Make white rice healthier by adding coconut oil and cooling the rice: Study

SINGAPORE - White rice has been denounced by many for its link to a higher risk of diabetes, but research in Sri Lanka shows there is a way to make it healthier.

Mr Sudhair James, an undergraduate student at the College of Chemical Sciences, and his professor Pushparajah Thavarajah believe they found a way to cook white rice that can reduce its calories by as much as 50 per cent.

The new method involves adding coconut oil to water while it is boiling, before adding raw rice, then cooling the rice in a refrigerator for about 12 hours.

"We added coconut oil, about 3 per cent of the weight of the rice you're going to cook," Mr James told Washington Post. He said that heating it up again does not undo the benefits of this cooking method.

He presented his preliminary research at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society on March 23.

In explaining the food chemistry behind the research, Washington Post said that this way of cooking changes the starch in white rice into "resistance starch," which cannot be digested by the body. Such rice therefore contributes fewer calories. There are typically 200 calories in a cup of cooked white rice.

Nutritionist Pooja Vig, who runs The Nutrition Clinic at Camden Medical Centre , said that research into such resistant starch has been ongoing for five to eight years.

"Given that the same thing can be done with potato, this is not surprising," she told The Straits Times. She said that the fat in the rice will not make it unhealthy, considering the small amount that needs to be used.

Ms Vig, who has been a nutritionist for 10 years, said another benefit of resistant starch is that it "feeds" probiotics, which are good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics aid in good digestion and immunity, and manufacture vitamins, she said.

While the research shows that white rice can be healthier, she cautioned that people in Singapore already eat too much rice, and should cut down on their intake.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg