Rice products often get a lot of flack for their supposed lack of nutritional benefits. But now science has found a way to beef up its health benefits, which could go straight to cereals and snacks. Researchers have found a way to make puffed rice with way more protein, fiber, and vitamins than what's currently on the market .
Commercial puffed rice is produced through steam extrusion, meaning a mixture of rice flour and water is pushed through a narrow nozzle while under high heat and pressure. When the mixture pops out, the steam expands and escapes — and the rice puffs up. The problem is that heat-sensitive nutrients are also destroyed in the process, leaving the little pieces of rice lacking much (re: any) of their nutritional value.
Scientists wanted to figure out a way to puff up rice — both literally and figurately — to recreate this inflated foodstuff that’s also nutritionally rich. Using CO2, they discovered a way to puff up rice at a lower temperature, thereby avoiding the destruction of key nutrients. The result? A product with three times more protein and eight times more dietary fiber than commercial puffed rice, along with higher amounts of vitamins A and C, zinc, and iron. Still, realize this: Puffed rice isn't actually whole rice grains, but instead a product formed and processed from a mixture of water and grain flour.
Why It Matters
As a serial cereal lover, there’s nothing worse than enjoying a bowl in the morning only to be hungry an hour later. One cup of puffed rice cereal (like Quaker and Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice) has only 60 calories, with 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fiber, and many more zeros on its nutrition label (hence the grumbling stomach soon after). While some cereals have a decent amount of protein and fiber, they can also be loaded with sugar. This new method of puffing up rice could mean the best of both worlds: a cereal higher in protein and fiber without a sky-high amount of sugar, sodium, and calories.
Plus, a little puffed rice goes a long way. We’re not just talking cereal bowls — puffed rice is also found in granola bars, savory snacks, and even home-cooked meals. Swapping this super-nutrition puffed rice for its dull version automatically means healthier food options all around the grocery store.
Have a favorite food item with puffed rice? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author @lschwech.