An essential component of the Indian diet, Rice has since centuries symbolized fertility, wealth and good health. It is one of the staple foods in many places of the world and particularly in India. There are many benefits of eating Rice and Ayurveda recommends the long-grained rice for its Saatvic nature, high prana (or vital force) as well as for its easy digestive properties.
In India, rice is of much importance. It is used in pujas/ prayers, thrown at newlyweds to bless them with healthy offspring and also given as the first food to babies during the time of annaprashana, the Hindu rite of introducing solids to infants.
Rice, also known as “Anna” contributes to the sweet taste to your diet. It is known to balance the Vata and Pitta and can be combined with vegetables, pulses, nuts to make it wholesome and nutritious.
Ayurveda believes that anytime is a good time for rice. It looks not only at the quality of the rice itself, but who’s eating it and when. Even old rice is proven to have a great healing effect on the body and hence Ayurveda recommends the consumption of old rice to everyone. Out of several varieties of rice available most common ones are polished rice, unpolished rice, parboiled rice, boiled rice, basmati rice, etc.
With its low-fat, low-calorie, high nutritional, gluten-free and non-allergenic properties, every variety of rice is gaining popularity today.
Some of the varieties of rice that are native to India are:
- Shastika Shali: It is the rice that is harvested in 60 days. This rice is Oryza sativum and in Malayalam, it is called Navara Rice. It is one of the best varieties of rice, known to be Snigdha (unctuous/ oily), and is useful in treating diseases of Vata origin such as constipation, bloating, neuralgia, paralysis, etc. It is also considered Tridoshahara meaning balances all the three body dosha or elements. Consumption of this rice removes fatigue, tiredness and useful in the treatment of asthma, chronic respiratory disorders, chest injuries, cough, cold, dysuria and very useful in improving shukra dhatu or increasing sperm count. It is a wholesome diet that one could consume. Yellow and brown variety of this rice is cultivated in India and Indonesia.
This rice has a very low glycemic index and hence useful in diabetes, it has higher protein content about 16.5%, Thiamin about 26-32%, Riaboflavin 4-24% and Niacin 2-36%. The rice is rich in fibers too and has an anti-carcinogenic effect on the body. It is extensively used in Panchakarma treatments for Shastika Shali Pinda Sweda. It is also known to help manage neuromusculoskeletal problems.
- Rakta Shali – Rakta means red and shali means rice is a natural red rice variant and can be considered as Oryza punctata. Rakta Shali too is Tridoshahara i.e. it pacifies the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It has a high medicinal value and is rich in antioxidants, calcium, zinc, iron, and other minerals. It is known to nourish and energize the body, promotes strength, increases production of shukra/ semen, improves metabolism, enhances lactation if given to new mothers and is wholesome in all the diseases. Awareness of this variety of rice is slowly increasing and now it is available in many parts of India.
It contains 68.75% of Iron, 66.69% of Carbohydrate, 30% Zinc, 14% Protein, 14% Fat, 7.11% Fiber and 5.45% Potassium.
- Maha Shali – Charaka Samhita explains Mahashali as long and fragrant rice, more popularly known as the Basmati rice. This type of rice can alleviate the pitta dosha. It is sweet to taste and is cold in potency. Basmati rice is saatvic in nature, is easy for digestion and provides strength and satisfaction. It is available in two varieties – brown and white variety. The glycemic index of Basmati rice is low compared to other white rice and in the brown variety, it is even lower. It is a good source of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber. It also has vitamin B and amino acids. The Rasa dhatu is enhanced when consumed. It is considered as queen of fragrance in rice and king of rice.
- Krishna Shali – Black Rice is not that popular but it is one of the varieties of rice with high nutrition value, popular in many Asian countries. It is also called the Forbidden rice – traditionally grown and consumed by ancient Chinese emperors. Krishna shali is considered as Tridoshaghna (pacifies all the three doshas) and especially acts on pitta. It has a sweet taste and is also sweet after digestion. It is highly rich in protein, iron, fibers and also has the highest anti-oxidant when compared to all rice varieties. When consumed it has a good effect on skin and imparts beauty and skin color, it enhances strength, stability and increases fertility rate. It can be used along with brown rice to make puddings and other sweet dishes.
There are many more varieties of rice that are available in the market but these above varieties of rice are considered to be the best in Ayurveda.
So, is rice good to consume?
There are several doctors today who advise their patients not to consume rice if they are suffering from high blood sugar levels (diabetic)/ if they are obese/ or have high cholesterols. When doctors say rice they mean white rice. The barn and fibers in white rice are removed by polishing it and so it is empty in its nutritional value and makes it equivalent to refined grains. White rice, like white bread, is just refined carbohydrates. It digests quickly and increases the sugar level in the body.
Consumption of this would definitely increase weight in the person and the glycemic index of white rice is 89% which means to say that the sugar levels have peaked after consumption of polished rice. So it very important to understand that shifting from usage of polished rice to unpolished rice would help you. Unpolished rice has all the essential nutrients required and is also filling. Consuming it with lots of vegetables will provide you with strength and stamina to the body. Consuming unpolished rice or the variety of rice mentioned above would help in the reduction of blood sugar levels and also reduces the risk of obesity.
Ghee Rice: There are few pleasures on earth that rival the taste of freshly cooked rice flavored with ghee. You can either add ghee while boiling the water or top the cooked rice with spices heated in Ghee.
Kitchari: A rice dish highly recommended by Ayurveda is the Kitchari. Kitchari or Kichadi, made by mixing rice and moong dal and spices is tridoshic; balancing all three doshas and, especially when cooked with spices, is appropriate for each dosha. It is very nourishing and relatively easy to digest, generally not creating abdominal gas or bloating. Read the recipe here.
Amla Rice: Also call Gooseberry rice, Amla rice has several health benefits. Amla is rich in Vitamin C, calcium and iron. It has amla rasa (Sour taste) and Madhura vipaka (sweet after digestion). Amla rice can pacify Vata, Pitta and Kapha dosha. Amla rice is anti-inflammatory and is a natural antioxidant. This rice is also good for respiratory disorders, heart disorders, skin, eyes, hair, and nails. It is a very good rejuvenator and increases immunity and youthfulness of the person. Amla is one of the best Rasayana herbs know to Ayurveda.
How to make Amla Rice.
- Cooked Rice – 2 Cups
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Mustard Seeds – 2 tsp
- Urad Dal – 2 tsp
- Curry Leaves – 20 leaves
- Turmeric – ¼ tsp
- Roasted Peanuts – 2 tbsp
- Salt – to taste
- Fenugreek Powder – 1 tsp (Dry roast Fenugreek seeds and powder
- Amla (Indian Gooseberry) – 10
- Dry Red Chilly – 4
Method of preparation:
- Wash amla and cut into 2 pieces and deseed them
- Grind amla with dry chilly until it forms a paste without using water.
- Take a heavy bottomed pan and heat the oil – add mustard wait till it crackles. Then and urad dal and roast till light brown.
- Add curry leaves and turmeric powder and sauté for a few seconds.
- Mix in the peanuts and roast for a few minutes.
- Next, add ground amla dry chilly mixture to it and stir all the ingredients well in a low flame and wait till the rawness of amla goes away.
- Finally add the fenugreek powder, rice and salt and combine all the ingredients well.
- Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to rest for about 2 minutes before serving.