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MANILA – Getting the nod of most doctors and leading rice growers in the country, brown rice has greatly improved both the income of farmers and the welfare of Filipinos, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization suggested including fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain, such as brown rice in our diet to stay fit and healthy with a stronger immune system against Covid-19.

Research also shows that brown rice as compared to white rice has a more significant percentage of nutrients because when rice is polished, the bran is completely removed, along with its key nutrients. Scientists found out that the rice bran serves as a storage of micronutrients which the body needs to improve resistance from viruses and bacteria.

Meanwhile, white rice—the main staple food of Filipinos—contains a higher amount of glycemic index (GI) that can cause diabetes. A study from the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Rice Research Institute, recommends foods with low GI, including brown rice, which can regulate blood sugar levels. Other than having a low GI, brown rice has more nutrition including antioxidants, fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin B1, B3, and B6.

And it was a good thing that before the Covid-19 pandemic hits us, brown rice has become the choice of people leading healthy lifestyles. From ‘several’ Filipinos buying brown and other colored rice, ‘more’ Filipinos are now choosing brown rice because it improves their digestive system and overall health.

Getting a supply of brown rice is easier than a few years ago. Nowadays, you can buy them from supermarkets and public markets because they are locally produced. Many Filipino farmers venture into producing high-quality brown rice. They observed that demand for brown rice has increased because more Filipinos are switching from white to brown rice regardless of its price in the market.

This locally produced indeed began to have higher quality than imported rice products. Aside from looking out for our health, we are helping Filipino farmers to return their investment in brown rice.

One of the locally produced brown rice that is accessible to us is Doña Maria brown rice by SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC).

“To have this high-quality brown rice in the market, it has undergone the precise process from planting to harvesting and packaging. With the 1,055 farmers from Nueva Ecija, Laguna, and Mindoro with approximately 5,000 hectares in total and an average of two cropping seasons, Doña Maria brown rice became available nationwide,” SLAC marketing director Tiffany Lim Ngo said in a news release on Wednesday.

Doña Maria brown rice comes from Jasponica rice—a hybrid of Jasmine and Japanese rice varieties and Miponica rice—a hybrid of Philippine Milagrosa and Japanese rice varieties of SLAC.

“Hybrid rice variety is different from rice varieties that are genetically modified organisms (GMO) because they lack quality and have undergone an unnatural process. For hybrid rice variety, it keeps the natural process which results in high quality of grains. Also, Doña Maria brown rice is Halal and ISO certified (9001-2015),” Ngo said.

She revealed that, unlike other brown rice, Doña Maria can be stored for about a year with its vacuum-sealable packaging immediately after milling.

“This will protect the grains from insects and exposure to external factors which can cause the rice to be rotten. Without proper packaging, most brown rice can be stored only for about six months,” Ngo said.

“The quality of Doña Maria is not comparable with other brown rice because of its quality. For almost 20 years, Doña Maria proves its advantages over other brown rice especially when cooked. It has a soft and light texture which other brown rice does not have,” Ngo emphasized.

She also added that “SL Agritech conducted lots of campaigns and advocacy activities to help educate people on how to properly cook brown rice and the nutrients we can get from eating brown rice.”

Ngo said Doña Maria brown rice can be cooked directly and does not require soaking as compared to other brown rice.

“It only needs to have an additional cup of water from the quantity of rice or the 1:2 method. This is more convenient than other brown rice which needs to be soaked for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking,” she added.

Earlier this year, SLAC supported 10 to 20 community pantries by giving 2,000 kgs of Doña Maria brown rice.

Before the pandemic, the “Rice Bucket Challenge” campaign targeted mothers, especially breastfeeding mothers and senior citizens of the community to promote the health benefits of eating brown rice. The goal of this campaign is to donate brown rice as “giving the gift of health”.

Outreach programs such as these are the advocacy of SLAC Chairman Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong. As the best brown rice in the Philippines, SLAC continues to have progressive development in terms of the quality of Doña Maria to be at par with imported rice which threatens the locally produced rice.

Also, the “plant now, pay later” strategy of SLAC to its contract farmers will continue to cater to the growing needs of Filipinos to have nutritious foods. Accessible brown rice-based products are another strategy to promote healthy foods alternatives such as rice puffs, flour, ramen noodles, champorado and pancake mix. These products are made from hybrid brown rice of SL Agritech.

“With our progressive plans and programs for brown rice in the Philippines, we will continue to prioritize the profits of our local farmers and, of course, the health of Filipinos. We want to strive both so the next generation will have something to eat nutritiously,” Lim said. (PR)