If you’re married to a Filipina, like I have been for over 18 years, you know rice is the main staple in most Filipino diets. The first thing we had to purchase when my wife joined me in the States back in 2000, was a rice cooker. However, from a nutritional standpoint, white rice pales in comparison to its whole grain cousin, brown rice. With surging inflation rampant in the Philippines what are the “Top 3 Cheap & Healthy Rice Alternatives?”
White Rice is a “Stripped Carb”
However, first of all, let’s address the fact that white rice is a “stripped carb.” No, that doesn’t mean you can find grains of white rice twirling on stripper poles in some seedy club with men clutching fistfuls of peso notes.
I’m referring to an article in the UK Independent which states that white rice has been stripped of all its nutrition. White rice is a refined carbohydrate, similar to those found in white bread, flour tortillas, and most breakfast cereals.
White rice get gets digested quickly, is rapidly processed into sugar, and only fills you up for a short period of time.
Red Rice Rocks
On the other hand, brown or red rice is processed slowly, churning out a steady stream of fuel to power your muscles and keep you feeling sharp.
My always health-conscious asawa switched us over to red rice years ago. It’s gone up in price, however, 53 pesos a kilo, $1.06 U.S. dollars. Therefore, we’re looking for cheaper alternatives to rice to feed our family of six (that’s not including our eight canines.)
Top 3 Cheap & Healthy Rice Alternatives
Therefore, after some research I discovered the top 3 cheap and healthy rice alternatives. All of these rice substitutes should be found throughout all the Philippines.
1. SWEET POTATOES
Photo credit: Marketmanila.com
Back in the States, sweet potatoes were a staple on our annual Thanksgiving menu. Conversely, I haven’t consumed many sweet potatoes since moving to the Philippines over nine years ago.
Why? There’s been plenty of sweet potatoes in our pantry, my wife eats boiled sweet potatoes all the time. Nonetheless, I didn’t care for their taste, color and texture. We never had the orange-colored sweet taters I loved on Thanksgiving. That is, until recently.
“Dear,” my loving better half said to me last week, “I have some sweet potatoes like we had back in America.”
To my amazement, she did! My wife had already boiled one for me and had cut it in half, revealing the orange-Crush color of sweet tater that I loved.
However, what about the taste? Remarkably close to the sweet potatoes I enjoyed in the States.
Sweet potatoes are not in season presently, but still available in our region of the Philippines, for 35 pesos a kilo, 70¢. Cheaper than the red rice we purchase.
Nutritious Sweet Potatoes or Cheetos?
Personally, I’m not too concerned about eating healthy. That said, my caring asawa makes sure I eat my veggies and fish. Though, she did gave me the dreaded “look” at the SM Supermarket in Iloilo City the other day. I had plopped down a big bag of Cheetos puffs in our shopping cart.
“Those have too much salt!” my concerned partner proclaimed.
“Don’t care,” I replied. “I’m going to die someday!” came my mature reply.
The Cheetos stayed.
Photo credit. Redmart.com
(Yeah, I had to grab an image off the Internet. A bag of Cheetos doesn’t stay around here very long.)
While sweet potatoes have a slightly higher fiber content than our red rice and are rich in Vitamins A and C, I’d eat Cheetos every day if I could.
Nevertheless, I’m glad my wife is buying the “orange” sweet potatoes now. I’m not much of a rice guy and regular “white” potatoes cost around 90-100 pesos a kilo, around 2 U.S. dollars.
2. GABI/TARO ROOT
Photo credit. Marketmanila.com
After reading an article at Foodfacts.mercola.com, I figured these guys must have stock in gabi, also known as taro.
Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t even take a knee to this super root. (By the way, I’m burning my 100 peso, $2, fake Nike vinyl slippers as a way of protesting Nike’s new ad campaign featuring Kaepernick.)
But hold on, Pilgrim, be aware that gabi’s roots and leaves should ALWAYS be cooked first. The roots and leaves are both toxic when raw.
Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird. No, It’s a Plane! It’s Super Taro!
Whew! Foodfacts.com really lays it on thick. While I’ve eaten gabi many times since retiring to the Philippines, I had no idea it was so good for me. It has a much thicker texture than regular white taters, but at 30 pesos a kilo, 60¢, it’s cheaper than rice.
And now, without further ado, here are taro’s health benefits, courtesy of Foodfacts.mercola.com:
- Reduces risk of diabetes –The dietary fiber in taro can help regulate insulin and glucose levels in your body, and prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
- Improves vision health – Antioxidants cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene in taro help keep free radicals at bay, reducing your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Helps keep skin healthy – Vitamins A and E are vital to skin health. Adding taro to your diet may help reduce blemishes and wrinkles and give your complexion a healthy glow.
- Bolsters your immunity – The high vitamin C levels in taro helps stimulate your immune system to produce more white blood cells, which can defend your body from pathogenic organisms.
- Heart health – Aside from itsdietary fiber, the potassium in taro is essential for maintaining your cardiovascular function. It helps control your heartbeat, relieve stress on the arteries and keep blood pressure in check.
Photo credit: Britannica.com
In full disclosure, I’m not a big cassava fan. I don’t care for its taste or its texture. My spouse will occasionally bake a cassava cake. It’s the only cake I’ve even eaten in my whole life that I don’t like. (OK, carrot cake isn’t that pleasing to my palate, either, truth be told. I just don’t believe a veggie should be in a cake.)
A February 2018 article in The Manila Times touted cassava as among the cash crops that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is promoting. The article states that cassava has huge potential because of its industrial use as an additive in many processed food products and animal feed.
Well, though this post is supposed to cover healthy alternatives to white rice, “processed food products and animal feed” don’t seem to fit that criteria.
Nevertheless, healthyeating.sfgate.com reports that cassava is a good source of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, manganese, iron and potassium. These minerals are necessary for proper development, growth and function of your body’s tissues.
Cassava is rich in fiber, rich in carbohydrates, gluten free, and rich in saponins. Saponins? What in “H”, “E,” double hockey sticks is that? Saponins are phytochemicals that may help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels in your bloodstream.
Cost? Around P30.00 per kilo, says my asawa. Cassava fetches higher prices when retailed or dried in granulated form.
Top 3 Cheap & Healthy Rice Alternatives
Sweet potatoes, gabi, and cassava. Our top 3 cheap and healthy rice alternatives. While none of these food products may ever replace the fixation most Filipinos have with rice, our household will certainly be adding these items to our menu on a regular basis.
It won’t kill me to eat healthy more often.