White rice is milled rice that has had its husk, bran, and germ removed. This alters the flavor, texture and appearance of the rice and helps prevent spoilage and extend its storage life. After milling, the rice is polished, resulting in a seed with a bright, white, shiny appearance.
The milling and polishing processes both remove nutrients. A diet based on unenriched white rice leaves many people vulnerable to the neurological disease beriberi, due to a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1). White rice is often enriched with some of the nutrients stripped from it during its processing. Enrichment of white rice with B1, B3, and iron is required by law in the United States. As with all natural foods, the precise nutritional composition of rice varies slightly depending on the variety, soil conditions, environmental conditions and types of fertilizers.
At various times, starting in the 19th century, brown rice and wild rice have been advocated as more healthful alternatives. The bran in brown rice contains significant dietary fiber and the germ contains many vitamins and minerals.
Typically, 100 grams of uncooked rice produces around 240 to 260 grams of cooked grains, the difference in weight being due to absorbed cooking water.
Before mechanical milling, rice was milled by a hand pounding technique with a large mortar and pestle type device. Some versions of this improved uniformity of the product, but with mechanical milling much larger quantities were able to be produced. In the late 19th century different machines were produced like the Huller & Sheller Mills (1870) and the Engleberg Milling Machine (1890). By 1955, new machinery had been developed in Japan that had significantly improved the quality and output capacity.
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