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In many households across the world, especially in Asian countries, rice is a staple food. It’s cheap, tasty, easy to cook, and nutritious. Rice is typically cooked thoroughly before consumption. However, there’s an emerging movement advocating for eating raw food. This is based on the idea that most of our ancestors relied solely on a raw food diet, so raw, undercooked, or unprocessed foods should be better for one’s health. Is the same true for grains like rice? Is it safe to eat undercooked rice?
The answer is: probably not. Although some unprocessed foods can be good, eating raw or undercooked rice may have an adverse impact on your health. In this article, you’ll learn about why it’s not safe to eat undercooked rice.
What Happens If Rice Isn’t Cooked Enough?
Rice can be undercooked for a number of reasons, including the following:
- You didn’t add enough water
- You opened the lid and let the steam escape too early
- The temperature is too high, so the water evaporated long before all the grains were completely cooked
Undercooked rice has a different texture than rice that is completely cooked. The latter is usually soft and fluffy, while the former is typically harder, grainier, and chewier.
Can Eating Undercooked Rice Kill You?
Rice doesn’t work the same way as pasta. While you can cook pasta al dente without even rinsing or cleaning it, the same isn’t true for rice. Uncooked and undercooked rice can contain the bacteria Bacillus Cereus.
This type of bacteria can also be found in other foods such as fish or milk. Bacillus Cereus, when used as an animal feed additive, can actually be good for animals. In humans, however, this type of bacteria can lead to adverse side effects such as the following:
Undercooked rice may contain compounds, such as lectin, that lead to digestive problems. Lectin is a type of protein commonly found in grains and legumes. It’s a natural insecticide that causes similar symptoms as food poisoning when ingested (i.e., vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea).
Lectin can’t be digested — in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as an anti-nutrient because it impairs the ability of your body to absorb nutrients from the food you consume. When lectin is consumed, it passes through the digestive tract without any changes, potentially causing damage to the gut wall.
According to a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, more than half of different commercial rice brands contained Bacillus Cereus. This type of bacteria isn’t typically a cause for concern when it’s present in properly cooked rice. However, when it’s in raw or undercooked rice, the cooler temperatures may actually stimulate its growth.
Some of the symptoms of food poisoning due to Bacillus cereus are:
- Stomach cramps
Other Health Issues
Undercooked rice may also cause the following health issues:
- Fertility researchers in Africa found that undercooked or improperly cooked rice can contain arsenic metals which may cause cancer or interfere with reproduction. Arsenic metals reduce the levels of progesterone in the body while increasing estrogen levels. This, in turn, may lead to impaired thyroid function and ovulation.
- The outer cellulose coating of rice is typically removed when rice is properly cooked. However, when rice is undercooked, this coating can remain. According to a study by NutrientsReview, this cellulose coating is often associated with poor digestion as the human body can’t properly process most foods with rich cellulose content.
- Excessive consumption of undercooked rice may also lead to hair loss, tooth damage, fatigue, abdominal pain, and iron deficiency.
What Should I Do If I Ate Undercooked Rice?
If you’ve consumed undercooked rice, the first thing you should do is observe your body’s reactions. In most cases, you’ll probably be fine. However, if you start manifesting any of the symptoms of food poisoning or gastrointestinal distress, avoid food for the next few hours. Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, to avoid dehydration.
The symptoms will usually go away on their own, so it’s best to let nature run its course. However, if these symptoms don’t show any signs of abating after a few hours or if you’re starting to show signs of dehydration, call your doctor as soon as possible. If it’s an emergency, make sure to go to the hospital.
How Do You Fix Slightly Undercooked Rice?
It’s easy to misjudge or miscalculate when rice is fully cooked. If you find yourself with a pot full of undercooked rice, don’t be so quick to throw it away. Follow the simple steps below to solve this problem:
- Use chopsticks to poke a few holes in the center.
- Add extra water.
- Cover the container with a paper towel.
- Place it inside the microwave for 2 minutes, or you can cook it over low heat for 5 minutes to let the water evaporate.
Is It Safe to Eat Undercooked Rice?
No. Consuming undercooked rice, whether in small or large quantities, can lead to adverse health effects. It can increase your risk of getting food poisoning, gastrointestinal issues, and other serious health problems. To avoid these issues, it’s best to cook rice properly every time.