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17. Polished v. Unpolished

If rice can be pounded in the villages after the old fashion the wages will fill the pockets of the rice pounding sisters and the rice-eating millions will get some sustenance from the unpolished rice instead of pure starch which the polished rice provides. Human greed, which takes no count of the health or the wealth of the people who come under its heels, is responsible for the hideous rice-mills one sees in all the rice-producing tracts. If public opinion was strong, it will make rice-mills an impossibility by simply insisting on unpolished rice and appealing to the owners of rice-mills to stop a traffic that undermines the health of a whole nation and robs the poor people of an honest means of livelihood.

But who will listen to the testimony of a mere layman on the question of food values? I, therefore, give below an extract from The New Knowledge of Nutrition by Mr. Collum and Simmonds which a medical friend, to whom I had appealed for help, has sent with his approbation:

"Rice is the most important cereal grain in the diet of more than half of the human race. It is used especially in the wettest parts of the world. It has never found much favour in the United States but is used in small amounts. Among primitive peoples rice is eaten without polishing, in which form it is known as red rice, but it is usually treated so as to lose a large part of its germ. This loss results from the pounding of the kernels in rude mortars. The bran layer, which is richer in mineral salts the endosperm of the seed, is retained in this process.

"Rice which is used for export and for sale in the large cities at some distance from the place of production is polished by abrasion. The abrasive action results in wearing away the bran and germ. This mixture is known as rice polishing. The germ of rice, like that of wheat or maize, consists of cellular structures which are the seat of protoplasmic activity, and is a more complete food than any other part of the kernel. It contains almost all the fats found in the grain, and is more efficient in nourshing insects as well as higher animals, than is the polished grain. Hamada (1923) reports that rice embryo protein has a high nutritive value. Unpolished rice loses its flavour owing to the fats becoming rancid when kept for considerable periods in a warm climate. Polished rice can be handled without commercial hazard.

"McCarrison (1923) concluded that vitamin A is present in paddy before it is milled. The milling of raw paddy does not remove the whole, content of this substance as it is not confined to the peripheral layers of the grain. He states that it is destroyed in great measure by steam passing through paddy when it is contained in the vats, as in parboiling.
"The practice of polishing rice had its origin in the desire to improve its keeping quality, and the incidental whitening of the kernels has led to the establishment of a demand for a white product. This and the artificially established liking for white flour and white corn meal, is an illustration of the failure of the instinct of man to serve as a safe guide in the selection of food. The aesthetic sense is appealed to in greatest measure in this case by the products of lowest biologic values.

"Attractiveness of rice to the eye is so important a factor commercially that the practice of artificial whitening of the polished kernels has come into vogue. This is accompanied by coating the kernels with talcum powder, the latter adhering by means of a thin coating of Glucose. The milky appearance of the water in which rice is washed is due to the talcum remaining in suspension. Rice which has been polished, but not coated in this way, is called brown rice as contrasted with the coated or white rice.

"Chart III shows that there are four dietary factors in which polished rice is of such poor quality as to require improvements before it becomes a complete food. Its proteins are of low value. It is too poor in all essential mineral elements to meet the needs of a growing animal, and is nearly free from vitamins A and B. The data in Chart III were obtained with the rats and do not bring out the fact that rice is lacking in the vitamin C. This substance is not essential in the diet of the rat.

"Kennedy (1924) found wild rice to contain a higher percentage of protein than most other cereals, but it resembles the cereals in containing proteins of rather low biological value. It also resembles other cereals in containing inorganic material unsuitable for the promotion of growth. Its content of vitamin A is low but it contains a sufficient amount to prevent xerophthalmia. Wild rice has a greater food value than the cultivated polished rice, because its proteins are of better quality. It contains adequate amounts of vitamin B for growth."

Harijan, 26-10-1934