Rice is a primary staple food for more than half the world. Rice is a grain that comes from the seed of a semi-aquatic grass that thrives in warm and sub-tropical climates. Nearly 85% of the rice consumed in the United States is grown in the United States.

The grocery store has become overran with different choices of rice. Rice is categorized by milling, kernel size, starch content and flavor. The degree of milling is referred to as rough or paddy rice, which is harvested in the husk, whole grain rice (brown) with the husk removed or white rice with the bran layer removed. Flavor profiles of rice range from popcorn flavor to subtle floral or toasted nuts to sweet spiciness or sweet nuttiness.

When cooking rice, use two parts liquid to one part rice. Some varieties require slightly less or more liquid and/or cooking time. Be sure to check the package instructions. Rice typically swells to three times its size when cooked. Basic cooking methods for rice are simmering and steaming, pilaf, boiling and risotto.

Rice is sodium-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free and sugar free. It contains no saturated or trans fats and has only 100 calories per serving. Rice is nutrient-dense and contains over 15 vitamins and minerals. Rice is comprised of complex carbohydrates that are more slowly digested allowing the body to maintain a consistent long-term energy supply.

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Research has shown rice to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and other metabolic syndromes. Brown rice has shown to reduce risks associated with chronic disease, certain cancers and plays a role in weight management.

Personal preference needs to be your guide to selecting the type of rice to use for a particular recipe.

The three main varieties of rice are:

» Short grain rice yields fatter, almost round grains with a higher starch content than the other two varieties. These grains stick together when cooked. This rice is a good universal choice rice.

» Medium grain rice has characteristics between the other two varieties. This rice creates a creamier consistency and is used to make risotto, rice pudding, sushi and other Asian dishes.

» Long grain rice produces light, dry grains that separate easily. This is a good choice for entrees, side dishes, soups, salads and for dishes where distinct and separate grains are desired.

A few of the more popular types of rice are:

» Arborio rice — This is the “go-to” rice for making risotto dishes. It retains more starch than other varieties which is released when cooked to a creamy, firm texture.

» Basmati rice — This long-grain, Indian rice is most common in curry. It has a nutty flavor is very aromatic. It is often compared to jasmine rice.

» Black rice — This once was more difficult to obtain but is much more readily available. It has an earthy and nutty flavor. It contains additional antioxidants which is what turns it to its dark color. (These are the same antioxidants as blueberries and blackberries.)

» Jasmine rice — This rice originates in Thailand. It is a short grain rice like basmati rice but has a stronger nut and aromatic flavor.

» Brown Rice — This is the new white rice. It can easily be substituted for white rice but contains more nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and more fiber per serving.

» Parboiled rice — This rice is processed differently than white or brown rice. The hull is left on as it is soaked and steamed. Then it is dried, the hulls removed and packaged. Because the hull is left on longer throughout the process, the grains absorb more nutrients like vitamin B and potassium. Once cooked, its dry with a firm texture.

» Long grain white rice — This classic white rice is long and thin which makes it fluffy when cooked. The shorter the rice, the more likely the grains will stick together.

» Wild rice — Actually not a rice but a seed that comes from marsh grasses. It has more antioxidants than actual rice and may help improve heart health and lower risk of diabetes.

Once a package of rice has been opened, it should be stored in a tight-closed container and kept in a cool, dry location. Enriched white, parboiled or pre-cooked rice is shelf-stable indefinitely. Brown rice contains natural oil in the bran layer reducing its shelf-life of no more than six months. Brown rice should be refrigerated or placed in the freezer to extend its shelf-life. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator in a tight-closed container for up to five days or frozen up to six months.

When reheating rice, it is best to add 2 tablespoons of liquid to each cup of cooked rice. Cover and heat on the stovetop for 5 minutes on high, or for 1 minute in the microwave. Fluff with a fork.

Indian-spiced shrimp, coconut-pineapple rice

1 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits in 100% juice

1 14-ounce can light coconut milk

¾ teaspoons salt, divided

1 cup uncooked long grain white rice

1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder

1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided

Directions: Drain pineapple reserving ¼ cup juice in medium saucepan. Add water, coconut milk and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Stir in rice; cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in pineapple and ½ cup green onions. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp, sprinkle with the remaining salt, garam masala and pepper. Cook the shrimp 4 to 5 minutes or until opaque in center, stirring frequently. Spoon rice onto platter, top with shrimp and remaining 2 tablespoons green onions.

Nutrition facts: calories 340, total fat 9g, cholesterol 170mg, sodium 460mg, carbohydrates 36g, dietary fiber 1g, protein 26g.

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