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Colored rice, anyone?

Not just any rice: Rice Maja Blanca with Popcorn Ice Cream

MANILA, Philippines — Most of us Pinoys can’t do without rice. It has become some sort of comfort food OFWs bring with them when on vacation in the Philippines, or buy in bulk at the nearest Filipino store

But not all kinds of rice are good for you. ABC News Medical Unit’s Dr. Lawrence Borges says the most common — white rice — raises one’s risk for diabetes. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health backs this up. An article published by ABC News shows that Asians who consumed the most amount of white rice had a “55 percent increase in Type 2 diabetes” over others who didn’t.Enter Sunnywood Superfoods Corp., a Filipino company supplying black, red, brown and even violet rice, plus specialty (basmati and glutinous) rice to supermarket chains for 20 years.

Its president, Romeo Ong, has been talking with small farmers’ cooperatives whose products Sunnywood can buy, package, and sell. Along the way, they support local farmers, encourage them to produce more, and stick to a type of work constantly threatened by “more glamorous” jobs in the city’s gleaming corporate buildings.

While corporate work has its share of hazards, Sunnywood has to wrestle with natural forces that affect supply. The company can’t source out rice from typhoon-stricken areas because the crops are gone. So Ong has a wide network of reliable suppliers who can produce the rice he needs to stock supermarket shelves.

No insect, microbe or other unhealthy object can mix with the rice, says Sunnywood endorser chef Lau (a.k.a. chef Laudico), because it’s packed in a re-sealable plastic pack. All you have to do is seal it once you’ve taken the amount you need for the day.

Chef Lau warns that the typical rice dispenser doesn’t shield the grains from harmful elements. So sealing the rice — a strategy Sunnywood pioneered in the country — is best.

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You don’t see suspicious things like dark pebbles and other foreign objects that rice sold in wet markets sometimes have.

Cleanliness is one thing.  Nutrition is another.

Chef Lau considers black rice the healthiest of them all. It’s rich in antioxidants, lower in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and essential oils.

Red rice is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, helps tone muscles, regulates the nervous system, builds strong bones, lowers blood cholesterol, and prevents osteoporosis, arthritis and inflammation.

Brown rice lessens obesity and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Rich in fiber and essential oils, it helps fend off gastrointestinal and heart problems.

Multigrain rice is best, combining as it does the goodness of black, red and brown rice.

What about the higher cost of colored rice?

Ong, chef Lau and his wife, chef Jackie, assure everyone that colored rice is budget-friendly.

“You easily feel full,” explains chef Lau. So you end up eating less and spending less. Most of all, you’re healthier because you take in nutritious food.

Chef Jackie adds that since the carbs in colored rice “take a long time to digest,” you actually feel more energetic.

Ong also says that colored rice — at least the one he markets — costs only P20 per serving.

Ong won’t rest on his laurels.  His daughter (and only child’s) willingness to help the family business inspired him to aim even higher.

He wants to expand abroad. He’s eyeing a big facility whose high-tech equipment can produce better quality rice. He’s hiring someone fluent in the local languages to focus on talking with farmer cooperatives in the provinces.

It’s above the radar from now on.  And Ong is making sure he can rice — er, rise — to the challenges the coming years will bring.

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