6 Ways To Eat Rice Bran

If asked to guess a dish common to different cultures around the globe, your first instinct might be to say “rice” – considering that it can be found on almost any dinner menu anywhere – and you would be right!

Source: WorldFood
The estimated consumption of rice per day in the various regions of Asia during the early 2000s

Rice is one of the most widely consumed grain product in the world, being a staple of diets in many Asian and African regions. Globally, this high rice consumption has been estimated to be ~78.9kg/year per capita, with the demand increasing gradually year by year. 

Rice consumption has been recorded to be the greatest in Southeast Asian regions, where countries such Vietnam and Bangladesh are estimated to have a per capita consumption of rice that exceeds 200 kg per year.

Around the world, rice is primarily consumed as white rice, but did you know that white rice is actually not a complete piece of rice? A complete piece of rice comes in the form of brown rice, with the differentiating component being a layer known as rice brana term you might not be too familiar with.

So let’s find out more about it, shall we!

What is Rice Bran?

Rice bran refers to the outer layer of an unrefined grain, being the main by-product obtained from the rice milling process. Milling is a multi-stage process which begins with the removal of the husk, an outer coat that covers the bran layer. Unlike bran, this layer is inedible and finds non-consumption uses in industries such as biofuel and concrete production.

Source: Frontiers
The anatomical breakdown of a rice kernel. The husks of kernels are removed through dehusking to generate grains for refinement.

Refinement only occurs after dehusking, where the brown unrefined grains are polished into white refined grains. Polishing removes the bran layer through the means of abrasion and/or friction.

  • Abrasive whitening – involves abrasive surfaces that grind away the bran
  • Friction Whitening – involves creating friction between grains to facilitate removal of the bran

The milling of 100 kg of unrefined grains typically generates ~10 kg of bran, as the outer layer contributes to approximately 10% of the grain’s total weight. While this amount generated might seem small relative to the amount of rice milled, it is important that we also consider the total amount of milled rice that is produced annually. 

Source: statista
The increase in global milled rice production from 2008 to 2023

In 2022, for instance, the production of milled rice was recorded to be over 513 million metric tonnes – equating to a production of around 51.3 million metric tonnes of rice bran (the weight of an estimated number of 10,260,000 elephants). And if you ask me, that is ALOT of elephants.

The increasing trend of rice production has halted in the recent years of 2021 to 2023 due to unfavourable weather conditions affecting crop growth, raising concerns on food security.

Why is Rice Bran removed?

The removal of rice bran can be attributed to two main reasons.

#1 Increased shelf life of refined grains

Source: Encyclopedia
The bran layer of the unrefined grains is composed of three distinct layers

Refined grains tend to have a longer shelf life when compared to unrefined grains due to the removal of the bran layers. These bran layers have a rich lipid (fat) content that is naturally more prone to chemical reactions, causing food spoilage to occur more rapidly.

Source: MDPI
When natural chemicals in the environment interact with the fat molecules inside the bran layers, a variety of chemical compounds (associated with food spoilage) are generated.

Food spoilage can be caused by these chemical reactions involving fats due to the production of compounds such as aldehydes and free fatty acids from lipids. These are acidic compounds that create the sour and off-putting smells associated with food spoilage.

Hence, the removal of the bran layers reduces the overall lipid content of the grain, allowing you to keep them at home for a longer period.

#2 Improved Texture & Taste

Source: EatClean

Rice bran is removed during the milling to enhance the texture and taste of the grains after cooking. The bran layers are composed of high levels of fiber, lipids, and other compounds (such as proteins, minerals & aromatics), resulting in the rough, chewy texture and nutty flavor of cooked brown rice.

The roasted and nutty flavour of cooked brown (unrefined) rice can be attributed to aromatic compounds such as pyrazines. These compounds can be formed by the chemical reactions between sugar and protein molecules.

By removing the bran layers, the levels of fiber, lipids and other bran-associated compounds (such as aromatics) are reduced, resulting in the neutral flavor profile of white rice that is preferred by many.

The removal of the bran layer does not only affect the taste and texture of the grains after cooking but affects their ease of cooking. Brown rice requires more water and a longer cooking time due to the increased absorption of moisture. Using insufficient water when cooking would result in an overly dry texture that may not be as good tasting.

This preference for white rice has been the subject of interest in various studies, in a bid to understand the challenges associated with the cultural acceptance of brown rice. A study done in Southern India, for instance, found that participants viewed brown rice as inferior when compared with white rice – suggesting that individual perceptions towards the unrefined grain could very much play a role in influencing consumer acceptance.

The Nutritional Benefits of eating Rice Bran

Source: ScienceDirect
The various bioactive compounds that have been identified in different scientific studies and their potential roles in the human body

With the variety of essential nutrients and bioactive compounds packed into bran, it is hard to not consider it a nutritional powerhouse. Key nutrients and bioactive compounds found within bran include:

Antioxidants – compounds that protect the body from harmful naturally occurring chemical reactions. Potential health benefits linked to antioxidants include reduced risks of disease onset (such as cancers & heart disease) and inflammation. 

Antioxidants that can be found within bran include polyphenols and oryzanol.

Vitamins – rice bran is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, such as thiamine, nicotinic acid, riboflavin and vitamin B6. While also synthesized by the good bacteria within our gut, vitamin B intake from nutritional sources is important as the amount synthesized is often insufficient to meet our body’s needs.

Source: AJ
DNA is the most important component of our body cells. When DNA is not properly formed during the creation of new cells, diseases (such as cancer) can arise.

Vitamin B plays a crucial role in aiding our capability to break down and absorb nutrients – providing us with the energy and building blocks to stay healthy. Specific B-complex vitamins (such as vitamin B6 and riboflavin) also ensure that the DNA of our body cells properly form when new cells are created.

Minerals – minerals are an important component of our diet, influencing many of our bodily functions such as digestion, muscle building and fighting diseases. Minerals which hold greater biological importance include zinc & iron. 

Source: Super Good Stuff
The different minerals and how they can benefit our body alongside their related vitamins

Rice bran is not only a good source of both zinc and iron, but other important minerals that you need such as phosphorus and calcium.

Studies done on these bioactive compounds have found their potential uses in glycemic control (alleviating hyperglycemia), lowering cholesterol levels within the blood & liver, and reducing blood pressure (control of hypertension). 

Source: Froothie

These nutritional benefits possible from bran are the reasons why brown rice is often considered the “healthier option” over white rice

How can Rice Bran be used?

While a by-product of rice production, the usage of rice bran has not only been limited to the food industry but permeates into ones that you might not think about.

#1 Animal Feed

Rice bran has been used to supplement animal feed due to its various nutritionally beneficial compounds. For instance, rice bran has seen increased usage as an ingredient of poultry feed formulation (~10%) due to its high energy content and bioactive compounds (protein, minerals & vitamins) which meet the growth requirements of poultry.

#2 Health Supplements

Source: iHERB

Bioactive compounds from rice bran have also been extracted and used for medicinal purposes. For instance, arabinoxylan extracts from rice bran have been used to boost an individual’s immune system, helping the individual to ward off infections. 

Rice bran supplementation has also been shown to possibly improve the sleep efficiency of adults with sleep disturbance, illustrating the potential of rice bran supplementation in the management of a variety of ailments.

#3 Agricultural Usage

Source: svrgaia
Rice bran lecithin is derived from rice bran oil and composed of the lipid (fat) molecules from the oil such as phospholipids, triglycerides and glycolipids.

The emerging usage of rice bran lecithin (a derivative of rice bran oil) as a sustainable agricultural solution can be attributed to its ability to:

1. Reduced Pesticide Dependence – lecithin can potentially act as a natural pest repellant, reducing the need for synthetic chemicals which contribute to environmental pollution and insecticide-resistant strains of pests.

2. Reduce Water Usage – lecithin aids in the improvement of soil structure by increasing soil aggregation and porosity, allowing it to retain moisture more effectively and thus reducing the need for excessive irrigation. The lipid molecules of lecithin also interact with the water molecules, causing them to be retained within the soil.

Source: Xerces Society

3. Support the growth of beneficial insects – by reducing the usage of synthetic pesticides, beneficial insects can flourish as they are typically indiscriminately targeted by pesticides. Beneficial insects include pollinators (such as bees and beetles) and natural predators of pests. These beneficial insects are not only essential for the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem but have also been stated to increase the quality and quantity of crop yields.

#4 Oil Production

Source: Morocco Method

While the high-fat content of bran is not the most ideal for the shelf survivability of unrefined grains, it has allowed rice bran to be repurposed and used for oil production. Oil is typically extracted from rice bran through:

  • Mechanical pressing – where the bran is crushed and pressed to release crude oil which undergoes refinement
  • Solvent extraction – where the bran is soaked in a liquid solvent which can interact and extract the oil within the bran

Interestingly, the resultant oil has not only seen usage within the food industry (for cooking) but even within the skin and hair care industry. Its usage outside of the world of food can be attributed to the numerous beneficial compounds found within the bran that are extracted. 

These compounds include vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules which can reduce the irritation of the skin while penetrating its inner layers to keep it nourished from within. The oil also keeps the scalp moisturised, promoting hair growth and reducing dryness.

Who knew that a simple by-product from rice production could be so beneficial for our skin and hair!

#5 Food Usage

Source: xndo

Within the food industry, rice bran has seen consumption in both its natural form and as rice bran oil. Rice bran is often used as an additive in many health foods (such as the ZEROTM rice from XNDO) due to the nutritional composition of the by-product – being packed with essential nutrients that fulfills the body’s needs.

And apart from being an additive, rice bran also serves as a good substitute for sources of dietary fats (such as vegetable oils & butter), with studies suggesting that rice bran oil consumption could potentially improve one’s health outcomes – by lowering the total and LDL cholesterol levels of the individual

The ability of rice bran to influence the cholesterol levels of an individual can be attributed to its Vitamin E constituent, which has been shown to exert a protective effect against cholesterol-related complications.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, with higher blood levels leading to cholesterol buildup with the arteries. This buildup of cholesterol often results in cardiac complications such as heart attacks and cardiac failure.

How can Rice Bran be eaten?

Whether you’re a health-conscious individual seeking to boost your diet, a home cook looking to experiment with different ingredients, or an industry professional exploring sustainable and nutritious options (just like us at moonbeam co.), rice bran is both a versatile and beneficial addition to your pantry and daily diet.

The versatility of rice bran allows for the creation of both sweet and savoury treats ‒ perfect for any occasion – so why not give it a go?

#1 Nukadoko

Source: Plant-based Matters

Starting with one of my favourite dishes, rice bran can be used to make Nukadokowhich loosely translates into ‘rice bran bed‘. Nukadoko is a fermented rice bran bed, popularly used in Japan, for the pickling of vegetables to make a dish known as Nukazakea type of preserved dish.

This method of preservation can be used to pickle about any vegetable, with popular ones being cucumbers, carrots and eggplant. Personally, I love pickled vegetables for their ability to get my digestion going, helping to stave off those nasty bloats which can easily ruin a day, so I definitely recommend trying this for yourself.

Fermented vegetables have been shown to improve gut health and digestion due to the presence of probiotics (good bacteria) which can have beneficial interactions with your gut bacteria while preventing the growth of bad bacteria.

The steps to create your own pickling bed are relatively simple, so don’t be too afraid to get started yourself!

Following the recipe from Plant-based Matters, this is how you may go about making your own Nukadoko at home. The three basic ingredients that you will need are:

  • Rice Bran
  • Water
  • Sea Salt

Apart from these basic ingredients, other commonly used ones include: 1) Dried Chili Flakes (or chili peppers) for their antiseptic and antioxidant components, 2) Dried Kelp (Kombu) for the extra umami punch, and 3) Vegetable Scraps which aid in the growth of good bacteria.

Source: Plant-based Matters

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (rice bran & sea salt), ensuring that they are well incorporated with each other. After ensuring a thorough mixture, add the water little by little, mixing along the way to prevent the formation of clumps. 

Transfer the wet mixture to your container of choice (which will be used for pickling) and add the dried chili flakes and kelp, ensuring to mix the dried ingredients well into the mixture. Finally, add the vegetable scraps and mix one final time, ensuring that the scraps are well-buried into your completed Nukadoko.

Using your hands, press down onto your Nukadoko to remove any air pockets within the bedding and store in a cool and dry place. The completed Nukadoko will require ~20 days of fermentation before it can be used for pickling:

  • For the first 10 days – mix thoroughly twice a day (every 12 hours) & ensure that the lid of your container is left ajar to allow airflow.
  • For the last 10 days – mix thoroughly once a day (every 24 hours) & ensure that the lid is left closed.\

Avoid storage within your fridge as a cold environment would prevent the growth and activity of the good bacteria (probiotics), affecting the fermentation process needed to complete the Nukadoko before usage.

To find out about how you can maintain the Nukadoko, head over to the full recipe by Plant-based Matters.

#2 Okara Mochi

Source: AllRecipes

If you’re a fan of mochi, you have to give this a try for yourself. This recipe makes use of rice bran and soy okara to create the perfect healthy post-dinner treat that you can indulge in guilt-free. The ingredients that you will need are:

  • Fresh Okara
  • Rice Bran
  • Potato Starch (Katakuriko)
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Sake
  • Sugar

Soy okara is another highly-versatile ingredient that can be used to craft both sweet and savoury treats that can please your palate. Check out our post on soy okara to learn more about them here.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (okara, bran, starch & salt) in a bowl, before adding water in small amounts and mixing along the way to prevent clump formation. Heat the mixture in a microwave or oven before adding the last ingredient, sake.

After thoroughly mixing the sake into the mixture, heat it for the final time in the microwave. Allow the completed mochi to cool off before pinching off individual bite-sized pieces of mochi for serving. While tearing off the individual pieces of mochi, you may moisten your hands with water to prevent the mochi from overly sticking to your fingers. 

You may choose to add fillings such as red bean or black sesame into the mochi depending on your preference. To add fillings, flatten your mini mochi ball and add the filing to the center of the flattened ball, before then pinching the sides together to trap the filling.

For some additional finishing touches, sprinkle some powdered sugar (or any sugar/sweetener of your choice) on top of the mochis and slightly roast them to create a crispy caramelised top for the extra texture.If the recipe sounds good to you, check it out here.

#3 Noodles

Source: RedHouseSpice

Tired of instant noodles and store-bought noodles, just like I am? Why not make your own using some rice bran. Following this recipe, you can make your own noodles from scratch – perfect for cold rainy days (even though noodles arguably always hit the spot no matter the weather).

To make your own homemade noodles to impress your family and friends, the ingredients that you will need are:

  • Flour (bread, cake or all-purpose flour)
  • Rice Bran 
  • Water 
  • Salt

The type of flour used affects the amount of water needed to prepare the dough and the final texture of the noodles. Bread flour, for instance, has a higher water absorption capacity and requires more water during preparation. Flour with a higher gluten content (such as bread flour) typically results in noodles with a more elastic texture.

While the recipe being used makes use of both a bread maker and pasta cutter to make the noodles, do not feel pressured to get these machines as they are not a definite necessity.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (rice bran and flour) in a bowl, before adding water in small amounts and mixing along the way to prevent clump formation. Next, cover your dough with a wet cloth and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes have passed, knead the dough again to ensure that the dry ingredients have been well incorporated.

After kneading the dough, use a rolling pin to flatten it to the thinness of your liking. If you feel like your dough is too big to be flattened, I would recommend sectioning it into smaller balls for rolling (this can also be done if you’re preparing a single portion serving). 

While kneading or rolling out the dough, keeping your hands, dough or rolling pin dusted will prevent the dough from overly sticking together or to any surface.

Source: RedHouseSpice

Next, fold the flattened dough into several layers, ensuring that flour is present between the layers. Using a knife, cut the layered dough into individual noodle strips. Separate the noodle strips and boil in hot water to cook before serving.

If making homemade noodles sounds like a fun project, check out the recipe here. You may also choose to follow the steps outlined here if you do not have a bread maker or pasta cutter.

#4 Banana rice bran muffins

Source: Taste

If you’re looking for an afternoon snack, why not try making these banana rice bran muffins. Muffins are perfect at any time of the day, as breakfast, a midday snack or a late-night treat served alongside a scoop of ice cream. To make these muffins, the ingredients you need are:

  • Rice bran
  • All-purpose Flour
  • Brown sugar (or sugar/sweetener of your choice)
  • Baking Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Milk
  • Egg Whites
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Mashed Bananas

Before carrying out any mixing, preheat your oven to ensure that the muffins bake at a constant temperature throughout. Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (rice bran, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, & salt) in a bowl and ensure well-mixed. 

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients – milk, egg whites, vegetable oil, banana – and ensure well-mixed. You may also choose to substitute the bananas for a filling of your choice, such as chocolate chips or peanut butter. 

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to mix. Spoon the combined mixture into a muffin pan and bake till golden brown. Finally, leave the baked muffins to cool and sprinkle toppings of your choice to give them the final wow factor.

If muffins are up your alley, check out the full recipe here.

#5 Chapati

Source: Dom In The Kitchen

Looking for something to pair with a good curry dish? Let’s make some Chapati! 

The ingredients that you will need are:

  • Rice Bran
  • Wheat Flour
  • Salt
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (rice bran, wheat flour, & salt) in a bowl and ensure well-mixed. Add the wet ingredients (oil and water) and stir to form a dough. Allow the dough to rest for 15-30 minutes before kneading.

Pinch the dough into smaller individual balls and keep them covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying out. Roll out the smaller pieces of dough and cook in a frying pan till small bubbles appear on the surface of the chapati. When the small bubbles are formed, flip the chapati and continue cooking until small bubbles also appear on the flipped surface. 

If this sounds simple enough to try, be sure to check out the full instructions here.

#6 Cookies

Source: Arla Foods

And last by not least, let’s make some cookies! Who doesn’t love a tray of freshly baked cookies served alongside a glass of cold milk. To make some cookies, the ingredients you will need are:

  • Rice bran
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Lemon zest 
  • Egg
  • Butter

Before carrying out any mixing, preheat your oven to ensure that the cookies bake at a constant temperature throughout. Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (rice bran, flour, sugar, salt & lemon zest) in a bowl and ensure well-mixed. 

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients  (butter & eggs) and ensure well-mixed. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to mix. Similar to other recipes above, you may also choose to substitute or add additional ingredients to suit your taste.

For the finishing touches, add your topping of choice (white chocolate chips or nuts) and bake till lightly brown at the edges. If cookies and milk sound enticing to you, check out the recipe here.

Concluding Thoughts

As such with the numerous biological benefits possible, rice bran is definitely a worthy addition to your diet. So what are you waiting for, give it a try for yourself! 

And you can always begin by making the simple swap from white rice to brown rice.