Whether you serve it with curry, use it as the base for a salad, bake it like Ottolenghi, or fry it up with eggs, veg and sesame oil, rice is a staple food that almost everyone has on standby in the cupboard. It’s tasty, filling and already pretty healthy – but did you know there’s a way to cut the calories in your serving even further?
In fact, Metro reports that research presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) highlighted a cooking method that can reduce the number in a typical 240-calorie cup of rice by half.
The secret? Well, as you might expect from the name of the event, it all comes down to chemistry. All you need to do is add a teaspoon of coconut oil to the water before cooking your rice, and then refrigerate it for 12 hours afterwards.
Following this process helps to transform the digestible starch that’s normal found in rice into resistant starch, thereby reducing the number of ‘useable’ calories in the bowl. During testing, which was conducted on 38 different rice from Sri Lanka, when rice was cooked for 40 minutes in the oil and then chilled as suggested, the researchers found 10 times more resistant starch compared to normal rice.
‘Because obesity is a growing health problem, especially in many developing countries, we wanted to find food-based solutions,’ explained team leader Sudhair A. James, from the College of Chemical Sciences, Colombo, Western, Sri Lanka. ‘We discovered that increasing rice resistant starch (RS) concentrations was a novel way to approach the problem.’
Adding the oil to the cooking water changes the structure of the rice, making it more resistant to the action of digestive enzymes in the body.
‘The cooling is essential because amylose, the soluble part of the starch, leaves the granules during gelatinization,’ James added. ‘Cooling for 12 hours will lead to formation of hydrogen bonds between the amylose molecules outside the rice grains which also turns it into a resistant starch.’
Giving the method a go is easy when it comes to cooking, but be careful when it comes to the all-important cooling, as mistakes can lead to food poisoning. The NHS advises that you cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within 1 hour), keep it in the fridge for no more than 1 day until reheating, and check that it’s steaming hot before serving.