ADVOCATING RICE DIET FOR HEALTH
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Are you over weight? Cut out on Carbos , increase protein but eat lean meal – that is the advice given by dietitians and medics. Are they right?
Opinions may differ but statistics do not. I wonder if a person from North India would appreciate that the rice eaters are overwhelmingly large in number all over the world. The wheat eaters are in appreciable numbers but reach no where near the rice eaters. Yet the advice coming from all quarters says cut out on rice.
If rice eating was that bad, half of the known world would remain sick all their lives. In India that is Bharat, but for some areas in the North and the West, just about whole of the country has a population of rice eaters.
In the Indian Army, where I spent more than three decades of my military career, the wheat or Atta eaters form a majority and it is so because troops hail from Atta eating regions of the country. It is easy to count their numbers because in the Quarter Master’s muster roll there is a column that declares whether the soldiers are Atta eaters or Rice eaters. The former win hands down as far as number is concerned.
It is for the first time that I have come across an authentic study result that declares Rice-eating a healthy habit. It has gladdened my heart. Despite the fact that we sow and harvest mostly wheat, children and adolescents mostly prefer to eat rice. They are happier thereafter. As a matter of compromise, parents advise children to eat a happy mix of wheat and rice. Indeed the sweet dish is a different cup of tea.
It is hard to understand why medics in North India recommend thin roti or chapatti made of wheat flour when a patient is convalescing in the post fever period. Of course, if a patient is suffering from an acute stomach upset, incessant bout of loose motions or dysentery, he or she is advised to eat a mix of rice and moong ki daal called khichri and rice is an inseparable part of the dish. Rice carries the tag of being easily digestible. Rice causes no undue strain to the digestive system of the human body.
The troops of the Madras Regiment of the Indian Army are all rice eaters and they would be mighty happy to learn of the new researches declaring Rice as a health promoting dish. Rice forms an essential and inseparable ingredient of SAPAR or the main meal of our Thambis ( younger brother), that is the Jawans of the Madras Regiment.
It would be interesting to note that although the metropolitan city called Madras has been renamed as Chennai, the Indian Army still retains the word MADRAS for its oldest infantry outfit dating back to Lord Clive of the East India Company days. Carrying rice bags to the frontline is as important as carrying personal arm or rifle and its ammunition. After all an army marches on its stomach, said Napoleon Bonaparte and rice fills that stomach to make Thambi fighting fit.
Rice has the reputation of dividing dietary habits of the Chinese men, women and children into two –the Northern and the Southern. The Chinese living in the southern parts of China are Rice eaters whereas those in the North eat wheat, millet or maize in different forms. Rice is not abhorred but wheat is preferred in the northern domain. How interesting, China used to have two capital cities in the Japanese-Chinese war in the middle of the twentieth century. Beijing – the northen capital and Nanjing – the southern capital. When the former capital was in danger of being overrun by the enemy forces, the government moved to the southern capital lock stock and barrel. Rice was the predominant food of troops on the move and in billets. Beijing now enjoys the undisputed status of the national capital of the People’s Republic of China but Rice has the pride of place in one form or the other.
Fried Rice and Noodles cannot ignore rice. Varieties may be different though.
The Japanese people of all walks of life are rice eaters too. Emperor downwards the entire nation comprises rice eaters. The entire region of South-East Asia has similar dietary habit and indeed a loving attitude towards Rice.
The agricultural pattern of a country is dependent on the dietary pattern of its people. In our Bharat, wheat was the king of grains in the undivided Punjab of pre-partition India. Sowing wheat, tending to saplings, irrigating it, taking pride in golden wheat was a part of the Punjabi culture and agro-economy. The canals of Montgomery and Lyallpur( now in Pakistan) were excavated and fed with water keeping the wheat crop in mind. Over a period of time Rice made heavy inroads into the kitchen. Sowing paddy became a source of bigger income. With rice becoming a cash crop like sugarcane, its sowing and harvesting brought about a change in the eating habits too. The martial Punjabis became as fond of good quality rice as the music loving Bengalis and Bihu dancing Assamese.
Thus Rice displaced Wheat from the throne and became the uncrowned king of grains from the Punjab to Assam. It need not be underlined that Rice was and continues to be the staple diet of the entire population of the South India. The populace of the western and eastern India is no different.
Let us say three cheers to the researchers who toiled day and night in various laboratories, tested their findings on many species of living beings before reaching a definitive finding that Rice is indeed health promoting for the Human Beings. As an individual I am particularly happy that Rice will now adorn my Thali for both the lunch and the dinner. Indeed Rice Pudding will no longer be abhorred by the cake and plum pudding loving high brow brown sahibs who replaced the white sahibs on the Ides of August in the year 1947.
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