Rice as a beauty food? Yes! | Exclusive extracts from Vasudha Rai’s GLOW

Editor’s note: This exclusive extract is taken from Vasudha Rai’s GLOW: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty, Inside and Out (with permission from Penguin Random House India)

Rice is the ultimate comfort food. It’s light, easily available and, of course, delicious. I grew up with wheat as my staple food—rice was a rare treat. We had it perhaps only a couple of times in a month. I didn’t know then that wheat didn’t suit me. Because the pesticide-laden, genetically modified wheat varieties available after the 1970s were highly inflammatory, my skin was always red and bumpy.

Then, a few years ago, I drastically reduced my wheat consumption to keep endometriosis under control. Brown rice became my staple carb and soon, because of this switch, my skin finally started looking smooth and even-toned. Even refined white basmati rice worked better for me than wheat.

I know of dermatologists who look ten years younger than their actual age who survive on rice.

Science

Polished white rice has its downsides. Because its husk has been removed, it has a high glycaemic index, which means that it gets digested quickly, transforming into sugar and raising insulin levels. It is important to keep portion control in mind while consuming rice in general, whether it’s white, brown, red or black rice. We should treat it as one of the elements on the plate and not as the main dish.

So take equal quantities of lentils, vegetables and rice. Also, if you’re eating polished white rice, combine it with vegetables, lentils and yoghurt. The fibre in the vegetables and lentils lowers the glycaemic index of the entire meal. Rice also contains the amino acid missing in lentils.

Therefore, our traditional combination of dal and chawal is actually a complete protein. You can also opt for high-fibre and nutrient-rich varieties such as brown, red and black rice. Packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals, just a cup of cooked brown rice provides you 88 per cent of your required daily amount of manganese, a mineral that supports bone health and prevents the onset of osteoporosis.

It also contains the trace mineral selenium, a powerful antioxidant, along with magnesium and phosphorus that are essential for strong bones. Add to that a good amount of B6 that promotes healthy skin (among many other benefits) and you have a ‘superfood’ that is probably already in your kitchen. Because of its rich fibre content brown rice is an effective tool against heart disease because the fibre binds with the cholesterol to pull it out of the body.

Sadly, rice has faced the same destiny as wheat. From more than a lakh indigenous varieties, the number has come down to less than 6000 today. How many of them are actually available to us? When we eat indigenous grains we’re eating the food meant for us according to our genetics and geographic location.

When we eat locally, we eat in harmony with the land, the seasons and our own body types. eating a wide variety of each ingredient and food in general gives us that many more nutrients. If there are any rules of beauty food I’d say it would be these three—eat local, seasonal and also a wide variety of foods. Because rice is such a staple, it’s even more essential to rotate its variants so that with each spoonful we get more nutrition.

Tradition

Ayurveda considers unpolished, long-grain basmati rice superior to other varieties. In both taste and post-digestive affect (called vipaka), basmati is sweet. This means that it is comforting, strengthening and nourishing for the tissues. It has a cooling effect on the body and is a purely sattvic food that helps balance all the doshas. However, unpolished basmati is recommended over the polished variety.

Application

Traditionally, it is recommended that rice must be cooked in a copper vessel to enhance all its properties. Copper is an essential trace mineral that is responsible for collagen production; therefore cooking in a vessel made with this metal makes rice a beauty food. You can also add one or two pinches of cumin seeds and two or three black peppercorns to rice while cooking so it becomes light and easy to digest.

According to Ayurveda it is best to begin your meal with something sweet. It cuts down your appetite and tendency to binge by half. Therefore, a small quantity of rice mixed with ghee and unrefined sugar (khand) can be eaten first. This sweet rice treat is also considered immensely moisturizing and nourishing for the entire body. However, you must never drink anything cold with your meals as the ghee will congeal and feel heavy in your body.

How to Cook Rice for Nutrition

While most people tend to drain the water after cooking rice, by doing so you are throwing away the amino acids. You should cook rice in a way that the water gets fully absorbed into the grain and it holds on to its nutrients. The water from boiled rice is considered so nutritious that often just the liquid is recommended for people with poor appetite or those recovering from an illness. Even women who have menstrual problems are given Ayurvedic medicine along with this water.

How to Cook Rice for Weight Loss

Rice should be soaked for at least an hour so that the enzymes present in them become easier to digest. It also leeches out any harmful chemicals through the process of osmosis.

Another way to cook rice is to add a spoonful of coconut oil in the water while it is boiling. The oil mixes with the starch in the rice and alters the composition of the starch molecules.

After the rice is cooked and the extra water drained, it should be chilled. This creates resistant starches (starches that resist digestion) that the body uses as fibre rather than carbs. This stays even after the rice is reheated before consumption.

@Penguin Random House India

Editor’s note: This exclusive extract is taken from Vasudha Rai’s GLOW: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty, Inside and Out (with permission from Penguin Random House India)

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