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Our friends at USA Rice have partnered with us this month on our Ricegiving initiative. For every sushi roll ordered at P.F. Chang’s, a serving of rice will be donated to those in need through Feeding America.

USA Rice is the global advocate for all segments of the U.S. rice industry. They’re experts in all things rice, including the question every P.F. Chang’s server knows all too well: brown or white rice? I sat down with Katie Maher, director of domestic promotions, from USA Rice to debunk some myths about rice.

Photo: Hands holding brown rice.

Q: What is the difference between brown rice and white rice?
A: Not many people realize all rice starts out as brown rice. When rice comes from the field, the kernels are encased in an inedible, protective hull. After the hulls are removed with machines called “shellers,” the remaining grain is called whole grain rice, because the bran, germ, and endosperm are still intact. The bran and germ are high in vitamins, minerals, oil, and healthy phytonutrients. The most common type of whole grain rice is brown rice - it’s the fiber-filled bran layer that gives it the tan color, chewy texture, and nutty flavor.

To turn whole grain brown rice into white rice, the grains are passed through machines that rub the grains together to remove the bran and germ. This process makes white rice have a shorter cooking time and extended shelf life.

Photo: Parent and child on a tractor.

Q: Where is rice grown?
A: Believe it or not, nearly 85% of the rice American’s consume is grown right here in the USA. Farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas grow 18 billion pounds of rice each year.

Q: Which is healthier, brown or white rice?
A: The answer is both!

Both brown and enriched white rice are included in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and in the Grains portion of MyPlate, the USDA’s graphic reminder for healthy eating.

Brown rice is a whole grain – providing protein, fiber, and many important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Enriched white rice has added thiamine, niacin, and iron, and also is fortified with folic acid, a B vitamin that the body needs to make new cells – most notably, it helps protect against birth defects when consumed by expectant moms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consumption of enriched grain foods, not prenatal supplements, is responsible for the 36% decline in prevalence of neural tube defects. This is no small feat – the CDC named the folic acid fortification of grains in reducing neural tube birth defects one of the top 10 public health achievements in the first decade of the 21st century.

Photo: Aerial view of P.F. Chang's sushi

Q: Does the size of the grain matter?
A: Yes.

Due to starch composition, cooked long grain rice is lighter, fluffier, and more separated than medium or short grain rice. Long grain rice works well in such dishes as pilaf, stir-fry, salad, soup, and Southern favorites like jambalaya and gumbo.

Cooked medium grain rice is moist and tender, with a tendency to cling together. Medium grain rice is a good choice for dishes that have a creamier consistency, such as risotto or rice pudding, as well as sushi and other Asian dishes.

Short grain rice has a short, plump, almost round kernel, and after cooking is soft and somewhat chewy, with a slight springiness to the bite. Like medium grain rice, short grain rice is a good choice for creamier consistency dishes, as well as sushi and other Asian dishes.

Q: What is sushi rice?
A: Sushi rice is a high-quality short grain rice that is sticky and slightly sweet, and almost all of the sushi rice you eat is grown right here in the U.S!