Most Nigerians and households in the North-West have switched their preference from imported rice to the locally grown brand, sequel to their discovery of nutritious and health components of the latter.
A survey in the six states of the geo-political zone, indicated that prior to the closure of Nigeria’s borders, foreign rice was the first choice of many households.
However, after months of ‘forced’ consumption of local rice, occasioned by border closure, households seem to have realised the nutritional difference between the two categories of rice.
Commenting on the issue, the Zamfara Chairman, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Mr Nasiru Sani, says consumption of local rice is highly recommended as it reduces sleep disorder, among other health challenges.
“Nigerian rice helps in reducing sleep disorder, as it has anti-aging property; its good for pregnant women, fights cancer, protects the heart, boosts immunity and prevents constipation, among others,” Sani said.
The nutrition expert said the rice also contains high fibre that is good for human health.
“One of the nutrients present in Nigerian local rice is fibre, which helps in the digestion process, thereby preventing digestion disorder.
“Our local rice controls blood sugar and diabetes because of the presence of soluble fibre.
“It also has high carbohydrate content, making it one of the carbohydrate food sources in Nigeria, and also provides adequate energy because of its calorie content, without necessarily causing weight gain,” he said.
Sani says that due to the magnesium contained in Nigerian local rice, it helps in the bone structure and also helps in the absorption of calcium.
“The presence of magnesium in Nigerian local rice also helps in the maintenance and improvement of the nervous system.
“The local rice is properly enriched with magnesium and selenium, which are two important nutrients that are necessary for protecting the heart from cardiovascular-related diseases.
“Also, the low saturated fat content is vital for the proper conditioning of the heart,” he said.
From Kebbi State, another nutritionist in the state Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Muhammad Ja’afar, explained that the unpolished Nigerian rice helps in regulating blood sugar level, thereby controlling diabetes.
“Consuming locally produced rice helps in maintaining normal body weight, and also promotes healthy bowel movements, thus preventing constipation.
“The high magnesium content of the rice is important and helps in maintaining a healthy nervous system.
“The local rice has the ability to lower the blood’s cholesterol level, and contains a phytonutrient called “lignin”, which helps in reducing the risks of breast cancer and heart disease.
“It is also very rich in magnesium, which is highly desirable for bone health,” Ja’afar explained.
Mr Ibrahim Mu’azu, an Agricultural Extension Specialist at the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, Zaria, says local rice is more nutritious, despite the stress involved in preparing and cooking.
Ibrahim, who is also a rice farmer, said many people were ignorant of the abundant nutritional value of locally produced rice, which health benefits surpassed those of foreign polished rice.
“The locally grown type is the short-grained brown rice, which is usually unpolished and unrefined, with part of the bran remaining intact, and is sold in the market retaining this same form.
“The surprising fact is that even though the locally produced Nigerian rice is not as refined as the polished or regular rice, it possesses more nutritional and health benefits.
“Imported rice are polished, and from the technical perspective, polishing removes the ‘Aleurone layer’ in the rice grain.
“The Aleurone layer is rich with healthy, supportive, essential fats; once these fats are exposed to air during the refining process, they become susceptible to oxidation.
“In the case of imported rice, the layer is removed deliberately to extend the shelf life of the rice, therefore, refined rice is lacking its original nutrients,” he said.
Mu’azu added that unlike polished rice, stripped of its major nutrients such as vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and some other nutrients during the process of refining, local rice still had the basic nutrients.
He listed the benefits of eating local rice, to include guaranteeing healthy bones resulting from its richness in magnesium, which is highly important for bone health.
“It also reduces the risk of acquiring breast cancer because it contains a phytonutrient called “lignin”, which helps in reducing the risks of breast cancer and heart disease, and also lowers blood cholesterol because of its oil and fibre contents.
“It helps in maintaining the health of the nervous system because of its high magnesium, and prevents constipation; it also helps in maintaining the normal body weight.
“It reduces the severity of Asthma, and reduces diabetes because of its fibre, just as it prevents constipation by promoting healthy bowel movements,” Mu’azu said.
A housewife in Sokoto, Hajia A’isha Haruna, said local rice had rough surface, contained more phosphorous and fibre, which helped in reducing bowel disorder and constipation.
Haruna also corroborated that local rice contained an appreciable amount of selenium, which has been found to be effective in fighting colon and breast cancer.
She agreed that the rice has an anti-aging property known as ferulic acid, that enhances the skin, making it smoother, brighter and softer.
A restaurant operator in Katsina metropolis, Mrs Hajara Idris, told NAN that her customers preferred local rice over the imported type, as they had discovered the nutritional value of the former.
According to Idris, unpolished rice, popularly known as “local rice” has lots of nutrients and vitamins.
“The ban on importation of foreign rice made people to discover that local rice is even ‘sweeter’ and more nutritious than the foreign rice.
“I can tell you without mincing words that if people come to eat in my restaurant, they prefer locally produced rice,” she said.
Also, some rice consumers in Kano said they would continue to patronise local rice because it is more palatable and cheaper than the foreign one.
They told NAN that it was after the ban on importation of foreign rice that many people realised that locally produced one was tastier, healthier and more nutritious.
“Apart from being cheaper, local rice tastes better when compared with the imported one,” said Mr Wada Yunusa, one of the respondents.
Another respondent, Dr. Aminu Alhassan-Fagge of the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University, Kano, said local rice was more palatable than the foreign one.
Alhassan-Fagge said that local rice, if well dried, could be stored for a longer period than the imported one.
Alhaji Sahabi Augie, the Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kebbi State, said people in the state preferred local rice because of its affordability and health benefits.
“Before now, people preferred imported rice, but as the economy bites harder and people started discovering the nutritional contents of local rice, they switched to the latter,” Augie said.
He explained that imported rice, in most cases, were expired products, adding that the chemical compounds used in preserving it was not healthy for human consumption.
“But our local rice is produced from farm, moved to the mill, and to the market; no chemical compounds for storage and it does not take longer time than necessary,” the chairman said.
On his part, the Chairman of Grassroots Farmers Association of Nigeria in Kebbi, Alhaji Muhammad Idris, observed that most Nigerians were not enlightened as regards the health benefits of their own produce.
“If we are more enlightened about the health benefits of our local rice, I believe we would embrace it wholeheartedly because it contains un-adulterated nutrients.
“These nutrients include carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, iron, selenium and manganese, among others.
“Though not valued because of its local nature and unique smell, it is a perfect substitute for people who are medically barred from eating white rice,” Idris said.
In his contribution, Mr Mustapha Kangiwa, an agriculturalist in Birnin- Kebbi, observed that many people were unaware of the nutritional and health benefits of local rice.
“Looking from the technical perspective, polishing removes the “Aleurone layer” of the rice grain, a layer that is rich with healthy, supportive, essential fats.
“Once these fats are exposed to air during the refining process, they become susceptible to oxidation and the layer is removed in order to extend the shelf life of the rice.
“In summary, the end product, that is, polished rice, is just refined rice that is lacking its original nutrients.
“Unlike the polished rice which has been stripped of its major nutrients, such as vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and some other nutrients during the process of refining, the local rice maintains these basic nutrients,” Kangiwa said.