible starches work like resistant starches.
After trying eight recipes on dozens of Sri Lankan rice varieties, they found that adding a lipid (the fatty substance in food) and cooling the rice after cooking caused the chemical composition of the rice to change in two important ways. First, the coconut oil “interacts with the starch in rice and changes its architecture.” Second, cooling the rice down “helps foster the conversion of starches. The result is a healthier serving, even when you heat it back up.”
Absolutely amazing. These two scientists took two simple cooking tricks and made rice healthier. And what's more, they plan to apply it to other foods as well. Thavaravja said, “It’s about more than rice. I mean, can we do the same thing for bread? That’s the real question here.” While these researchers change how we look at carbs, we may soon be able to feel less guilty for eating them.
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