For thousands of years, our ancestors have harnessed the power of fermentation. Its uses range from preserving food to preparing food, preventing illness, and aiding in digestion. Because of this, it has been an essential part of many cultures throughout the world.
Today we’re going to be exploring some of its applications and seeing how and why we should ferment brown rice.
Brown rice contains beneficial fibre, vitamins, minerals, and is a source of slow-release energy. Because of this, it is a go-to food for athletes and bodybuilders alike! However, in modern times we skip important processes that make such foods easily digestible and nutritious as they should be.
So then, let’s get fermenting, shall we?
Why Even Bother? Think Again…
Rice is a seed. Brown rice includes the bran and germ, which contain many of the seed’s minerals and antioxidants! It is impressively healthy with benefits such as:
- Being an effective gluten-free alternative
- Improving heart health
- Improving bone health
- Boosting immunity
- Promoting healthy sleep
- Preventing neurodegenerative complications
- Preventing obesity
- Preventing even cancer
BUT, it also contains potentially harmful chemicals such as Phytic Acid and (inorganic) Arsenic. These can damage digestive system, prevent nutrient intake, and may even be risky for the heart! Arsenic has also been associated with certain cancers. Now before you decide rice is bad for you, remember the list above and know that we can greatly reduce any risks it carries.
When you soak brown rice shortly (as many do), you won’t be making much of a difference nutritionally. It might activate slight phytase activity and decrease cooking time. However, when you ferment brown rice, you remove more phytic acid, and add many more benefits! Here are a few important examples…
Phytic Acid and Arsenic
Phytic Acid. This antinutrient is something I have detailed in previous posts, such as this one on how to ferment oats! It is a chemical found in seeds (including nuts) that prevents the seeds from being digested, stores seed nutrients, and protects it by binding to minerals such as calcium, iron, and manganese. This means that consumption of foods high in Phytic Acid can prevent nutrient absorption. Such foods include nuts and seeds, grains (like brown rice and oats), and legumes.
When we don’t prepare these properly we ingest large amounts of antinutrients, which can adversely affect our nutritional intake and digestion. This has led to deficiencies in some people, which of course has adverse effects. Phytic Acid in particular can also cause damage to our guts as they can’t absorb important minerals needed to function.
Fermenting rice activates Phytase (an enzyme) which breaks down the Phytic Acid and produces Phosphorus. This is extremely effective, particularly when fermentation is kick-started (we’ll cover this later).
(Now, PA is not entirely bad, and may have multiple benefits, but controlling the amount is essential. Removing 100% from our diets is impractical, and unnecessary, but it’s certainly worth getting a lot of it out).
Arsenic is partially why we rinse rice. Rinsing will wash small amounts away. When we soak rice, the grains open up more and swell. In shorter soaking times such as overnight, this may eliminate up to 30% of the arsenic content. When we ferment rice, it is typically done so for at least 24 hours, which leaves more Arsenic to be reduced. It may also help to use larger amounts of water, such as in a 6:1 ratio.
Within our guts, each and every one of us is host to trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. These are essential for our livelihood and health, and play important roles in proper digestion, nutrient absorption, detoxification, organ function, brain health and mood, dental health, and much more.
These beneficial microorganisms are known as probiotics. Collectively, we refer to this as our microbiota or microbiome (or gut flora).
Many people suffer from digestive issues, and increasingly we are finding that a lack of probiotic bacteria is a causing problem. In healthy fermentation, the bacteria used can boost our own bacteria and increase our health in many ways. As such, probiotic supplements and food items are becoming more popular as alternative treatments for certain ailments.
But guess what happens when we cook these foods? The heat actually kills the bacteria. And yet, we need to cook rice. So why am I making this point? Well, studies have shown that the consumption of even dead probiotics can benefit our immune system and decrease the chance of illnesses such as colds.
Therefore, by eating fermented brown rice we are benefiting our own immune systems! There are also other benefits, which we will cover soon.
Nutrients and Bioavailability
Brown rice is a particularly excellent source of manganese. Additionally, it is abundant in magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and also provides some calcium and potassium. When it comes to vitamins, it also provides B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6 in appreciable amounts(*). As you can imagine, this means brown rice can be highly beneficial for us. Here are some other benefits brown rice provides (excluding those above). These include improving cardiovascular health, cholesterol and trglyceride profiles, and blood sugar control, boosting the immune and nervous systems, decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, aiding an enzyme production.
By fermenting brown rice, we increase the availability of these nutrients. There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the most significant is the reduction of phytic acid. With less phytic acid, useful minerals won’t be bound to as much. This means that they won’t be taken out of our food, and instead will be released in greater amounts, allowing us to absorb them better.
Improve Digestive Health!
So, we’ve covered that fermented brown rice can benefit our digestive health such as by increasing enzyme production, aiding metabolism, and providing a wealth of nutrition. However, it is also a brilliant source of fibre (/fiber).
Mostly, the fibre found in brown rice is insoluble fibre. This type of fibre is important in helping to speed up digestion, therefore making brown rice beneficial for those with conditions such as constipation. It can also prevent diverticulitis.
Another benefit of insoluble fibre is that it is ‘prebiotic’. Remember the probiotics we mentioned earlier? Well, just like we eat to survive, so do they! Insoluble fibre is one of many food sources for them. This helps to fuel their health, and they help to fuel ours.
However, some people have a low-fibre diet (such as that low in whole grains, fibrous vegetables and fruits, and high in refined grains or potatoes). Suddenly adding a lot of insoluble fibre can cause upset in such cases. This may include bloating, gas, and irregular bowel movements. It is recommended to introduce high fibre slowly into the diet rather than all at once.
Furthermore, brown rice also contains small amounts of soluble fibre, which helps to slow down digestion, and reduce HDL cholesterol!
Less Carbohydrates Means Less Sugars!
Here is one of the great benefits for many people. As a matter of fact, fermenting food reduces the quantity of carbohydrates it contains. This helps to prevent blood sugar spikes, and if eaten often, fermented foods may lower blood sugar levels by replacing high carbohydrate alternatives. Fancy that!
So we mentioned that brown rice can help to prevent type 2 diabetes. Even better, when we ferment brown rice this effect could be amplified by reducing the intake of carbohydrates!
This works because the bacteria feasts on the carbohydrates and sugars found wherever they are! Ever noticed that some old fruit (particularly in the summer) will take on alcohol-like taste if left out? If you have, it should now be no mystery! Bacteria naturally present on the food (or in the air) feed on the sugars and produce alcohol. This is how wine is made with the grapes.
Cooking Time – Save Energy!
We all know what saving energy means! We get to help the planet out, and save money doing so.
It’s a win-win! When you ferment brown rice you actually will halve the cooking time – so instead of that 40 minutes on the stove, you can cut it down to 20.
Or you can even make it just around 14 minutes in the microwave (which uses much less energy, too).
Here’s what the rice and water should look like (after cooking the rice).
~(Photo of my last batch)
I Want To Ferment Brown Rice. So How Do I Get Started?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple to ferment brown rice, and only takes a little planning ahead. Want a chili con carne with rice this week? How about even tomorrow? Planning this is easier than planning your shopping!
There’s a formula which is particularly useful here. Especially so if you eat rice often!
24 Hour Soak X 3 = 96% Phytic Acid Removed (decant at least 10% water). What this means is that when we ferment rice, we can remove up to 96% of the Phytic Acid by our third batch. This is achieved simply by keeping around 10% of the water, and reusing it in the next batch. This rice water can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
The reason that reusing the water works is that activated Phytase will still be present and working!
What you’ll need (produces 2 cups cooked):
- Dechlorinated Water* – 3 cups
- Brown Rice – 1 cup
- A Fermentation-Safe Bowl Or Container (Such as Stainless Steel (look for ‘316’)*, Glass, Ceramic/China, or some plastics**).
*Avoid using other metals than Stainless Steel, (such as Aluminium or Copper). They will react with the acids produced in fermentation.
**Polycarbonate Plastics, PP, HDPE, or LDPE
What to do:
- Rinse the rice and drain.
- Add the rice and water to the bowl.
- Leave it for at least 24 hours.
- Drain and rinse, saving some (10%+) water for next time (but not all of it).
- Cook (half cooking time) and enjoy!
*To dechlorinate water, you can either use a filter, or boil it. Here are my recommendations for water filters.
That is it! Really, nothing more, nothing less… Make sure the water is lukewarm when you start, and at least room temperature throughout. (NOT cold or hot).
Beneficial bacteria on / in the grains like Lactobacillus species will do the work from there, and multiply over time! Because of this, this fermentation process is often referred to as “Lacto fermentation“.
So how do you know you’ve done it right? You should see lots of bubbles – this is perfectly normal. Beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus produce Carbon Dioxide as a by-product of digestion. This then rises to the surface of the water to create the bubbles! If you see this, it should be a good sign.
What you shouldn’t see is anything resembling mold. Anything “fluffy”, white, green, or other should be gotten rid of. And get rid of the whole batch if this happens. It has never happened to me and shouldn’t to you – just keep the rice fully submereged. Easy! 🙂
Another good sign is the smell… Particularly if fermenting for more than 24 hours. It should smell “cheesy” – this is okay and will have only a minimal impact on the taste (even less if you serve it with other foods, herbs, and spices)! The aroma might also be a little “sour”. It shouldn’t be “fishy” or anything else typically indicative of mold.
Now Go And Experiment!
Now, before you rush off in excitement and get going, let’s recap on some important points! 🙂
1. Brown Rice is incredibly healthy. It provides prosperous amounts of nutrition, and also beneficial fibre (and complex carbohydrates).
2. Brown Rice is also high in Phytic Acid and Arsenic.
3. These can be reduced greatly if we ferment brown rice.
4. You can even save energy by reducing cooking time.
5. Fermenting rice is easy, effective, and only requires a little planning!
6. Remember to use dechlorinated water and at least a 3:1 ratio of water to rice when cooking.
7. When you ferment rice, you should be seeing bubbles on the surface of the water, and the rice should take on a cheesy and perhaps slightly sour aroma.
8. Remember to save some of the water to reuse!
And we’re ready! Comment below if you learned anything new, or let me know how this goes for you!
Also why not visit us on social media and become part of the Healthy Ronin community! I’ll be sure to respond and would love to hear if you like this recipe. (I know I do!)
This is one of my favourite staple recipes, and is extremely versatile!
That’s it for this post, I hope you’ve learnt a lot today! 🙂 If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy my other posts, so feel free to have a browse!
Until the next one, stay healthy