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Choosing the best rice substitute

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published May 14, 2024 5:00 am

Whenever one desires to lose weight or lower their blood sugar level, the first thing they sadly give up is rice. I was never brave enough to give it up. Horrified by the thought of eating my favorite viands without rice, I tried to postpone the transition as much as possible. 

Rice is a staple for Asians. It’s nutritious and filling. It is also higher in calories and has a higher glycemic index than popular substitutes like barley, quinoa, couscous, bulgur wheat, orzo, farro, potatoes, sweet potatoes, riced cauliflower, riced broccoli, shredded cabbage, and shirataki konjac rice. We are only discussing here the rice substitutes with lower calories than cooked rice (130 calories per 100 grams). 

Cauliflower rice—24 calories per 100 grams—has 2.4 grams of fiber, five grams of carbohydrates, and two grams of protein. You can prepare your own by grating cauliflower finely or pulsing it through a food processor. Its texture is comparable to rice. It also absorbs flavors well, and is rich in vitamins C and K. 

Placing the cooked rice with coconut oil in the refrigerator for 12 hours allows the rice to gel and the starchy part of the rice, or the amylose, to leave the grains.

Riced broccoli—29 calories per 100 grams—has 3.5 grams of fiber, 3.5 grams of protein, and five grams of carbohydrates. Its preparation is the same as cauliflower, grated manually or with a food processor. This vegetable has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. It also has 92.5 milligrams of vitamin C. 

Sweet potato—86 calories per 100 grams—has 1.6 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, and three grams of total fiber. It is a tuber packed with micronutrients and minerals, including antioxidants. 

Potato—74 calories per 100 grams—has two grams of protein, 17.6 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.4 grams of fiber. This tuber can be boiled, mashed, riced, or baked just like sweet potato. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cholesterol-lowering, and blood sugar-balancing effects. 

Finely shredded cabbage, green or red, is a very low-calorie substitute for rice that is packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E.

Shredded cabbage—25 calories per 100 grams—has 1.28 grams of protein, 5.8 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.5 grams of fiber. It’s a cruciferous vegetable that can be shredded finely as a side dish. Cabbage has vitamins A, C, and E. Research findings confirm that it helps protect against high cholesterol, pancreatitis, heart ailments, and liver problems.

Shirataki konjac rice—10 calories per 100 grams—has five grams of glucomannan dietary fiber (carbohydrates) and zero protein. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the “zero calorie” claim on the packaging since the caloric value is very low. The konjac vegetable is a root crop that is converted by manufacturers into rice-like grains. 

Unli white rice is a no-no for those who want to trim their tummy, lose weight, or lower their blood sugar levels.

There are other recommendations also, such as shifting from white rice to brown rice, red rice, wild rice, and black rice. In comparison, these varieties are nuttier and chewier. They are less processed and higher in protein, fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Black has the highest antioxidant properties. 

Cooked white rice contains 130 calories per 100 grams, while the number is 111 for brown rice. Red rice has 356 calories per 100 grams, but it is packed with flavonoids. Purple or black rice has 335 calories per 100 grams, but it has the highest levels of antioxidants and a very high fiber content. 

There are many varieties of rice to choose from: Black rice has 335 calories, but it has the highest levels of antioxidants and a very high fiber content.

Squash can also be made into spaghetti noodles. This makes the noodles low in calories, high in fiber, and infused with vitamins and minerals. Lentils and other legumes can also be rice substitutes. Lentils are just 116 calories per 100 grams, green peas are 81 calories per 100 grams, kidney beans are 127 calories per 100 grams. 

Still not willing to try a substitute? Then try a hack on white rice that scientists claim can reduce its calories and glycemic index by a significant percentage. According to research presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the use of coconut oil and refrigeration can slash the calories of white rice by 60%, which means that the calories per 100 grams will go down to 52 calories. 

The technique, they say, is to add a teaspoon of coconut oil to the rice and water mixture that you will cook. Place the cooked rice in the refrigerator for twelve hours before heating it up to eat. The oil enters the starch granules and coats them with a protective layer that changes the structure of the rice. It now becomes less resistant to digestive enzymes, which means that fewer calories from the rice will be absorbed by the body. 

The second step of the alteration is in the cooling process. Placing the cooked rice with coconut oil in the refrigerator for 12 hours allows the rice to gel and the starchy part of the rice, or the amylose, to leave the grains. Hydrogen bonds are also formed between the amylose and molecules outside the grains, converting them to a starch the body cannot digest. 

This resistant starch is not transformed into sugar and not absorbed in the bloodstream. It bypasses the small intestine and is processed in the colon, where it becomes fermented into short-chain fatty acids that feed the good bacteria in our gut. Resistant starch is abundant in legumes, beans, uncooked potatoes, unripe bananas, and whole grains. 

Reheating the refrigerated rice does not affect the alteration of the rice structure and does not reduce the level of resistant starch. Try this hack if you really love your white rice!