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David Sparks Ph.d Facts of Rice
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: February 12, 2019

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I got an email about the facts of rice and it was so interesting, I feel compelled to read it to you.

Rice is the oldest known food and is still widely consumed today. It is the primary staple food of more than half the world’s population -- more than 3 billion people.

Genetic studies conducted in 2001 revealed that all forms of Asian rice, sprang from a single farming region that occurred 8,200–13,500 years ago in the Pearl River valley region of Ancient China.

From there, rice spread to farms in South and Southeast Asia and was introduced to Europe through Western Asia, and to the Americas through European colonization. To this day, rice is grown anywhere there is water much like is has been grown in Asia on flooded terraces adjacent to wetlands and riparian zones.

In many cultures, rice is a symbol for life and fertility, which is how throwing rice at weddings became a global tradition.

In India, rice is associated with prosperity and with the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.

In numerous countries, the word rice is interchangeable with the word food.

In China rather than asking “How are you?” people will say “Have you had your rice today?” to which one is expected to say “Yes, of course”.

Chinese architects during Ming dynasty (1300-1600) used rice in the walls of the city of Nanjing to add strength and stability to the cement.

The name for the Toyota automobile company translates as “Bountiful Rice Field” and is associated with luck and fortune.  The Japanese brand, Honda, translates to “The Main Rice Field”. 

Rice is Important Everywhere

Today, rice provides 20% of the world’s dietary energy supply, while wheat supplies 19% and maize (corn) 5%. In many countries, particularly in Asia, rice accounts for more than 70% of the calories people take in.

The average American consumes 25 pounds of rice per year, four of which come from beer. Asians eat as much as 300 pounds of rice annually, while individuals in the United Arab Emirates consume about 450 pounds.

While rice is classified into short, medium and long grained, there are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that are grown on every continent except on Antarctica. 

Nearly 85% of the rice consumed in the United States is grown on small family farms across the six rice-producing states: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.  A barrel of rice weighing about 170 pounds, sells for $17 in Mississippi, which is down from $18 last year. Half of the rice produced in the U.S. is exported, and American farmers seek greater access to foreign markets where rice prices have been rising. In the Philippines, prices are at an all-time high, and government leaders are scrambling to stabilize the markets. The farmers are doing really well, but the high prices hurt poor families.

Rice and Nutrition

Rice is a complex carbohydrate, that also contains protein and many important vitamins and nutrients that are needed to maintain a healthy, balanced diet:

• Rice as a complex carbohydrate, an important source of fuel for our bodies. Simple carbohydrates—like those found in white bread—digest quickly and provide a short burst of energy. But complex carbohydrates provide a more even, steady source of energy.

• Rice is low in calories and is a good source of protein. It contains the eight essential amino acids, which help the body break down food, repair body tissue, and perform many other key functions.

• Rice is loaded with vitamins and nutrients. It contains thiamin, niacin, phosphorous, iron, potassium, and folic acid.

• Rice is one of the few foods that are non-allergenic, has no sodium or cholesterol and barely any fat. Unlike most carbohydrates, rice is naturally gluten free.

• Brown, wild, or basmati rice are healthy choices for diabetics. They have a lower glycemic index than most other carbohydrates, are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized, causing a lower and slower rise in blood glucose levels. Harvard researchers have found that Americans who eat two or more servings of brown rice a week reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 10 percent, compared to those who eat it less than once a month.

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