March 31, 2023

The public is encouraged to consume healthier rice produced by Filipino farmers as the country observes the month-long celebration of the National Rice Awareness Month (NRAM) this November.

The celebration, which kicks off on Nov. 8, raises awareness on the importance of healthier forms of rice that are locally produced, such as pigmented and brown rice.

Food scientist Marissa V. Romero of the Department of Agriculture-PhilRice said the health benefits of rice depend on its type.

“White or milled or polished rice is a good source of carbohydrates that provide the energy needed in our daily functions. It also contains six to 10 percent protein. Unfortunately, this kind of rice has a relatively high glycemic index (GI), which indicates a faster conversion of carbohydrates to sugars, particularly glucose,” she said.

Romero recommends the consumption of brown or unpolished rice as it has more fiber, minerals, and vitamins, particularly B vitamins.  Brown rice also has a lower GI than white rice.

“This type of rice is rich in nutrients because its bran is kept intact. Thus, its consumption could help prevent obesity and the onset of lifestyle diseases, as shown by some clinical studies,” she said.

Pigmented rice such as black or red rice contains phytochemicals in the bran.

“These phytochemicals have high antioxidant activity that strengthens our bodies against chronic lifestyle diseases. They scavenge free radicals, which usually destroy body cells and cause health complications such as poor eyesight, diabetes, atherosclerosis (blood flow restriction due to fat buildup), and cancer,” she said.

Romero also talked about Golden Rice, a type of rice with beta-carotene, which can be converted into Vit. A as needed by the body.

Studies show that a cup of cooked Golden Rice can provide 30 to 50 percent estimated average requirement of Vit. A for pre-school children and two cups for school children and adults.

The Vit. A-enriched rice has recently been granted a biosafety approval for commercial propagation.

Following this approval, DA-PhilRice is now working on the remaining few important steps such as the varietal registration and seed increase.

Once these are completed, Golden Rice will be deployed through market and program based approaches to promote nutrition in the diet of the Filipinos, especially in this time of pandemic. The inaugural deployment of Golden Rice will be administered by the third quarter of 2022 in areas with high prevalence of Vit. A deficiency.

Consumers are also urged to patronize rice produced by Filipino farmers as based on a comparative study, the country’s rice is generally less exposed to pesticides than imported rice.

Activities will include healthy rice exhibits, media engagement, and social media activities like posting of rice trivias, promotion of healthy rice, patronage of local rice, and not wasting the staple food.

The public is also reminded to avoid wastage to help achieve rice security.

The 2018 Household Food Consumption Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed a household wastes 72 percent or 66.8g of cereal products and cereals including rice in a plate.

NRAM is observed pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 524, s. 2004. This year’s activities include rice exhibit, posting of rice trivia, #BeRICEponsiblyHealthy virtual run, and media engagements promoting patronage of local rice, not wasting the staple food, and consuming healthy rice. – Press release