One of the proverbs that we used to often hear, as children in telugu households, was “Peddala maata saddi moota” which translates to “Words of elders are bags of fermented rice”. As i grew up in my professional life, i sure realised the importance of elders’ advice, however only after my foray into sustainable food did i realise the goodness of our age old breakfast “saddi annam”
Saddi annam is generally prepared from the rice cooked the previous afternoon/night. The cooled down rice is fermented in water overnight and next morning the excess water is drained and rice is eaten with pickle/onion/green chilly. There are also variations like adding hot milk and some curd for culture and letting it translate to curd rice in the morning. The key to the process is the oldest food preserving technique known to humans called fermentation. Now research shows that there are many benefits of fermented foods and the same would apply to saddi annam. However there are two remarkable changes that happen when rice is had in the form of saddi annam as against the modern day hot rice.
1. Reduction of Phytates and increase in availability of minerals
Phytic acid is the most common storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially bran and seeds. It binds phosphorus in a closely held cyclic structure as below. However it can also bind other minerals like calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium in the form of phytates. Due to this binding property of phytic acid, the nutrients in the bran become unavailable to the human body. Hence phytic acid is considered anti-nutrient.
However the traditional wisdom had ways to deal with this challenge. Fermentation reduces phytic acid levels and increases the availability of minerals. This has been established in various scientific studies including one very close to home by the Assam university. The study observed that the initial phytic acid content in the cooked rice (1.255 mg/g) decreased to 0.353 mg/g, almost a 72% reduction after a 12 hour fermentation. Further the iron content increased to 1.351mg/g in fermented rice from 0.453 mg/g of cooked rice, a phenomenal 200% increase on base value.
The same practice can be observed in many other instances. For example the Incas had three step procedure to deal with phytates in quinoa. They would soak it, ferment it and finally cook it. Of course most of the Indians who have adopted this super food called quinoa, do not know the first two steps!
2. Increase in resistant starch and reduction in effective calories
Resistant starches are foods that are resistant to the enzymes in the stomach and small intestine, that break the starches in to glucose. As a result of this, instead of absorbing the food as glucose, it passes through the small intestine intact. This prevents a rise in insulin levels after eating rice.
The second benefit of this is that while your sugar levels are not elevated, your system still feels full for longer preventing you from eating more calories.
Finally and most importantly, the resistant starches enter the colon and where the gut bacteria converts them into short chain fatty acids like acetate, propionate and butyrate, which is the apt fuel, for not just colon, but also our neurons. A complete win win from all aspects like calorie count, insulin surge, hunger and colon health.
A study done by scientists from university of Indonesia observed that the resistant starch content in rice cooked and cooled for 10 hours has increased almost 100% from 0.64g/100g to 1.3g/100g. The study also confirmed a lowering in glycemic response in subjects treated with high resistant starch rice.
So on the whole, one conclusion that i consistently keep ending up with, is that science always coincides with traditional wisdom! Happy saddi annam breakfast.