Natural Health

Natural Health

Wonderful health food

espite a profusion of confusion on the subject of nutrition, there are some truths that are so crystal clear that they are beyond doubt. Nevertheless although they promote good health and well-being, most people resist changing their lifestyles to respect them. As a consequence ill-health and pill-popping carry on unimpeded in society, and a Nelson’s eye is turned to the glaringly obvious connection between people’s habits and their health. It’s much easier to absolve oneself of responsibility and blame germs and viruses in the atmosphere for one’s ills.

Just to give you an example: brown rice which is capable of radically changing your life for the better, is resisted because of its taste. I know I’ve written and re-written about the virtues of brown rice, but it has many positive environmental outcomes which I had not enumerated earlier. Plus now there’s a fantastic new eco-way of cooking it!

The benefits of brown rice are not limited to the few more nutrients it provides (the extra B vitamins are essential to counter stress). It offers the perfect yin-yang balance, which makes it a rare cereal that positively impacts the human body. It also helps the mind remain alert and clear, and being a staple, it can form a major part of one’s diet.

Moreover the sodium-potassium ratio of brown rice is similar to that of our cells. Ingesting this pure food not only feeds your body, it’s a sure way of keeping your cells healthy and happy, which translates into a fit and healthy body. Need I add that a healthy body creates a happy person free to achieve every dream?

However it’s important to bear in mind that genuine brown rice is whole grain, unpolished rice, and compared to its white (polished) version, one needs much less quantitative intake. This is because the cells are getting the nutrition they need and they signal true bodily satisfaction

Recently my staff at home decided to dispense with the daily ritual of cooking two pots of rice — white (for them) and brown (for the family). It finally dawned on them that there must be something good in this ‘poor man’s’ staple which prompts us to eat it every day. Now they are hooked on it and tell me that they feel ‘lazy’ when they eat white rice. One of the women said that she was amazed at my energy level which was much higher than theirs. That was a welcome compliment which I believe is attributable to my brown rice-centred dietary regimen.

A further beneficial property of brown rice is that it can be consumed by people of all ages and under all circumstances. For instance it can be the baby’s first food on weaning, after an infant has been on mother’s milk as the first and only food for the first six months. Anyone who has doubts about this proposition can discuss them with me (kavitamukhi@, as I am also a counsellor of the La Leche League, a voluntary mother-to-mother organisation which has been advocating breastfeeding for new borns for the past half century. A diet centred around whole grain unpolished rice is equally wholesome for growing children, teenagers, adults and geriatrics. Moreover it has amazing culinary versatility. It can be made into excellent porridge, and can be used in soups, baked dishes, khichri, pulaos, biryanis, dosas, idlis, pancakes, cookies, and desserts.

For people convalescing from an illness, it helps them recover quicker, because it fulfils the body’s need for easily digestible nutrients. It serves as nourishment and medication to expedite recovery. So my considered advice to everyone is to consume brown rice daily with whatever other foods you wish, and especially during illness. That is if you need more than a simple fruit meal to bounce back.

Indeed there are many reasons to choose this great food. It is alive because it has life in it which can enhance our own. Brown rice is a seed that can be grown; in white rice its life potential is polished away, rendering it lifeless food. Is it any wonder then that we need medicinal stimulants to keep us going ?

For years I cooked brown rice in a way which transformed it into a ‘health food’ eaten for health rather than enjoyment reasons. Then I learnt to cook it the macrobiotic way which, although more than perfect, took long to prepare, a factor which dissuades many people from becoming brown rice enthusiasts. Recently during a visit to Auroville, I discovered a new energy-efficient way to cook this wonderful health food.

Place a cup of brown rice, with two (two-and-a-half for red rice) cups water with sea/rock salt added to taste, in a stainless steel pressure cooker. Let it cook until the first whistle. Shut off the gas and let the cooker simmer for an hour or more, or until you are ready to eat. Before serving, mix and turn over with a wooden spoon. Rice cooked in this slow fashion is perfect for health and conserves energy. It also tastes marvellous prepared this way.

We need to get over our obsession with the colour white. It’s time to go brown. Forget white rice, white bread, white sugar, white salt, white (refined) oil. The world over, awareness of organic, unprocessed foods is dawning on thinking, intelligent people intent on living healthy, fulfilled lives.

About time this wisdom dawned on us as well.

(Kavita Mukhi is a Mumbai-based eco-nutritionist and director of Conscious Food)