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The science of eating rice

/ 11:48 PM October 02, 2012

With rice being a regular feature of the average Filipino’s daily diet, many have taken this staple for granted. According to 2008 figures from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), each Filipino wastes an average of two spoonfuls of cooked rice, or nine grams of uncooked rice, every day.

The volume of rice wasted is worth P6.2 billion a year or P17 million a day, the Philippine Rice Industry Primer Series of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) shows.

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This could have fed 2.6 million Filipinos, says Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., PhilRice executive director.

To ensure a sustainable rice supply and a healthy population, Rasco says Filipinos should practice what he calls “scientific consumption” of rice. “We should do it. It will [bring health benefits] to us and there will be less pressure in ensuring a steady supply of this staple,” he says.

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By scientific consumption, Rasco means considering science and prudence in the consumption and handling of rice.

“Only one-fourth of our regular meal should be rice. The greater bulk should be vegetables, fruits and other healthy food groups,” he says.

He says an average Filipino’s consumption is three-fourths (75 percent) rice and one-fourth (25 percent) other food groups. This big quantity of rice in a regular meal, he says, contributes largely to the big per capita consumption of rice in the country, which is 119 kilograms a year. This, he says, is equivalent to five cups of rice per person a day for every Filipino.

Compared to other Asian countries where rice consumption is declining, per capita consumption in the Philippines rose to 13 percent, from 106 kg in 2000 to 119 kg in 2009.

Ideal

“The ideal should be 70 to 75 kg per capita rice consumption per year,” Rasco says. “If we can do that, and be more conscious of adding more healthy food in our diet, it can help prevent illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart ailments and make the body fit.”

“Is it not that the doctor’s advice is to cut on rice consumption to make our body slim? That’s because we are heavy eaters of rice,” he adds.

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“From harvesting to threshing, milling, drying of the palay and consumption of cooked rice, there is too much wastage,” Rasco says. “If we can have zero wastage, we can feed 15 million Filipinos a year. We might be able to export rice.”

A major reason most Filipinos do not give due appreciation to rice is the lack of adequate knowledge on the science of rice production, the official says.

“Does everybody know that we need about 25 drums of water to produce a kilogram of palay? Do we take into consideration the tremendous resources, labor and risk in producing palay? The fact is, rice is the only crop that needs huge resources and effort to produce,” he says.

Rasco says cutting down on rice consumption and avoiding rice wastage can help reduce the volume of rice that the government imports.

PhilRice, in its website (www.philrice.gov.ph), has started promoting its “Save Rice, Save Lives” campaign, which encourages Filipinos to eat rice right—“the right amount, and no leftovers.”

“Rice usually covers half of a typical Filipino plate as most rely only on rice for energy source. A diversified diet by adding other alternative [carbohydrates] to rice will make one healthier,” it says.

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