Happy National Nutrition Month, readers! Every year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsors activities and educational promotions during the month of March to spread the word about eating well and living your best -- this year, the theme is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right."
When I think about flavor, I think about spices, herbs, umami-rich seasonings, and exotic world cuisine, and all of the ways in which I can infuse daily meals with some of that culinary creativity.
Today, in honor of National Nutrition Month, and in keeping with the theme, I'm discussing a few ways you can take a typically bland, basic ingredient - rice - and make it more flavorful, nutritious, and delicious.
Rice is an ingredient that makes a frequent appearance in my kitchen. Although I adhere to a mostly grain-free diet, I enjoy the occasional rice side dish and find that it fits well into my active lifestyle. Plus, it's an affordable way to bulk up meals and feed my ever-hungry husband. And, as if I needed another reason to regularly enjoy rice, I live in Hawaii where rice is a staple of nearly every meal. There's loco moco, poke bowls, fresh Japanese sushi, and a myriad of other opportunities to make rice shine.
However, as simple as it is to steam up a batch of white rice in a little water, that beloved preparation method doesn't take advantage of all of the nutrition available. Below are some of my favorite methods for making the most out of rice:
Swap water for homemade bone broth, which is rich in minerals, collagen and gelatin. Bone broth gives a rich, sumptuous flavor and texture to rice, plus it offers a myriad of health benefits, not limited to gut healing and skin health.
Punch up the flavor and micronutrient profile with herbs and spices. After dining out at several different ethnic restaurants in one month -- think Indian and Himalayan curries, Moroccan tagines, and classic Tex-Mex -- I realized that I'd been letting an opportunity to jazz up my rice go by without thought. Many cuisines think of rice as a blank canvas to be embellished with herbs and spices, using everything from cumin seeds and cilantro to almonds and currants. Toss your next batch of rice with some fragrant herbs and spices to amp up the flavor and the nutrients, and to make what might have been a bland weeknight meal into a stunning tribute to world cuisine.
Infuse it with fat, risotto-style. Whether that means starting rice in a pat of ghee or adding a hefty dollop of coconut oil after the cooking process finishes, rice is the perfect vehicle for your favorite fat. This is a particularly good tip for the "hard-gainers" out there looking to increase their caloric load in an easy, delicious way. Plus, a healthy serving of a benevolent fat helps your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins found in other foods.
Eat the rainbow and try other, more colorful varieties of rice. There's red rice and pink rice, black rice, jade rice -- if you've relegated your pantry staples to white or brown rice, think outside the box and give the exotic varietals a try. Not only are the subtle flavor differences between the colors remarkable, but each new kind of rice offers a different nutrient profile that serves to increase your micronutrient intake.
Soak and sprout your rice before cooking to disable anti-nutrients and unlock the most nutrition. Used for centuries in traditional cuisine, the soaking and sprouting of grains removes compounds known as anti-nutrients, which can bind to valuable minerals and prevent their absorption in the body. Simply cover the desired amount of dried rice in water, and add a pinch of salt or a splash of acid (lemon juice, vinegar, etc) to stimulate sprouting. Let it soak for 8-24 hours before draining, rinsing, and cooking as normal. As an added bonus, soaking rice has the potential to speed up the cooking process!
Do you have any other tips and tricks for making rice more nutritious?
Image from Unsplash.Com