Nutritional Facts

Rice naturally contains no cholesterol, no trans fats and is low in sodium. A little knowledge about nutrition can go a long way.

Fats

The fat in food is essential for providing energy for the body, as well as a number of other vital processes. It is a key ingredient in adding flavour and texture to food; however it is also the most concentrated source of kilojoules in food.

There are four main types of fat in food.

  1. Saturated:

    These are considered to be "bad" fats due to links with heart disease and some cancers. They disrupt the normal regulation of cholesterol in the body, causing blood cholesterol levels to rise. Foods high in saturated fats include cream, butter, fatty meats and snack foods.

  2. Polyunsaturated:

    These are essential nutrients as the body cannot make them. They are crucial for brain health and reducing the risk of heart disease. The most common type is "omega-6" fat found in polyunsaturated oils, seeds and nuts. "Omega-3" fats are found in canola oil and some nuts, with the most effective omega-3's found in oily fish and seafoods.

  3. Monounsaturated:

    Like polyunsaturated fats, these are also considered to be "good" fats. Common sources include olive and canola oil and avocados.

  4. Trans fats:

    Trans fats are also considered to be "bad" fats, as they look like poly or monounsaturated fats, but act like saturated fats. Small amounts occur naturally in lamb, beef and milk, but they can also be formed when unsaturated oils are converted to a semi-solid state to form some margarines or a variety of baked goods.

Although it is good advice to reduce the fat in our diets and be more active (as fat easily converts to body fat), one should be careful not to remove the measured consumption of "good" fats that have nutritional qualities.

Source: Australian Food and Grocery Council 2008, Nutrition and Health Guide.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a useful compound made by the liver. It is necessary for many functions, bile, sex hormones and nerve cells. It is found only in animal foods (not in plant foods). However, excess cholesterol in the blood can cause clogging of the arteries, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Blood cholesterol levels can rise when people eat too much saturated fat and/or become overweight.

Source: Australian Food and Grocery Council 2008, Nutrition and Health Guide.

Sugars

Sugars are a carbohydrate and contribute kilojoules to the body - hence they are an important energy source. As with fats, there are a number of different types of sugars. These are found naturally in fruit vegetables, cereals and milk products. Sugars are divided into "monosaccharides" (glucose, fructose, galactose) and "disaccharides" (lactose, sucrose, maltose). The body uses all types of sugar in the same way, to provide energy to individual body cells.

It is incorrect to state that foods containing sugar are implicitly bad. Foods such as fruits and milk only provide their carbohydrate as sugar. As these foods provide a wealth of other nutrients and anti-oxidants, it would be crazy to leave them out of your diet. Sugars also perform crucial roles in food preparation, such as a preservative for jam or aiding in the fermentation of yeast and the stabilisation of air in baked goods.

The issue is more about added sugars - sugars that are not naturally present in food. The main reason many adults get adult-onset diabetes is due to blood sugar levels rising to unhealthy levels. This is commonly due to being overweight and unfit.

Source: Australian Food and Grocery Council 2008, Nutrition and Health Guide.

Glycaemic index (GI)

The Glycaemic Index is a measure for how quickly a carbohydrate food is digested and absorbed into the blood as glucose. “High GI” foods are quickly converted, while "Low GI" are slowly converted. It does not refer at all to the actual sugar content of the food, nor is it an indication of a food's nutritional value.

GI is influenced by a number of factors including the type of starch, type of sugar, amount of fat & protein in the food, type of fibre and physical barriers in the food itself. Highly processed foods tend to have a high GI, as processing breaks down the starch molecules into smaller chains.

Low GI foods tend to be more filling and are better able to control appetite. Hence, people do not tend to overeat and put on body fat.

There is an increasing trend for manufacturers to include the product's GI in the nutritional information.

Source: Australian Food and Grocery Council 2008, Nutrition and Health Guide.

Salt

Salt is a naturally occurring compound of sodium and chloride. When listed on food labels, it tends to be listed as sodium and not salt.

Salt is linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. There are a number of programs encouraging consumers to lower the salt they consume and for the food industry to reduce the salt content of their products. There is also a growing trend for manufacturers to label products as "reduced salt" to better inform consumers. These products have at least a 25% reduction in salt, compared to the regular item.

Source: Australian Food and Grocery Council 2008, Nutrition and Health Guide.

 

A grain
of wisdom

Rice naturally contains no cholesterol, no trans fats and is low in sodium.