While nutritionists used to suggest that those looking to lose weight stay away from fats, newer research points to sugar and starch as the real enemy of weight loss.
And since rice is one of the world's most popular starches, it's a pretty big deal that an undergraduate student and his professor at the University of Sri Lanka seem to have figured out a simple cooking method that makes rice healthier.
According to Sudhair James and his supervisor Dr. Pushparajah Thavarajva, those looking to cut calories from their rice should bring water to a boil and add coconut oil (3 percent of the weight of the rice) before adding the raw rice and cooking it as normal. After the rice is ready, let it cool and place it in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.
Adding a lipid (coconut oil is popular in Sri Lanka, which is why it was chosen for the study) and cooling the rice creates a healthier serving, even when the rice is heated up again later. That's because the process stops some of the rice's resistant starches (which the human body can't digest) from becoming digestible starches (the kind that later becomes glycogen and can cause weight gain). We've long known that cooking method has a big impact on the nutritional value of food (for instance, fried rice and pilaf style rice retain a greater proportion of resistant starch than steamed rice), and James and Thavarajva are simply using that information to their advantage.
Their research is still ongoing, but so far James and Thavarajva have been able to reduce calories in the least healthful strains of rice by 10 to 12 percent and estimate they could reduce the calories in healthier varieties by as much as 50 to 60 percent. It could be a game-changing discovery in the battle against rising obesity rates, especially if the chemistry can be applied to other unhealthy starches, like bread.
The Washington Post has more information on the study.