QUESTION: My husband gets upset when I cook white rice for dinner. He thinks that I should use brown rice because it is so much more nutritious. I don't particularly like the flavor of brown rice, and it takes so much more time to cook that I thought I'd write for your opinion about this matter. Also, what is the difference between long-grain and short-grain rice. Our son spent two years in Japan and thinks I should cook only short grain rice. Thank you for your answer.

ANSWER: Basically, rice is dietary staple and a great replacement for potatoes, even though it is not quite as nutritious. A half-cup serving of almost any kind of rice contains about 110 calories, lots of complex carbohydrates, a little protein and hardly any fat.When harvested, rice has an inedible hull that is always removed. To make white rice, the layer of bran and germ (containing most of the vitamins and minerals) is also removed. The starchy portion is then enriched with some B vitamins and iron.

Because of this enrichment, many dietitians and nutritionists will say that white rice is as good to use as brown, even though most of the added nutrients will be lost if the rice is rinsed prior to cooking. In fact, according to an article in the most recent University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter, brown rice is very "similar in nutritional value to enriched white varieties, except that it contains slightly more trace minerals and a bit more fat."

I think that eating enriched white rice instead of brown rice is much like making bread with enriched white flour instead of whole-wheat flour, and there is some disagreement about this issue as well. The Wellness Letter also mentions that brown rice has up to three times more fiber - about 2 grams per half-cup serving. But unless you eat several cups a day, brown rice is not a significant fiber source.

The basic difference between long-grain and short-grain rice is the shape (long and narrow versus plump and ovoid). Long-grain is the most popular rice in the United States and Canada, whereas short-grain rice is more popular in Asia and northern Italy. Short-grains tend to be sticky and glutinous when cooked and are easier to eat with chopsticks.

Parboiled rice (converted), according to the Berkeley Wellness Letter, is white rice that has been soaked, steamed and dried before the hull is removed. Fluffy and separate when cooked, it retains slightly more nutrients than regular white rice. It is not precooked and may require more time and water than regular white rice.

Instant rice (white or brown) is completely cooked, then dried. This rice is then rehydrated when you soak it in boiling water. Wild rice is not a rice at all but a grass seed native to North America. It has more protein and fewer calories than regular rice and is usually more expensive.


- Exercise. Increase aerobic exercise to about 30 minutes a day. Keep doing about 20 abdominal curls. Increase to 10 modified pushups.

- Diet. Barbara Higa, our consultant dietitian, suggests avoiding fried foods this week. Bake, broil or saute instead.