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For the Love of Rice


by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes


Rice is an important and sacred food staple across the world and has many nourishing health benefits. It is a sattvic (pure) food, with clear, light & smooth qualities and a sweet flavor. Rice is a symbol of fertility and prosperity and is used ceremonially in many cultures. Rice is thrown after weddings and at celebrations. Powdered rice is mixed with dye to make art and mandalas (kolam or rangoli). Rice is used in offerings to temples and the earth. It is a grain in the grass family and is grown in rice paddies where there is an abundance of water. It is often grown on terraced hillsides in countries such as Bali, India, China, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia.


Rice balances all three doshas, is gluten free and uncommon to have allergies to rice, making it safe for most people to consume regularly. Different varieties of rice have different qualities, which can alter the balance of the doshas in an individual. There are over 40,000 varieties of rice, each with different qualities based on their place of origin and constituents. Common varieties are red rice, black, jasmine, brown, basmati, short grain, long grain, sushi rice, wild rice, etc. Of all of these types, Ayurveda suggests basmati rice because it is the most tri-doshic and sattvic.


Rice is somewhat cooling to the body, but not to the point where it easily vitiates vata or kapha doshas (both doshas have cold qualities). Rice is commonly eaten with hot spicy dishes as a balancing and cooling carbohydrate. Rice is very digestible, nourishing and gently detoxifying. It is a great source of fiber that supports digestive health and prevents constipation. It contains many B vitamins and minerals and is a great source of fuel for the body. Rice builds ojas (vitality) by nourishing the deepest tissue layers.


Although it is true that brown rice has more nutrients than white rice, it can’t always be digested. If we eat foods that we can’t digest, ama (toxins) build up in the body and can cause many imbalances. The inability to digest brown rice may come from low agni (digestive fire) or a buildup of ama that interferes with absorption and assimilation. Brown rice has a higher level of naturally occurring arsenic, which is another caution to consider in eating a lot of rice. Brown rice is best cooked in a pressure cooker where it can be fully cooked for optimal digestion and it should be chewed thoroughly.


It is common to eat rice, drink rice water or eat congee after a cleanse or when the stomach is upset. Congee is a rice porridge made with lots of water and is supportive to reignite the digestive fire. It can be made sweet or savory, with veggies and broth, or butter and coconut and other ingredients. Rice pudding is a nice cooling dessert that can help balance high pitta dosha. Because rice is already so digestible, making porridge or pudding with a high volume of liquid makes a very easy recipe for the belly.


Rice is great as a plain dish or with spices and other veggies. There are super flavorful rice dishes such as pulao, biryani, pineapple fried rice, paella, etc. It can also be simple, with just cumin, cilantro, fennel, ginger, cardamom or thyme. Some of these herbs are stimulating to digestion and will help carry the nourishing qualities of rice deeper into the tissues.


May we all enjoy and be nourished by rice! :)


9/6/23

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