Ryza is nice-a

Ryza is nice-a was originally published to my other blog, Canadianfoodiegirl.com (now forwarding to this website), on October 23, 2012. This is another one of my favourite posts ever from that site. This post was one of the reasons I eventually decided to create a separate website for health and wellness – because who goes to a cooking class sponsored by a rice milk company and ends up writing about anti-nutrients and phytonutrients?

I recently participated in an interactive cooking class at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens, lead by Chef Patricia Muzzi of Mood Food Culinary. The class featured Ryza brand rice milk.

In the first part of the evening, Chef Muzzi introduced us to the recipes we'd be using, discussed their effects on the brain and gave suggestions for incorporating them into everyday cooking. Her company's mission is to bring awareness to the vital connection between food and the brain and how it impacts overall health and well-being. That's my language.

Participants were split into three groups to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert using Chef Muzzi's recipes with Ryza as the featured ingredient.

On the menu:

Zucchini & Bell Pepper Fritters w Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce Turkey Scaloppini with Leeks & Peas in wild mushroom sauce Sweet Vanilla & Peach Risotto Pudding w Dark Chocolate
Zucchini & Bell Pepper Fritters w Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce
Turkey Scaloppini with Leeks & Peas in wild mushroom sauce
Sweet Vanilla & Peach Risotto Pudding w Dark Chocolate

I dredged the turkey. My hands being my favourite kitchen tool.

Truthfully, I didn't notice the mention of Ryza in the event invitation. When, upon arrival, I learned that the purpose was to promote a product, I was relieved that it was Ryza. A lot of other products would have had me wanting to bolt from the room, but Ryza happens to be my favourite brand of rice milk. My mother introduced it to me years ago.

Why do I like it?

Two reasons:
1. It's made with brown rice.
2. As my mother pointed out, it's the only rice milk on the market without oil as an ingredient.

The idea of sunflower/safflower oil as an additive to rice milk creeps me out.

Ryza comes in two flavours: Original and vanilla. The ingredients of the original: Water, whole grain brown rice, calcium phosphate tribasic, salt, carrageenan, amylase, vitamin A palmitate, zinc gluconate, riboflavin, vitamin D, vitamin B12.

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I'm generally not a fan of ingredients that sound science-y, but these are a-ok to me. Calcium phosphate tribasic comes from nature – either bone/bone ash or rock. Carrageenan (a thickener) comes from seaweed.

In theory I prefer to make my own nondairy milks. In practice I buy my nondairy milk because of how quickly the home made stuff spoils. [2016 update: That's changed.]

Listen up, class

The literature on Ryza states that whole grains contain vitamins, minerals and hundreds of phytonutrients, including phytoestrogens, antioxidants and phenols.

The following information is not intended to dissuade you from buying the product. It's self-serving, really. I'm a nutrition geek who gets excited about presenting nutrition information in my blog. Part of the mission of this blog is to educate. So, listen up or skip to “more Ryza facts”:

Brown rice is high in phytic acid, the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant, especially bran and seeds. It decreases the bioavailability of nutrients. Phytate is the salt form of phytic acid. Unless you have four stomachs (any cows reading?), you lack the enzyme required to digest it. Phytic acid prevents nutrients from being absorbed into the body. This means that when you consume grains, you might not getting the nutrients contained within them. Same with seeds and nuts. This is one of the reasons that some people soak and/or sprout grains, nuts and seeds before consuming. Also, phytase, the enzyme that neutralizes phytic acid, is activated by soaking in acid. Phytic acid is one of the principles behind limiting or excluding grains while eating a “paleo” lifestyle, which aims to get you the nutrients you paid for in those whole foods.

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A report in the U.S. Library of Medicine says that a high concentrations of calcium increase the the anti-nutritive effect of phytic acid on mineral and trace element bioavailability, but a higher amount of vitamin D can compensate somewhat. The Weston A Price Foundation says that absorbable calcium from bone broths and raw dairy products, and vitamin D from certain animal fats, can reduce the adverse effects of phytic acid. It also points to a study that shows that Vitamin C can help. So, for example, eating collard greens with rice releases some of the iron in the rice because collards contain Vitamin C.

It's really just part of the principle of food combining. Vegetarians have known for years that eating certain foods together help release the bioavailability in nutrients. Someone once told me about eating citrus and spinach together to get the most iron, and you may have heard about eating rice and beans together to form a complete protein (I've heard others dispute these two statements).

Ways to decrease phytic acid in grains include soaking, soaking with acid, soaking and sprouting (think beer), and roasting. Some say that occasionally including phytic acid in the diet helps keep the bowels clear of bad bacteria by starving it.

Chef Muzzi's opinion:

I am not 100% sure of how rice milk is prepared but I am almost certain there is a cooking/boiling process involved to extract/produce the end result. Applying heat to product that contains phytic acid will typically allow for the release of the phytate enzymes that will reduce the amount of phytic acid present…similar to the heat generated from fermentation of nuts/seeds.

There is also the question of time-weighted exposure (in relation to volume consumed)….there are no real “numbers” we can reference in terms of the quantity of phytic acid required to reduce vitamin and mineral absorption in the body.

I once read about the effect of pH on this acid and it seems that acidic environments enhance its existence…so perhaps eating alkaline possesses this additional benefit!?

My opinion:
I like Ryza and continue to consume it occasionally. I figure that even if it is limiting the bioavailability of nutrients, it's not putting anything harmful into my body. Nonruminant animals simply can't digest phytate.
As long as I'm eating a varied diet of real whole foods, I'm doing well. Phytates become problematic when grains make up a large portion of the diet and when you're not getting enough calcium, vitamin C and fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin D, which is fat-soluble. The occasional meal higher in phytate will not cause any noticeable health effects in healthy people.

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Besides, I don't have the patience to soak and sprout grains and only occasionally do it with nuts and seeds. A couple of days ago I open an e-book that I downloaded when I bought the Real Food Summit. The book contained this process, which reduces phytic acid by 96% with accelerated fermentation. I don't know about you, but I don't want to plan ahead that much, as easy as it sounds.

More Ryza facts:

  • No added sugar
  • Ryza is made using whole grain un-milled, un-polished, 100% North American grown non-GMO rice
  • Ryza is the first faux milk to qualify for the Whole Grain Council's stamp of approval.

Ryza and shine

I walked away from the cooking class with 2 cartons of milk. A few days later I used it to make Raw Buckwheat Cereal from Meghan Telpner's free Best Breakfasts e-book, with a couple of minor modifications. Get your copy today. I'm off the fruit smoothies for a while until I know that my candida issues are clear, so buckwheat cereal with Ryza and plain yogurt fit the bill.