In spite of its name, wild rice is actually not a rice variety. Of course, wild rice is the seed of an aquatic grass such as the paddy plant, but is does not have any direct relation to rice. This variety of aquatic grass develops naturally along the banks of lakes and streams. It is generally found in shallow freshwater marshes.
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Wild rice occurs in four distinct species. One of these species is indigenous to Asia and is harvested in the form of a vegetable. On the other hand, the remaining three species have their origin in North America, especially in the region of the Great Lakes. These three species of wild rice are harvested for their grain.
Originally, the Native Americans cultivated as well as harvested wild rice. For several centuries, these Native Americans used the grain of wild rice as their staple foods. In fact, wild rice has been named so because the grains of this plant are similar in appearance to different varieties of rice and is also cooked in the same manner.
Similar to different varieties of rice, wild rice also grows in water, but it has a tendency to require much deeper water resources than the paddy plants. The taste of the two grains - rice and wild rice - is also somewhat similar. Both have a nuttier taste and have their external husk left on. However, the similarities between rice and wild rice end here.
Different from the usual rice, it is very difficult to grow wild rice commercially. On several instances, wild rice is still harvested painstakingly from boats in the open water. The grains of wild rice are harvested by beating them with sticks so that the mature grains can be collected in containers placed below. Similar to many other grains in their natural state, wild rice also matures at dissimilar times and this probably ensures that its seeds are spread widely without any possibility of seed loss. Therefore, it is natural that while the grains that are fully mature may shatter and be lost in the waters of the lake, while the other seeds of wild rice may still be in the development process.
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As mentioned above, harvesting the grains of wild rice is a very difficult exercise. Aside from the fact that the plants grow in shallow waters and their seeds mature at different times, even the stalks of these plants are so delicate that it is not possible to use motorized boats or various other types of equipment cannot be used for harvesting the grains. Even the root system of the wild rice plants are also very fragile and can be dislodged very easily. As a result, the stalks float to the bottom of the water body where they grow making them inaccessible to the harvesters. In fact, a lot of hard work and patience are required to harvest wild rice and this is the reason why large-scale commercial production of these grains in difficult. The difficulties in harvesting the grains not only make them expensive but also they are not available all the time.
The wild rice plant is a very delicate grass and, at the same time, it is somewhat sensitive to the environmental changes. As dams are widespread in the United States, the wild rice grass which grew naturally in many places, now no longer sustain this vegetation which produces nutritious and tasty grains. As a result, consumers who used to enjoy this crop earlier and no longer able to do so. However, several native people have succeeded in growing this crop, albeit in small quantities, in pocket areas. In fact, the Native Americans still hold wild rice in high esteem for the nutritious value of its grains.
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Similar to various other grains, it is necessary to winnow wild rice in order to separate the grain from the chaff. The grains are harvested when they are still green and having separated them from the chaff, they are usually set in trays to dry under the sunlight. Placing the grains in trays for drying helps people to toss the grains to prevent them from rotting and from fungus. Alternately, the grains can also be parched in kettle made of cast iron. Lastly, the grains are threshed to get rid of the external hull which is inedible. Wild rice takes a long time to cook. Usually, it required about 50 minutes to be fully cooked.
Like many other grains, wild rice also offers us numerous health benefits. This grain is loaded with antioxidants, which are considered to have protective action against aging and, at the same time, antioxidants lower the chances of developing many ailments, including cancer. Following an analysis of 11 wild rice sample, it was discovered that this grain contains 30 times more antioxidants compared to white rice. As a result, the antioxidant activities of wild rice are 30 times more than that of white rice.
In addition to antioxidants, wild rice also contains a remarkable amount of dietary fiber, which helps to optimize the balance of LDL (low density lipo-protein) cholesterol and HDL (high density lipo-protein) cholesterol balance in the body. In addition, dietary fiber also adds bulk to stool and facilitates the digestive process. Dietary fiber also eases peristalsis, which, in turn, helps to do away with diarrhea, constipation, cramping, bloating, too much flatulence and also more serious conditions like gastrointestinal problems, hemorrhoids and gastric ulcers. A diet rich in dietary fiber is associated with reduced chances of developing colon cancer.
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Wild rice is also good for the health of your heart as it promotes the heart's health in various different ways. It does not contain any sodium and it aids in lowering the blood pressure. At the same time, wild rice contains high levels of dietary fiber, which is said to eliminate LDL or "bad" cholesterol from your cardiovascular system and, at the same time, lower the risks of atherosclerosis. The cardiovascular benefits of consuming wild rice are many. It not only reduces the stress on the heart, but also boosts the repair as well as damage control since it contains high levels of vitamin C. Hence, wild rice is an excellent food option for people who want to boost the health of their heart and protect it from various diseases.
When you boost the health of your immune system, it naturally helps to enhance your general health. There are several ways to boost the immune system and one way is to intake plenty of vitamin C, which is present in adequate amounts in wild rice. It is worth mentioning here that vitamin C is a vital component of the first line of defence of our body against various pathogens and microbes as well as other foreign bodies. In addition, vitamin C is an important constituent of collagen, which is necessary for creating as well as repairing cells, tissues, organs and the walls of our blood vessels. Therefore, vitamin C helps us to recuperate from various ailments.
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As we grow older, our bodies start breaking down - even our bones become fragile and vulnerable to fractures. Therefore, if you wish to keep your bones strong you need to consume foods that are rich in phosphorus content. Since wild rice contains enough phosphorus, it is an ideal option for keeping your bones strong. It can be extremely useful for maintaining the strength of your bones. Both phosphorus and zinc are vital for sustaining the mineral density and also ensuring that your bones as well as the joints remain strong and healthy even as we age. People who are vulnerable to osteoporosis or are already experiencing aching bones, it is advisable that they should immediately start consuming wild rice and maintain the health and strength of their bones.
Since wild rice is low in calorie as well as free of gluten, it can be helpful for people who are keen to lose additional weight and shun obesity. Different from white rice, which usually adds bulk to our diet and induces weight gain, white rice helps to remain satiated for long and prevent overeating. This is attributed to wild rice's elevated dietary fiber and nutrient content. At the same time, wild rice does not supply any additional calories to our body. In addition, wild rice supplies our body with an excellent balance of essential minerals through our diet.
The high amounts of antioxidants present in wild rice are a major reason for the several health benefits of consuming this grain. It is well known that antioxidants work to counteract the detrimental free radicals, which are responsible for many of the ailments we suffer from. Basically, free radicals are by-products of the metabolic processes in the cells of our body. Often, these free radicals cause enough harm to the healthy cells in our body or cause them to mutate. They may even cause the healthy cells to become cancerous.
Some of the damages caused by free radicals include their accumulation in our skin, thereby contributing to the signs of aging normally, such as age spots, wrinkles and sluggish healing of blemishes. This also happens with the ocular cells. However, the antioxidants present in wild rice can help to put off development of macular degeneration and prevent cataracts. Therefore, if you wish to look, feel as well as act youthful for several years to come, it is essential that you include wild rice in your diet.
Studies undertaken to find cures for chronic diseases often take years to come out with concrete results that are accepted universally. On the other hand, it has been found that antioxidants present in wild rice possess the ability to reduce the chances of developing various health conditions which include problems related to the heart and also specific forms of cancer. This is attributed to the antioxidants’ ability to neutralize the harmful free radicals that are responsible for the ailments.
It is worth mentioning here that wild rice also contains elevated amounts of protein, which can be helpful for augmenting muscle mass, balanced development of our body and proper growth of the body. In fact, proteins comprise beneficial amino acids and, hence, presence of high levels of proteins is necessary for our overall health and well being. Wild rice is considered to be a store house of proteins and, hence, it is an excellent food option, especially for vegetarians who do not have animal proteins in their diet. They can get the major part of their protein supplies from wild rice.
Last, but not the least important - wild rice also contains considerable amounts of various vitamins, including vitamin B9, which is also called folate or folic acid. It has been established that vitamin B9 or folate helps to diminish neural defects in fetuses as well as newborns. Therefore, it is advisable that pregnant women should include wild rice in their diet to be able to obtain the health benefits offered by this grain, especially if they are not getting adequate supplies of B-vitamins on a regular basis.