Smorgasbord Health Column – Food Therapy Rewind – Brown Rice so much more than just a grain by Sally Cronin

There are certain foods that bring more than taste to your diet, rich in nutrients and energy they are worth including in your weekly shopping.

Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.

Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.

NOTE If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.

Brown Rice so much more than just a grain

There is quite a bit in the press about how eating grains can be harmful to your health. I do agree that a ‘white’ diet of refined grains every day does not provide the body with any basic nutrients except for sugars. However, whilst I am on the fence when it comes to wheat which has undergone so many natural and man-made changes in the last ten years, I do feel very strongly that some grains do belong in our diet and for very good reason. Apart from the nutritional content, fibre plays an important role in our lives and to be honest, brown Basmati rice is a staple that I keep in my larder the whole time and I always have at least a couple of tablespoons a day even if I am watching my weight. Here is why…..

As the body releases waste and toxins from the cells and tissues it will pass through to the intestines. There are some normal side effects that might occur as this takes place but if you include fibre, particularly brown rice, the toxins will be removed quickly and efficiently, speeding up the detox process.

Having worked with many clients on the Atkin’s Diet of the 1990s and researching the side effects of the Ketogenic diet, there is some evidence that being on this very low carbohydrate regimen can have some worrying side-effects, particularly after about six weeks. Most of the Keto sites will tell you that this is only during the transition stage but in my experience it is a problem that does not resolve and in some people, who might already have an underlying heart problem it is potentially dangerous.

Here is some information you need to consider before contemplating cutting all carbohydrates from your regular diet.

Cutting back on wholegrains and other carbohydrates results in your body producing less insulin and it will then use up the glycogen in its stores. Glycogen is a form of glucose that can be stored and used when needed but when it is removed from the cells because of lack of other sugars in the diet provided by carbohydrates, it excretes water from the cells at the same time, which leads to dehydration which can lead to heart palpitations.

When you produce less insulin you also encourage the kidneys to excrete sodium into your bloodstream which results in an imbalance of your essential electrolytes, leading to heart palpitations. This process is not healthy for your kidneys in the long term.

You don’t need to eat pounds of carbohydrates to maintain a healthy balance in the body.

Three tablespoons of wholegrain rice, or 30gm of porridge oats, combined with two slices of wholegrain bread will make the difference in how your body reacts. If your goal is to lose weight, this will still allow you to do so, but just slightly slower. This is important as many of those who have followed the Keto diet for over six weeks find that the weight goes back on quickly as the body struggles to find a correct chemical balance within the cells.

What is so special about Brown Rice

Of all rice – any form of brown rice will contain more of the nutrients as it loses only the outer layer of the grain called the hull.

During the process that turns brown rice to white rice it loses 67% of its vitamin B3 (niacin) 80% of B1, 90% of B650% of its manganese and phosphorus, 60% of its iron and all the dietary fibre and essential fatty acids.

In fact, to make white rice acceptable as a food, it has to be artificially enriched with B1, B3 and iron? It is amazing the difference that processing a food can have on its nutritional content.

Brown rice is a very rich source of manganese –essential for blood health. It is also necessary for bone health and for it’s antioxidant capabilities in preventing damage to cells, particularly blood cells.

Brown rice is rich in fibre, which cleans the system of toxins and harmful deposits in the blood so helps keep your cholesterol down.

Like oats it tends to release its energy slowly so maintaining stable blood sugar levels. The fibre is insoluble which means that it works through your system efficiently. This prevents some organs from getting into an overload situation like the liver and the bile duct – a speedy process through the system ensures that the bile duct does not secrete too much bile which can lead to gallstones.

Proteins like turkey are high in selenium but so is brown rice and it is very important for our immune systems and thyroid function – also to help prevent cancer as it encourages healthy DNA repair in the cells.

Magnesium is present in high quantities and this is associated with a number of systemic problems such as asthma – high blood pressure –migraine headaches and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Magnesium does this because it helps to regulate nerve and muscle tone by balancing the action of calcium. You will see that very often calcium supplements are teamed with magnesium.

Calcium tends to rush around frantically and needs magnesium to curb its enthusiasm. For example if allowed to, calcium will overwhelm the nerve cells in the muscles and they become over activated. This causes the muscle to overwork and wear out faster. This occurs if you have insufficient magnesium in your diet.

Another reason that magnesium is so important is for bone health and about two thirds of the magnesium is found in the bones of the human body. The rest is stored for when needed. Brown rice provides nearly a quarter of your daily requirement in one serving.

The human body’s nutritional journey.

The human body is over 100,000 years old. In that time the body has developed an incredible defence mechanism called the survival instinct. In some cases it is miraculous. It is only in recent centuries that we have begun to refine our grains.

Recent researchers are maintaining that we ate few carbohydrates in the form of grain but I do dispute this. We would have eaten anything in our path that was in the least bit edible and certainly wild grains would have been a seasonal addition to the meat and fish that were hunted.

So our bodies spent the first 99,900 years eating whole-grains including rice. Wheat only came along about 10,000 years ago. During those many thousands of years our bodies evolved a very precise dietary support system that provided it with everything it needed to survive and be the fittest. It was essential for the survival of mankind that only the fittest made it through. This ensured that each generation was stronger.

If you go back to what I was saying about the loss of nutrients in the processing of brown rice to white rice you can perhaps understand why we are now facing the sort of medical problems that we are. We are depriving the body of not just a food group but the essential nutrients and energy that they provide.

Eating rice regularly both savoury and sweet.

You do not have to eat a plateful every day and for rice I would suggest three large tablespoons. I use wholegrain basmati which is fragrant and has much fluffier grain when cooked. You do not have to restrict your rice to savoury dishes as I eat cooked unsalted brown basmati rice with warm milk and a banana for breakfast from time to time. If you need to sweeten a little then add a teaspoon of honey.


Brown rice needs to be prepared a little carefully – don’t get the easy cook as this has been partly processed. I suggest the real stuff, but put in a large glass bowl before cooking with cold water to cover it and whisk as hard as you can – then drain and then repeat until the water is clear. This gets rid of dust etc.

It takes a little more boiling than white rice and check after about 20 minutes until you get a slightly chewy and nutty tasting grain.

Use for any other dish that you would cook rice for. Curry, risotto, paella or mixed through a salad.

My recipe for brown rice pilaf which provides a healthy way to get most of the nutrients you need in a day to support your body in everything it needs to do to keep you healthy.

It contains most of the food groups and a great many of the nutrients we require on a daily basis. Protein, wholegrain carbohydrates, good fats and a wide range of nutrients. Whilst it makes a delicious main meal for the family you can make it in bulk and keep some in the fridge for two to three days and freeze portions for later in the week. You only need a couple of large serving spoons to get a great nutritional boost.

DSC_1207awBut before I give you the recipe I would like to show you how this meal is in fact a delicious form of a multi-vitamin pill that the body understands and you will gain more benefit from.

This recipe provides you with a great vitamin B-Punch. I am only including those nutrients that are available in a higher concentration, but I think it illustrates that if you compare this to the information on your multivitamin supplement; you are getting most of what you need in this simple to make dish.

Ingredients with main nutritional elements.

Brown rice (I use Brown Basmati) – any form of brown rice will contain more of the nutrients as it loses only the outer layer of the grain called the hull.

Olive Oil – Omega 9 Fatty Acid and Vitamin E. Inflammatory disease throughout the body is one of the leading causes of health problems for major organs such as the heart and brain. Using Extra Virgin Olive oil even in cooking helps reduce inflammation in the body. Also contains Vitamin E.

Onions and Garlic Folate, B1, B6 Vitamin C, biotin, manganese, copper, chromium, quercitin, potassium, phosphorus – heart health, blood sugar levels, inflammation, digestive system.

Red Peppers – Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium. Antioxidant.

MushroomsFolate, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, copper, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese and a great source of protein.

Walnuts – Omega 3 fatty acids, copper, manganese and biotin. Heart health.

Spinach – Vitamin K, Vitamins A, Folate, B1, B2, B6, C, E, Calcium and potassium.

Tuna/SalmonOmega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B3, B6, B12, selenium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium.

Eggs – Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Folic Acid, Vitamin A, B2, B5, B12, D (very important) E, iron, iodine, selenium. (Research is indicating that having an egg a day is not harmful as unhealthy cholesterol is not caused by eating natural foods containing it but in eating industrial foods with high sugar levels and commercially manufactured fats).

Ingredients for four servings. You can freeze three portions and use as needed.

  • 225gm /8oz of wholegrain rice (you can add some wild rice for flavour)
  • 15ml/ 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil. (Recent research has indicated that this is safe to heat for cooking but do not burn).
  • 30gm real butter (Spreads that contain half and half butter and margarine are also full of additives) Better to have a little of the real dairy fat.
  • 1 large finely chopped onion.
  • Half a red pepper
  • Handful of mushrooms, button or shitake and as an alternative protein.
  • 10 chopped walnuts.
  • 4 oz. of finely chopped spinach or dandelion leaves.
  • Any leftover vegetables from the day before.
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic.
  • 1 teaspoon mild pimiento
  • Your choice of protein – One Egg per person, chicken, salmon, tuna, lean bacon or a mix of various kinds.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare

  1. Wash the rice under cold running water until clear and drain to remove dust and any remaining debris. Cook until tender in boiling water for 20/25 minutes either on the stove or in a rice cooker in the microwave.
  2. Hard boil four eggs. (A little tip is to put a teaspoon of bicarbonate in the water and it will make the eggs much easier to peel).
  3. In a frying pan melt your butter into the olive oil and cook your bacon and remove from the pan. Add finely chopped onions, red pepper, mushrooms and garlic with a pinch of salt, the pimiento and a sprinkle of pepper to the bacon infused oil and butter and cook until soft. Add the bacon back in and then stir in the chopped spinach and walnuts.
  4. Drain your rice and I usually pour boiling water over it in the colander to remove any starch residue. Add in one large serving spoon per person to the pan and on a low heat blend the rice through the ingredients.
  5. Add in your cooked protein such as chicken, tuna or salmon or cooked shrimp.
  6. Serve in a bowl and garnish with a hardboiled egg.


Add in the vegetables you enjoy to the base recipe and you can jazz it up for dinner parties as guests love the variety. You can also eat this cold. Keep in the fridge in a sealed container and serve with a garden salad. It will keep for a day or two and you can reheat with a small amount of stock in a large frying pan or reheat in the microwave.


©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022

A little bit about me nutritionally. .

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.

Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and:Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin


As always I look forward to your comments and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them.. thanks Sally.



34 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Food Therapy Rewind – Brown Rice so much more than just a grain by Sally Cronin

  1. Fascinating info on brown rice Sal. Glad to say I use it a lot. I love the recipe with the egg added. Will give it a go while here in Mex as I have plenty and like to use up what I have hanging around the fridge. ❤


  2. I love brown basmati rice ever since trying out Delia Smith’s recipes. Even the smell of it cooking Makes me feel healthy. I use her spicy rice method of cooking for hot meals and also love her brown rice salad recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love brown rice, but I love it even more now! Thank you, Sally, for explaining why it is an important element in our diets — especially for those on Keto diets. Excellent information! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Except for the red peppers, that recipe sounds delicious! I rarely eat rice or breads. I do have steel-cut oatmeal almost every morning, and I also eat fruits to make sure I get fiber. Every now and then, I’ll eat brown rice, and this recipe is definitely one I want to try. Thanks, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love brown rice and wild rice and am the only one in my house the others all prefer Thai Jasmine rice although it’s a good idea to make a batch and freeze in portions which will be ideal for me Hugs xxx…Pressed for later xx

    Liked by 1 person

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