It's 8 a.m.: Do you know where your rice came from?

The U.S. rice industry has good news this fall for consumers who are concerned about rising costs and who want to know more about where their food comes from.

“As we celebrate the harvest of a new U.S rice crop during September, America’s rice farmers and millers want Americans to know that the healthy goodness of this global staple makes rice the foundation of nutritious and affordable meals, and that very soon they will see a new “Grown in the USA” logo on packages of U.S.-grown rice in grocery stores,” said Terry Trice, chairman, USA Rice Federation Domestic Promotion Committee. “Our research shows that consumers want to support farmers and the U.S. economy by buying home grown rice, and many consumers say they have greater confidence in food that is grown here due to higher production and quality standards. The new logo will make it easier for shoppers to identify and choose U.S. grown rice.”

More than 80 percent of the rice consumed in the U.S. is grown by farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. U.S. farmers each year produce around 19 billion pounds of high-quality varieties of short, medium and long grain rice, as well as specialty rices including jasmine, basmati, arborio, red aromatic and black japonica, among others. In the coming months consumers will have an even greater selection of U.S. grown aromatic rices as farmers step up their production of new domestic aromatic varieties.

While the rising cost of food is an issue on everyone’s minds — the U.S. Labor Department recently reported that in the last twelve months food prices have increased 6 percent — U.S.-grown rice is a great economical solution. It’s widely available, easy to prepare, and costs less than 10 cents per serving. And, a little makes a lot: One pound of uncooked rice equals over two pounds of cooked rice — about sixteen half cup servings. Rice also complements other healthy foods like vegetables, lean meats, seafood, beans and soyfoods.

Here are just a few more reasons to include both enriched white and 100 percent whole grain brown rice in a healthy diet:

• Rice is a complex carbohydrate that is naturally sodium-, gluten- and cholesterol-free and contains no saturated or trans fats.

• Rice is highly digestible and non-allergenic and can be enjoyed by young and old alike, including individuals who are sensitive or intolerant to gluten.

• According to recent research, people who eat rice have more nutritious diets that are higher in 12 essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, potassium and vitamin C and lower in saturated fat and added sugar, than the diets of non-rice eaters. They also have a lower risk of high blood pressure and of being overweight, and may have a reduced risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

• The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid recommend eating three or more servings of whole grain foods per day with the remaining grain servings coming from either enriched or whole grain foods, like whole grain brown rice and enriched white rice.

• With an average of 100 calories, each half-cup serving of cooked rice equals one grain serving.

• U.S. grown white rice is enriched with the important nutrients niacin, thiamin and iron and fortified with folic acid. Folic acid is necessary to help prevent neural tube defects and a growing body of research shows it may also decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers and may offer other health benefits throughout the life cycle.

• Brown rice is a 100 percent whole grain and contains beneficial phytonutrients that have been found to help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, type II diabetes and potentially aid in weight maintenance. It is available in regular and quick-cook varieties.

• Rice can be a time-saver — rice cookers offer no-tend preparation, and complete meals can be prepared using newer models with steamer inserts.

• Rice can help you maximize your food budget; next time you use ground meat in a recipe, replace one-quarter of the meat with cooked enriched white rice or whole grain brown rice to extend the more expensive protein.

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