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Don't wash nutrients down the drain

September 23, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Eating pasta and rice can be an excellent way to help meet the six to 11 servings of breads, cereals, rice and pasta recommended by United States Department of Agriculture. However, you can cut yourself short nutritionally if you prepare these foods incorrectly.

If you rinse rice or pasta and drain off the cooking liquid, or if you cook rice in too much water, you are needlessly wasting nutrients.

Ninety percent of the rice sold in the United States is enriched with a dusting of thiamin, niacin and iron, according to Rice Council of America. Rinsing rice before cooking washes these nutrients away, resulting in a loss of up to 25 percent. Rinsing is unnecessary because today's packaged rice already has been cleaned.

To preserve the nutrients in rice, simply cook in just enough water to be absorbed during cooking; usually the amount recommended on the package directions.

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The amount of boiling water used to cook pasta can't be minimized as it can with rice. National Pasta Association recommends using four to six quarts of boiling water for each pound of pasta. The volume of water is necessary to help ensure even cooking and reduce sticking.

To minimize the nutrient losses when cooking pasta, do not rinse the pasta unless you are using it for a cold salad. Incorporate some of the cooking water in other parts of the meal, such as adding it to sauces or using it in soups or stews.

Following these suggestions can help you reap the best nutritionally from your rice and pasta.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland.

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