Rice is a food staple in many parts of the world. It is a grain. Usually it is stored in a dry form and boiled to prepare it.
Rice comes in many different varieties, and it can be prepared for consumption in many ways. One of the differences is the length of the grain -- usually described as long, medium or short. Another is whether it is sold as the whole grain - brown - or the outside is polished off to make white rice. It can be prepared by boiling to make fluffy bowls of rice or more densely and a bit sticky to hold together in balls or as part of sushi. Like other grains, rice can also be ground into flour which can then be made into bread or pastries, dumplings or used as a thickening ingredient.
Rice is a good accompaniment for many sauces as it does not have a strong flavor itself. Long grained and brown rice varieties tend to have more flavor. When you eat something that is too spicy, rice is a good way to reduce the strength of the spice. It makes a good base to carry other flavors, like the fish or vegetables in sushi or the butter and sugar in Rice Krispies treats.
Wild rice is a related plant, but not actually rice.
Very few people are allergic to rice. So when someone is having trouble with some food or digestion, it is often one of the foods used while slowly introducing other foods to identify the source of the problem.
Although it varies with the type of rice, a cup of cooked rice is approximately 200 calories. Rice is mostly a carbohydrate, but has some fat and an incomplete protein. Combined with beans, you get a complete, vegetarian protein. Brown rice has a higher nutritional content than white rice. Brown rice has roughly five times the amount of fiber as white. Again depending on the type, rice can be a significant source (over 10% of the recommended daily intake with 2,000 calorie diet according to the U.S.D.A.) of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and selenium. It has B and E vitamins, phytonutrients and traces of other nutrients. Some of these nutrients are greatly reduced by the process that polishes off the hull to make white rice. While some people have stayed away from carbohydrates due to fears of weight gain and metabolic disorders such as diabetes, brown rice may actually be helpful in combating these disorders.
Recently (2012) some rice and rice products have been found to have high levels of arsenic. This concern has prompted some suggestions to vary your diet and avoid some foods with concentrated rice extracts. There is some indication that arsenic is less of a problem in organic rice.
In addition to being a useful food, dried rice is a natural desiccant, that is, it will absorb water or humidity. So it you accidentally get water on something that should be kept dry, get rid of as much of the water as you can, then store it for awhile with rice. For instance, if you spill water on a computer keyboard,
- disconnect it from the computer or any power source
- wipe it with a dry cloth,
- turn it keys down for a short time to let water drip out,
- then put it in a bag with rice.
Depending on the amount of water spilled in, the humidity, etc., it should be ready to use again in about 24 hours. This also works for small, handheld electronic devices, like mobile phones or for other things like photographs.
- Rebecca Blood's table comparing the nutritional content of different types of rice
- World's Healthiest Foods on brown rice
- Fitday.com on The Difference between Brown Rice and White Rice
- Self's nutrition data for Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked and Rice, white, long-grain, regular, cooked
- Nutrition Diva on What Type of Rice is Healthiest?
- Wikipedia's article on rice