The spread of diabetes in India, particularly in the south, is associated with the consumption of rice. Recently, studies have established that the causative link to diabetes is with “polished white rice” not any rice. It is increasingly being established that unpolished red and brown rice do not cause diabetes. In fact, red rice is known to have many beneficial health effects and is also nutritionally superior.
Rice is the most important crop for Asians. For us in India, especially in the south, east and north eastern regions, rice is the staple food and it decides the landscape and rural economy. It is our heritage. It is our identity
Unpolished rice is rich in fibre, Vitamins B2, B12, E and other minerals. As the grains are fibre-rich, the rice is digested slowly and the release of sugar into the blood occurs at a slower pace than with white rice.
White rice has come into our families only a few decades back. If we ask our wise grandparents, they would say how they cultivated their paddy lands and used unpolished rice in their kitchens. Infact, there was a time when these terms ‘polished rice’ and ‘unpolished rice’ never existed! The Britishers established rice mills and unfortunately, polished rice came into use.
We all buy polished white rice and are concerned about the “quality” (for us, quality means how silky and bleached the rice is?) and price. We are not aware of how it is cultivated and processed or polished which removes all the vitamins and other nutrients which our body requires.
India had two lakh varieties of rice before Green Revolution. More than five thousand varieties were available in Tamilnadu.of which only 200 varieties are available now. Indian farmers had given up traditional rice varieties for high yielding varieties (HYVs) during the Green Revolution.
Each variety is unique and has healing properties. There are varieties which can withstand flood, heavy winds and some varieties can grow with very less water. Each one caters to people with different needs like one with diabetes, pregnant women, one for lactating mothers due to its high calcium content, and so on… Last but not the least they are tastier!
We as consumers have a bigger role in reviving rice. We have to eat diverse foods, thereby promoting their cultivation to save agro-biodiversity. We need to welcome these treasures into our homes and diets.