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Rice is one of the most popular foods today and is considered a staple in many countries, especially Asia where rice consumption is estimated at 90 percent. Rice usually makes a small part of the larger meal, and since it’s relatively cheap and can be paired with dozens of other foods, it’s easy to understand its popularity. However, many know white rice for being a high-carb food, and for people who want to lose weight, brown rice, which is the least favorite in most recipes, becomes the better option.

Calories in Rice

A cup of white cooked rice carries around 200 calories, which is not as significant considering rice is served in small portions. But the calorie can still affect your weight if consumed regularly. The thing is, rice is made up of two types of starches; the digestible starch and the resistant starch.

Digestible starch is easily converted into glucose and thereafter transformed into glycogen. The problem is that the excess glucose that isn’t converted to glycogen gets transformed into fat and stored in the body, leading to obesity or excessive weight gain. According to researchers, increasing the resistant starches is the key to weight control since it can’t be converted into sugar.

How it Works

Scientists at the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka studied food components and came up with the concept that converting the digestible starch into resistant starch could reduce the calorie content in white rice by up to 50 percent. James Sudhair, the brains behind this new discovery, while presenting his preliminary research at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS,) explained that all you needed to do was to boil water, add coconut oil – three percent of the weight of rice you’re going to cook, and then add the rice. For a cup of rice, you can add two teaspoons of coconut oil. After the rice is cooked, place it in the refrigerator for about 12 hours and that’s it. You’ll simply need to microwave the rice when you want to eat it.

On the surface, this is a simple process. But a lot of chemistry is involved. Pushaparaja Thavarajah, Ph.D., who supervised the research says that hot cooked rice contains loose glucose molecules. When the rice cools down, these molecules restructure themselves to form tight bonds that become more resistant to digestion. Adding coconut oil seemed to provide an extra barrier that further prevents quick digestion. By converting the digestible starch into resistant starch, it prolongs digestion time, isn’t easily transformed into glucose and later glycogen, and therefore, cuts the number of calories.

Calories, calories and more calories

The basis of this research is founded from the scientific phenomenon whereby heating and cooling high digestible starches can modify their chemical composition to a not-easily-digestible type of carbohydrates known as resistant starch. The human digestive system doesn’t have the enzymes to digest this fiber-like indigestible starch. This means that we can’t be able to extract calories – or energy from this type of starch. Other foods like beans naturally contain resistant starch. But with this new insight, it proves that we can convert the digestible starch in white cooked rice into indigestible starch by simply adding coconut oil, and then cooking and cooling the rice. This fact was already known in cooking potatoes, and as James Sudhair explains in his experiment, the oil reacts with the starch in rice creating a whole new compound called “amylose-lipid complex” aka resistant starch type 5, which is indigestible.

Is This Experiment for Real?

As far as science goes, this research can help reduce the number of calories in rice. So, if you like home cooked rice, then you can change the timing and cook it the night before you plan to serve it. Remember to add a teaspoon or two of coconut oil and refrigerate the rice. This not only reduces your dinner making time but also keeps your waistline in check. Reheating the rice doesn’t affect the level of resistant starch and you can even cook pasta using this formula. However, there are a few things you should be aware of. First, it’s not possible to tell the exact number of calories you’ll be avoiding, since it all depends on the variety of rice. For this reason, you need to watch your portions carefully.

Secondly, coconut oil contains calories and you only need to add coconut oil three percent the weight of the rice you’re cooking. Anything more will increase the caloric load of rice that you were trying to avoid in the first place. Using the exact oil measurement ensures that it’s completely utilized as a catalyst in converting the digestible starch into indigestible starch. On a final note, weight loss cannot be controlled by calorie savings alone. You should reduce rice consumption and engage other effective methods like exercising and eating a healthy balanced meal. Likewise, pairing rice with plenty of vegetables and high-protein foods like turkey breast or chicken breast will keep you full for longer, and prevent overeating.

All images by Pixabay

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