Reducing the dietary intake of cereals and grains is becoming more popular, particularly for people conscious of gut health and those on anti-inflammatory diets.
Rice is in the family of grains (cereal and grain are used interchangeably), sitting alongside wheat, corn or maize, barley, oats, rye and spelt, among others. By definition, a cereal is any grass grown for the edible components of its grain, composed of the endosperm, germ and bran.
Rice is considered gluten-free because it does not contain the group of proteins, called prolamins and glutelins, which affect people with coeliac disease.
Brown rice is considered a healthier option compared to white rice because it contains all parts of the grain (whole grain) — including the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ and the carb-rich endosperm. White rice, on the other hand, has had the bran and germ removed, which are considered the most nutritious parts of the grain. - Healthline
An increasing number of people are choosing to cut down their grain intake, including rice, or to cut it out altogether, to reduce inflammation in the body to relieve symptoms of autoimmune disorders.
Replacing rice and other cereals is not as cumbersome as you might think. There are several healthy rice alternatives that are easy to make, high in nutritional value and have benefits when it comes to managing inflammation and digestion.
Below are some of our favourite rice substitutes, along with advice on how to cook them.
All of the recommendations below are easy to find at grocery stores. Some can be grown in your garden.
1. Quinoa or other pseudocereals
Quinoa sits under the pseudo-cereal grouping, alongside buckwheat and amaranth. Pseudo-cereals are non-grasses used in the same way as cereals. They lack the toxic seed proteins found in cereals with gluten and have high nutritional value, making them a good rice substitute.
Quinoa comes in different varieties; the most commonly known is red, black and white quinoa. It's a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. It's packed with good nutritional value and research suggests it has pre-biotic potential, along with other properties that make it a favourable food when it comes to gut health. You can learn more about the benefits of quinoa in our blog ' What makes Quinoa a Quin”woah”?
We use organic quinoa as a key ingredient in our Sundried Tomato & Basil, Caramalised Garlic & Chive and Black Truffle & Thyme patties because of it's nutritional and digestive benefits.
How To Cook Quinoa:
It is best if you wash quinoa before you start cooking it. Quinoa has a natural coating of saponins, a chemical compound that can be found in many different plant families. If not rinsed off, the saponins create a bitter taste. You can rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.
To cook quinoa, use twice as much water as quinoa - for 1 cup of quinoa use 2 cups of water. Add salt if you wish and bring to the boil. Cook the quinoa uncovered until the liquid has absorbed, usually 15 to 20mins. Once the water is absorbed, remove the pot from the heat, cover it and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes to make it fluffy.
2. Sweet Potato or Kumara
Some people on an anti-inflammatory diet avoid foods in the nightshade family, scientifically called the Solanaceae family, which includes potatoes. Kumara or Sweet Potato belong to the Convolvulaceae family and lack the nightshade alkaloids which have been linked to allergy-related symptoms. So sweet potatoes are considered a good source of carbohydrates for those on anti-inflammatory diets.
There are many ways to cook sweet potato or kumara, you can bake them whole, cut them into cubes or wedges and bake them that way, boil them, boil and mash them, and for a quick cook, stab a few holes in them with a fork and put them in the microwave.
3. Cauliflower rice
Cauliflower rice is a popular rice alternative because it's colour and fluffy texture makes it look and feel similar to rice. Cauliflower is a superfood vegetable that is a good source of anti-cancer phytonutrients, high in vitamin C, vital minerals & dietary fibre. It can help to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, brain disorders, relief from indigestion and aid weight loss. The beneficial properties of cauliflower are why we've selected it as one of the main ingredients in our Caramelised Garlic and Chive patties.
How To Cook Cauliflower Rice:
We recommend the Minimalist Bakers recipe for cooking cauliflower rice:
Cut the cauliflower into small pieces the size of rice either by using a box grater with the medium-size holes traditionally used for cheese, or a food processor with the grater blade to blitz it into small pieces.
Press any excess moisture from the rice by transferring the cauliflower rice to a large paper towel or absorbent dish towel and squeeze/press to remove any remaining water.
Once you have your cauliflower rice, sauté in a large skillet over medium heat in 1 Tbsp oil. Use a lid to cover, so the cauliflower steams and becomes more tender. Cook for a total of 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, then season as desired (such as with soy sauce or salt and pepper).
4. Broccoli Rice
Broccoli is an excellent source of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has well established anti-cancer properties and more recently determined anti-inflammatory properties. Sulforaphane has shown to inhibit particular pro-inflammatory signalling, suggesting it as a way to help control inflammation.1, 2
How To Cook Broccoli Rice:
Use the process recommended for cauliflower rice above, except using broccoli instead of cauliflower.
5. Zucchini Rice
Zucchini, also called courgette, contains a fibre called pectin. Dietary effects of pectin have shown to be effective against endotoxin-induced inflammations, allergic airway inflammations, colitis, pancreatitis, and in supporting colonic anastomosis healing.3
Spiralized zucchini looks and feels more like a pasta than rice, but it serves as a healthy and nutritious filler if you're not picky about the look.
How To Make Zucchini Rice
The first step for making zucchini rice depends on the tools you have in your kitchen. If you have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler or a mandoline slicer, it makes the job easy. Once you have used either of these tools to shred the zucchini, cut into smaller rice-sized pieces. If you don't have either of these tools, you can use a cheese grater or cut the zucchini into tiny pieces using a knife.
Remove as much of the moisture from the zucchini pieces as you can. Add salt and pepper to taste if you wish. You could also consider adding in garlic or onion for flavour.
In a wok or skillet, saute the zucchini rice in the teaspoon of oil for about 2-3 minutes or until it softens. Try to cook off as much of the moisture as you can.
With the increase in food intolerances and inflammatory conditions, more research is being done on the effects of the foods we are consuming on our gut health and immune system.
The success stories from people who have significantly reduced symptoms of inflammation, auto-immune disorders and other chronic conditions by changing their diets are too compelling to disregard food quality as a fundamental factor to our overall wellbeing.
The importance of good food on human health is why we strive to use the best ingredients, choosing organic where possible, using ingredients that have high nutritional value, are allergen-free and gut-friendly. By sharing information and making it easier for people to select nutrients rich, sustainably produced foods, we hope we are doing our part to improve the wellbeing of people and the planet.