Seed World

Researchers Elevate Health Benefits Found in Rice with New Technologies

A team of researchers from the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans, La. are working to provide the world with more healthful rice. As one of the primary staples for half of the globe, the team is developing new technologies to make rice a more valuable commodity, according to a release.

“We’re interested in processing treatments that enhance resistant starch and other bioactive components,” said Stephen Boue, a research chemist in SRRC’s Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research unit. “We’re also using whole grain sprouts from rice to develop unique functional foods, like rice beverages and enhanced rice flour as a cooking ingredient.”

Bioactive compounds including lycopene, lignan and tannin have the potential to promote good health. Studies are in the works to uncover their role in combating diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

One new advancement is a rice variety that contains 8-10% resistant starch. Cooked rice usually has one to two percent starch that resists digesting, making the newer varieties more beneficial to human health.

“Resistant starch has many health benefits, like the prevention of diabetes, fat loss, better insulin resistance and reduced risk of colorectal cancer,” explained Boue.

In addition to its health benefits, the new variety brings color to plates across the globe.

“Red and purple whole grain rice offer U.S. consumers more colorful and healthy options to put on their plates,” added Boue. “They provide some of the same antioxidants as fruits, like grapes and blueberries. Additionally, the food industry can use these new rice varieties to make novel foods, particularly snack foods.”

SRRC sensory scientist Ryan Ardoin developed one of the new products: a rice-based horchata. While horchata made with white rice can currently be found on the shelves of grocery stores, Ardoin is taking a different spin on the traditional drink by using sprouted rice to enhance the health benefits. The next beverage in the pipeline for Ardoin is a version of iced tea created by cold-brewing purple rice bran.

“I’m excited about exposing consumers to the new colors, flavors, and products from rice and helping to change their perceptions about rice from ‘just a starch’ to ‘something healthy,'” concluded Boue.