Actually, it’s no gamble to choose from the two cereals. Wheat has been the staple diet for most western countries and for North India, while rice has been the staple for South India and for the far eastern countries. The geographical availability may be the major deciding factor. The variety of preparations that can be made from both cereals are extensive. Some of the wheat based preparations are very popular with the youth perhaps due to their crispy, chewy consistency. On the other hand, the rice preparations are colourful, spicy, aromatic and are more satiating. Let us say these are more popular with staunch rice eaters and the older generation.
Good ol’ days
I remember the food situation, immediately after Independence. Our country was importing rice, and therefore, the government was pushing wheat through the rations. There was a lot of promotion of wheat usage. Hotels had to compulsorily serve wheat products with rice, in the ‘thalis.’ That is why the South Indians make chapathi and paratha for ‘tiffin,’ rather than for meals. Even today, the memory of eating a hot chapathi, smeared with ghee and rolled with a generous serving of sugar can transport my generation, directly to heaven!
However, let us talk about the skill involved in cooking these cereals. Rice is easy to handle. Once you know what dish is being made and the quality of the rice, i.e., old, new, basmati, parboiled, raw, etc, and the way of preparation, like boiling, steaming, pressure cooking or ‘dum’, cooking it is really easy. But for wheat products like puri, chapathi, phulka, paratha, naan and many other varieties, the skill required cannot be learnt easily. Only practice makes it perfect.
My early trials, even armed with a master’s degree in Home Science, produced India-shaped chapathis. No doubt, I was patriotic.These days, due to health problems like diabetes, blood pressure, obesity and heart related conditions, doctors and dieticians have been advising wheat as the cereal. However, both cereals are equal in the energy value. Wheat has more protein, but rice protein is of a better quality. Wheat has fibre, which is lacking in rice.
The mineral content is higher in wheat. But do you notice from the table given below, that rice loses some nutrients due to milling as compared to hand pounding? You may have to chew wheat products more while rice is soft and easily swallowed. This, in wheat, is a plus point for diabetics as the sugar is released slowly (lower glycemic index).
Research has shown that both cereals are equally effective in a weight loss programme. So, don’t worry, just choose what suits you, within the diet restrictions applying to you. Neither is superior or inferior to the other, nutritionally.
Malathi is the Dean of Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne
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