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Slashing Calories From Rice (Without Downsizing Your Portions)

Researchers discover adding two simple steps to the cooking process can reduce starch and calorie absorption by up to 60 percent.

Imagine enjoying these fluffy, delicious rice mountains while knowing that more than half the calories zapped away. Photo via Flickr user georgereyes.

Just when I’ve finally mastered the artistry of cooking up a perfect batch of rice, a team of researchers out of Sri Lanka are now telling us there’s a way to do it that cuts down on the starch, and thus calories, you normally absorb post-rice scarfing by up to 60 percent. (And no that doesn’t mean just eating 60 percent less rice). While those who bemoan having to choose between their carbs and skinny jeans are surely rejoicing, the researchers actually undertook this experiment with a more global health angle in mind—combating rising obesity rates around the world. Popular Science reports that statistics show adults in developing countries, in particular, to be a target group where these numbers are climbing alarmingly.

Sharing their discoveries at a convening of the American Chemical Society earlier this week, the team presented an additional two steps to the rice cooking process that would effectively turn rice’s digestible starch into indigestible starch, which the small intestine cannot process, meaning carbs and sugars wouldn’t be absorbed.

Popular Science breaks down the two steps:

First they put a teaspoon of coconut oil into boiling water before adding a half a cup of rice. The oil, the researchers explain, enters the starch granules in the rice, changing their structure to be resistant to the enzymes that would normally break down the starch during digestion.

Secondly, after the rice was done cooking, the researchers refrigerated it for 12 hours. This part is essential, the scientists say, because the cooling process expels the digestible part of the starch; once outside the rice granules, the molecules form strong bonds, turning them into indigestible starch. The amount of indigestible starch didn't change when the rice was later reheated.

Any differences in taste or texture weren’t noted in the presentation, and the team is now planning on experimenting with varieties of rice and oils to see how results may vary or be duplicated.

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