By VERONICA PULUMBARIT
When I first saw brown rice as a child, I was told, “Huwag yan, maruming bigas yan.”
Well it turns out not all rice are created equal, with brown rice seeming to have the upper hand. Brown rice is, in fact, not dirty. It is a healthy choice being rich in B vitamins and potent antioxidants that fight cancer.
During the Brown Rice Campaign bloggers night at Sev’s Café in Manila on Tuesday, Jed Alegado of anti-poverty organization Oxfam said the “dirty-looking” feature of brown rice is actually the healthy “bran,” the hard outer layers of the rice grains.
Alegado explained that the Philippines has had brown rice since the 1950s but it has largely been edged out in popularity by white rice, which is generally considered “classy” and of better quality.
Oxfam International, together with the non-government organization Dakila, ,launched “The Good Food Project” to promote brown rice this year which is the National Year of Rice.
The Good Food Project cites several reasons for promoting brown rice:
(1) Good for one’s health – Citing medical experts and nutritionists, the Good Food Project said brown rice is rich in dietary fiber needed to fight diabetes. It is also high in phytic acids that combat cancer and proteins that prevent cardiovascular diseases.
(2) Good for the environment – Brown rice requires only one milling process unlike white rice which needs two. This means that brown rice requires lesser fuel use. The Good Food Project also noted that the organic means of producing brown rice eliminates the use of insecticides and pesticides.
(3) Good for the farmers – The Good Food Project said an increase in demand for brown rice will open economic opportunities for farmers. The cost of producing brown rice is also much smaller compared to white rice.
(4) Good for the country – According to Oxfam, if more Filipinos will shift to brown rice, the country’s problem about over-importation of rice can be solved. Oxfam said the milling recovery of brown rice is 10 percent higher than white rice. This means that if you will mill the same quantities of brown and white rice, you will get 10 percent more sacks of rice from brown rice compared to white rice.
While brown rice is seen as “dirty”, it is actually a little more expensive than white rice. While white rice generally sells for P30 per kilo and up, brown rice sells as much as P55 to P90 per kilo.
According to a flyer distributed by the brown rice advocates that night, only two independent distributors sold brown rice at only P40 per kilo: AG Agro-Eco Ventures and PARAGOS-Pilipinas.
The Good Food Project also noted the prices of some organic rice brands sold in supermarkets or groceries:
· Prime Organics P130 (two kilos)
· Jordan Farms P70 (800 grams)
· Farms and Cottages P157.50 (two kilos)
The other Metro Manila organic brown rice distributors cited by The Good Food Project included:
· RR Trade (P55 per kilo)
· Bios Dynamis (P90 per kilo)
In an interview with GMA News Online, Atty. Ipat Luna, owner of Sev’s Café and a brown rice advocate, said the way to lower the price of brown rice is to encourage more people to shift from white to brown rice.
“Kailangan dumami tayong kumakain ng brown rice. Kahit man lang gradual o kung gusto ng tao, isang araw isang linggo magsimula, o kaya haluan yung kanilang white rice ng brown,” said Luna (Disclosure: Luna is married to Howie Severino, editor-in-chief of GMA News Online).
The Good Food Project is promoting the transition to brown rice through the hashtags #brb and #BrownRiceBiyernes.
The group is encouraging people to transition to brown rice by consuming it once a week – every Friday.
“Pag hindi tayo dumami [brown rice consumers] novelty item pa rin yan. Kaya mataas pa rin ang presyo. Pero napansin ko, bumababa na siya. Makakahanap ka na ng P45 at P50 pesos sa groceries. Hindi nga lang siya organic pero it’s still better than white rice,” Luna said.
Luna also encouraged parents to start their children on brown rice at a young age.
“Pag nasanay sila sa brown kahit later on magustuhan nila yung white, it just becomes a choice pero sanay sila sa brown,” Luna stated.
As for the popularity of white over brown rice, Luna said it was generational matter. “Yung nanay ko, ayaw na ayaw niya yung brown kasi yun yung panahon ng Hapon, yun ang palay nung gyera, yung bigas na di mamill dahil na kakainin mo na lang kahit brown. Feeling mo taghirap. May notion siyang ganun.”
However, she noted that brown rice is now seen by many as the “sosyal rice” especially as the food trend right now is toward healthier and organic options.
She noted that many restaurants are offering only brown rice, including her own café. “We want people to get used to it as a rice, as a regular part of their diet.”
Luna explained that eating too much rice in general is not healthy. With brown rice, people tend to consume less rice as it is more filling.
On cooking brown rice to perfection, Luna suggests soaking the rice in water for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking in a rice cooker. — DVM, GMA News