If you've ever perused the boxes of rice on the shelves of the grocery store, you may have noticed something called converted rice. Is this a type of "instant" rice? How is it different from regular bags of uncooked rice?
What is Converted Rice?
Converted rice (also known as parboiled rice) is a type of rice that's been partially cooked and dried, which allows the rice to hold on to more nutrients compared with ordinary white rice. In fact, another name for converted rice is parboiled rice. The parboiling alters the starches so that the grains hold their shape better, stick together less, and also are less likely to stick to the bottom of the pot.
Converted rice takes 20 to 25 minutes to cook, which is a bit longer than regular white rice, whereas instant rice, which has been completely cooked and then dried, and takes about 5 minutes to cook.
The Anatomy of Rice
To understand what converted rice is, first let's look a grain of rice. Rice is the seed of a grassy plant in the genus Oryza. When it's first harvested, the rice seed consists of four parts: the germ, which is the reproductive part of the plant, and the part with the most nutrients; the endosperm, or starchy portion, which comprises the white rice granule; the bran, which is the edible outer covering of the white rice; and the husk or hull, which is inedible, and is considered part of the chaff.
Usually when processing rice, after harvesting and drying, the rice has its hulls or husks removed. In this form, with its bran and germ still intact, it becomes brown rice. To make white rice requires additional steps: the brown rice is milled, to grind away the bran and the germ. It's then polished and packaged, sometimes after undergoing an enriching process which replaces some, though not all, of the nutrients, like iron and B vitamins, that were lost during the milling process.
Converted rice is made in a slightly different way. After drying, the whole rice grains are pressure cooked, with their hulls still on. This process forces some of the vitamins and minerals from the bran and germ, along with some of its color, into the starchy portion of the rice. The hulls are then removed and the grains are milled and polished in the usual way.
The result is a slightly darker grain of rice, with more nutrients than normal white rice but fewer than brown rice. It also has significantly less fiber than brown rice, since the fiber is derived mostly from the bran.
Converted Rice Nutrition
So the question of whether converted rice provides more nutrients than ordinary white rice is a bit complicated. Most people who are looking for their rice to provide a significant source of nutrients will likely turn to brown rice, which, since it's a whole grain, is the most nutritious type of rice. Otherwise, white rice does not provide much in the way of nutrients, having had most of them stripped away during the refining process, which removes the bran and the germ of each grain.
That's why white rice is often enriched, a process by which nutrients such as iron and B vitamins are added to the white rice after processing, to make up for some, but not all, of the nutrients that were lost during refining.
Converted rice is a sort of middle ground in terms of nutrients. But just what nutrients are we talking about here?
Basically, it depends on whether you're comparing converted white rice with brown rice or with plain white rice. There's also an enriched version of converted white rice which we'll talk about in a second. But for the most part, the differences come down to iron, and vitamins B1, B3 and B6.
Let's compare 100 grams (uncooked) of the following types of rice:
Brown Rice: 367 calories and 76 grams of carbs along with 3.6 grams of fiber. It has a about 1.2 mg of iron, about .5 mg of vitamin B1, 6.5 mg of vitamin B3 and .5 mg of vitamin B6.
White Rice: 365 calories, 80 grams of carbs, 1.3 grams of fiber, along with 0.8 mg of iron, 0.1 mg of vitamin B1, 1.6 mg of vitamin B3 and 0.2 mg of vitamin B6.
Converted White Rice: 374 calories, 81 grams of carbs and 1.8 grams of fiber, along with 0.7 mg of iron, 0.2 mg of vitamin B1, 5 mg of vitamin B3, and 0.5 mg of vitamin B6.
The difference, as you can see, is minor. Furthermore, the enriched versions of plain and converted white rice offer a slightly higher amount of these nutrients, but the fact is, a 100 gram serving of brown rice is still the all-around best source of these nutrients, and it also offers more fiber .
Using Converted Rice
Cooking converted rice is a matter of simmering it in a covered pot for 20 to 25 minutes, which is a bit longer than ordinary white rice, but much quicker than brown rice, which can take up to 40 minutes.
You'll notice that when cooked, converted rice grains remain quite separated from each other, with less stickiness than ordinary white rice. It has a slightly sharp aftertaste, and the grains are firmer, less fluffy, than ordinary white rice. The grains themselves are darker, almost yellow.