Elizabeth S. Reames | 4/19/2005 10:28:28 PM
September is National Rice Month. Rice was the all-star of grains in the recently held XXVIII Summer Olympic games, points out LSU Agricultural Center nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
Of the 1,500 menu items served to athletes, rice was a staple for more Olympians than any other item on the menu. More than 20,000 pounds of five different varieties of uncooked rice—the equivalent of nearly 250,000 servings of cooked rice—was ordered by ARAMARK, the company providing dining services in the Village for the athletes, coaches, staff and officials at the 2004 Summer Games.
From 30 percent to 40 percent of the athletes were from countries where rice is a mainstay in their diets. Meals served to fuel Olympic athletes included rice and rice dishes and many different varieties of rice—from short and long grain to white and brown to red and black.
"Rice is delicious, nutritious, economical and versatile," Reames says, noting, "Rice is an excellent source of energy-rich carbohydrate."
A half-cup cooked serving of rice has only 103 calories, primarily from complex carbohydrates, the body’s preferred fuel source. Research shows that eating carbohydrates is important for optimal performance.
Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen and provide the energy for sports and other activities. Most U.S. rice is enriched with iron, niacin, thiamin and folic acid.
Rice is considered to have one of the highest quality protein profiles compared to other grains. It contains no cholesterol and is practically fat-free and sodium-free. In addition, rice contains iron and zinc and packs in folic acid and other B-vitamins necessary to convert food into energy.
The Institute of Medicine recommends a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates daily, with 45 percent to 65 percent of daily calories coming from carbohydrates, more for athletes.
"At 22 grams per one-half cup cooked serving, rice is considered a good source of carbohydrates and has only a trace of fat, no cholesterol and no sodium, making it an ideal food for athletes," Reames emphasizes.
The USA Rice Federation conducts programs to build awareness of the many attributes of rice and increasing worldwide demand for U.S. rice. Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri produce high-quality varieties of short, medium and long-grain rice, as well as specialty rices.
American-grown rice is a clean product that does not need washing or rinsing before or after cooking. In fact, rinsing rice or cooking rice in excess water and draining, results in loss of enrichment and other water-soluble vitamins, according to Reames. For best results, always follow package directions.
For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com
/Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.