Rice with benefits: CSIRO brings the rice we like with the healthy bits we need
RICE is loved all over the world and Australia is no exception; from scrumptious sushi to perfect paella we’ve embraced every righteous rice dish that comes our way, writes CSIRO blogger Eliza Keck
Our obsession with rice isn’t going anywhere, but unfortunately, our waistlines are, and too much white rice isn’t helping.
So, what can Australia’s national science agency do to help keep our food tasty and our bodies healthy? Team up with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to make a super-healthy rice of course!
In the thick of it
Before we chow down on our tasty innovation, let’s have a quick recap on the difference between some rice varieties.
You’ve probably heard of brown rice and white rice, but did you know they’re from the same grain? White rice starts out as brown rice but then the grain is ‘polished’ of the outside layers: the husk, bran and germ. It makes it quicker to cook but it also gets stripped of most of the nutrients and fibre, making it a lot less healthy.
Thankfully, the demand for healthier varieties of rice has been on the rise in recent years, and that’s where our innovation comes in.
We’ve identified a variety of rice that has an outer layer (called the aleurone) that is four to twelve times thicker than usual rice. By studying this variety, we’ve uncovered the gene responsible for the tiny change that makes this dramatic shift happen in grain development.
This breakthrough means it may be possible to get all the nutritional value and gut health promoting fibre of wholegrain rice from varieties we prefer to eat.
And if a healthier version of brown rice doesn’t appeal to you, the thick aleurone grain means food processors have more options to lightly polish and retain some of the many healthy properties of the rice while approaching the taste and texture of white rice. The new and improved grain can also be turned into a delicious wholegrain rice flour, making the base of so many meals extra nutritious.
Wheat until you see what’s next …
This new innovation has been successfully tested by breeders in China in red and black-grained rice varieties which are increasingly popular as wholegrain foods in China. The new varieties are being grown with little or no effect on growth and yield of the rice, so it’s a win for farmers and a win for consumers.
With our newfound understanding of the gene that makes more of the healthy outer layer, we’re teaming up with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences to see if we can use that knowledge to create healthier wheat, barley and sorghum. We’re also working with our friends at the University of Melbourne to further increase the nutritional content of our rice-based culinary creations.
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This CSIRO blog by author Eliza Keck, Healthier rice is extra nice, was first published on the CSIRO website on October 16, 2018. It’s based on scientific paper CSIRO recently published – its key points are below.
- Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and CSIRO might just have found a way to make your brown rice even healthier by developing a variety that has a much thicker and nutrient dense outer layer.
- Much of the nutritional value of rice, like other cereal grains is contained in the outer layers of the grain but the white rice we all enjoy is polished, removing much of the nutritional value. That’s why wholegrain foods are preferred.
- The scientists identified a variety of rice that has an outer layer (called the aleurone) that is 4 to 12 times thicker than usual rice.
- They have also uncovered the gene responsible and the tiny change that makes this dramatic shift happen in grain development.
- The scientists believe this knowledge could be applied to other cereal grains such as wheat and barley and are already making strides to this end.
- This breakthrough means it may be possible to get all the nutritional value and gut health promoting fibre of wholegrain rice (and other cereals) from varieties we prefer to eat.
- Although most, especially in Asian cultures still prefer white rice, this new innovation has been successfully tested by breeders in China in red and black-grained rice varieties which are increasingly popular as wholegrain foods. The new varieties are being grown with little or no effect on growth and yield of the rice.
CSIRO is accelerating its efforts to copy this research in wheat and barley and also collaborating with researchers in the University of Melbourne to further enrich nutrient accumulation in the rice grain.