Rice comes in many different varieties and is often given different names depending on the processing method it has undergone.
This can get confusing when you’re buying rice!
This article will attempt to clarify the oft-confused parboiled, converted, instant, and jasmine rice.
What is parboiled rice?
“Parboiling” refers to a method of processing rice, not to a specific variety of rice.
The 3 steps in parboiling rice are as follows:
- First, the rice is soaked in warm water before it is milled (i.e., before the inedible outer husk is removed).
- Next, the rice is steamed inside the outer husk until the starch changes into a gel.
- Finally, the rice is slowly dried so that it can be milled, packaged, and sold.
The final product has a light yellow color, as opposed to the bleached white color of regular white rice.
Once cooked, parboiled rice is less clumpy and sticky than regular rice.
Instead, it has a fluffy texture with distinct, separate kernels.
This can be useful if you plan to have leftovers and will need to reheat the rice later — a pleasant texture will be more easily maintained than with reheated regular rice.
Parboiled vs. converted rice
Is converted rice the same as instant rice?
Instant rice is typically thought of as being inferior to converted rice in flavor.
Instant rice is usually much blander than converted rice or regular rice.
But what you lack in flavor, you make up for in convenience, with much faster cooking times.
Whether you use converted rice or instant rice depends on your situation and preferences.
Is it more important to you to make your meal quickly, or to have the most flavorful meal possible?
Is jasmine rice a type of converted rice?
Jasmine rice has long, thin grains that tend to have a more fluffy texture after being cooked.
It is primarily grown in Southeast Asia — particularly Thailand.
Jasmine rice comes in different colors, including white, brown, red, purple, or black.
Additionally, jasmine rice contains a compound known as 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which gives it a pleasant, almost popcorn-like fragrance.
What is special about converted rice?
As mentioned above, converted rice has a unique texture.
Some people prefer the fluffier texture of converted rice to the more sticky, clumpy texture of regular rice.
Furthermore, according to healthline.com, parboiled rice retains more of the original nutrition and beneficial plant compounds after processing.
This is because parboiled rice is steamed inside its outer husk, while regular white rice is stripped of its husk.
During the parboiling process, certain compounds such as phenolic acid (a type of antioxidant), migrate to the starchy endosperm and are retained in the final product.
Retaining the antioxidants in the rice reduces oxidation in the rice and may provide benefits to our own cellular health.
However, more research is needed before we can fully understand the role of plant-derived antioxidants in the human body.
A final unique aspect of converted rice is resistant starch.
As the rice is steamed within its outer husk, the starch in the rice turns into a gel-like substance that globs together.
As it cools, the molecules in the gel-like starch reform and harden again.
This creates resistant starch.
The unique thing about resistant starch is that it cannot be digested as starch normally would.
Instead, it is passed on intact to the large intestine, where it becomes food (or “prebiotics”) for our gut bacteria.
As our gut bacteria feed on the starch, it releases certain compounds, like butyrate, a type of short-chain fatty acid that nourishes and reduces inflammation in the gut.
This video provides a thorough, visible explanation of what resistant starch does in our digestive system.
Is rice healthy?
Should you eat rice?
This is a complicated question.
Despite what many ideological proponents of one diet or another might tell you, the question of whether you should eat this or that food does not have a black and white answer.
We need to get in the habit of allowing nuanced discussions around food, rather than digging our heels in and pronouncing foods as either “good” or “bad.”
When considering the question of whether or not you should include rice in your diet, these are some factors to take into account:
- If you are on a low-carb diet, rice should not be a regular part of your diet, as it is definitely not a low-carb food.
- If you are overweight, steer clear of rice, either avoiding it altogether or eating it only in small quantities. Rice is extremely starchy and energy-rich. If you are overweight, your goal is to tap into the reserves of fat (energy) you have on your body, rather than consuming large quantities of dietary energy.
- If you have issues with blood sugar regulation, be mindful when you eat rice. You may want to track your own blood sugar response to rice to see if it is a good food for you or not.
- If you are lean, active, and muscular, you may be able to eat more rice than someone who is overweight and sedentary. In this case, you don’t have as much energy (fat) stored on your body, which means you need to take in more dietary energy. You also likely have better blood sugar control, which is a prerequisite if you’re going to consume rice regularly.
If you do decide to incorporate rice into your diet on a regular basis, here are some strategies you can use to mitigate the potential negative effects on your body:
- Keep in mind that rice becomes much more palatable when it is combined with certain foods — for example, when it is drenched in a delicious sauce or wrapped in a burrito. It is much easier to overeat rice in these situations.
- On the other hand, it is much more difficult to overeat a plain bowl of white rice (because it’s just not that tasty when it’s all by itself). Just be mindful of how much you’re eating, especially in a situation where it would be easy to overeat.
- Weighing or measuring could be a good strategy to be able to more accurately judge how much rice you’re really eating.
- Eat rice in conjunction with a solid portion of protein. Better yet, eat your protein first in order to improve satiety and slow down the rate at which the starch in the rice is released into your bloodstream.
- Go for a 10-minute walk after eating a meal with rice.
- This will improve digestion and your blood-sugar response to the meal.
- Eating rice within 30-60 minutes after a strength training workout is another strategy to improve your blood sugar control.
- Since you’ve just completed a strength training workout, much of the carbs in the rice will be absorbed by your depleted muscles.