Rice is not only the staple food of Keralites but also the main item in all meals of the day. Traditionally, people of the state have loved rice and it is still an integral part of the local cuisine.
Lifestyle diseases, the main health issue of the present age, are most prevalent in Kerala. For instance, while every eighth person in India is a diabetic, the ratio in Kerala is 1:5. Studies have to be conducted into the role played by rice in the spread of lifestyle diseases in Kerala.
The average Keralite’s daily meals comprise a rice-based food item or ‘pazhankanji’ (previous day’s rice gruel) for breakfast, rice for lunch and rice again for dinner. Most people take a large amount of rice on their plate along with a little curry.
During digestion, rice changes into glucose, which enters the circulation and increases the level of blood sugar. When this happens, the beta cells in pancreas produce insulin to check the rising sugar level. This process takes place every time we eat rice, forcing beta cells to work overtime. This reduces the efficiency of beta cells and the production of insulin falls.
Moreover, intake of a large quantity of rice leads to obesity. The glucose produced during digestion of rice is a source of energy for the body. Physical activity that burns energy is absent in present day lifestyles. As a result, glucose gets converted into fat and is deposited in the body. This causes obesity, heart diseases, stroke, among other ailments.
Take care while eating rice
• Have rice-based meal only once a day. We need just a single cereal during one meal.
• Reduce the quantity of rice intake and increase that of curries. Instead of referring to a meal as ‘rice and curry’, consider it as ‘curries and rice’.
• Only a quarter portion on a plate has to be kept apart for rice and fill the remaining area with various curries. There have to be protein-rich dishes, green vegetables and leafy curries.
• Choose rice with bran. ‘Kuthari’, such types of rice, is available in the market. As bran contains fibres, vitamins and minerals, this rice is digested only by a slow process. This also raises the blood sugar only gradually and is considered to be beneficial to health.
(The author is Chief Physician, Santinikethan Hospital, Ponkunnam in Kottayam district)