Joan M. King
This fiber-like food ingredient has many healthful benefits, and it can be produced from broken rice kernels.
Any way to add value to rice can be of great benefit to Louisiana’s rice industry. One of the targets for research by the LSU AgCenter is broken rice kernels. Now, these less-than-perfect kernels bring less than a third of the value of whole rice grains. They are sold primarily to breweries for brewing beer.
A growing use for broken rice kernels, however, is to make rice flour. The food industry is finding more uses for rice flour because of its many healthful properties. Not only is rice flour low in fat but it includes hypoallergenic proteins. Rice flour is used in many foods including baby foods, cereal, chips and crackers.
The unique properties of rice flour also make it a prime candidate for producing resistant starch, a food ingredient that acts like fiber in the human body and thus provides the health benefits of fiber. Insoluble fiber passes through the gastrointestinal tract intact. Soluble fiber and resistant starch, on the other hand, get fermented in the large intestine, which is where the health benefits come into play.
Benefits of resistant starch include improved glucose regulation and better weight control, reduced constipation, reduced colon cancer risk, and reduced blood cholesterol and triglycerides. Resistant starch also may lower insulin demand by the body and be of benefit to diabetics as they try to regulate their blood glucose within a normal range.
At the LSU AgCenter, research is being conducted on the use of enzymes, additives and other processing techniques on rice flour to enhance resistant starch content. Patent applications have been filed on the related discoveries.
There is a potential of a 10-fold increase in the value of rice flour through the development of rice starch-based ingredients, such as resistant starch. The results of this research will provide increased monetary returns for broken rice kernels, which make up 15 percent of milled rice in the United States. Rice varieties that may have excellent agronomic traits but lack acceptability by consumers because of negative cooking or other characteristics may also be used for value-added food ingredient development.
This research will benefit everyone in the rice industry by providing an expanded use of rice and an increased demand for rice and rice products, as well as providing a healthy choice for consumers.(This article was published in the winter 2007 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)