November 24, 2008
Contact: Sarah Wally, (202) 328-7744

Nutrition Wise
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I know brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, but is that true of the quick-cooking versions, too?

A: Fortunately, yes. While the cooking time required for regular brown rice is not a problem when preparing casseroles or other dishes with longer cooking times, sometimes you want rice that can be prepared quickly. With advances in food technology, now you don’t need to sacrifice nutrition to save time. Brown rice that is completely or partially precooked is currently available in frozen, boxed and ready to microwave varieties (or dehydrated and ready to cook on the stove) and can be prepared in 2 to 15 minutes. Whole-grain brown rice – even quick cooking versions – retains the complete rice grain, which supplies more fiber, vitamins B-6 and E, selenium (an antioxidant mineral) and health-promoting phytochemicals. When purchasing, be sure to avoid products that are seasoned with salt-based flavorings, as this can raise the normally low-sodium content of rice significantly. If the higher price tag of quick-cook brown rice has you concerned, one alternative is to cook regular brown rice yourself and then freeze it in freezer bags. You might have to thump the bag on the counter to loosen it up a little, but you’ll be able to remove whatever amount you want to reheat in the microwave.

Q: Any suggestions on how to serve pumpkin, short of putting it in a pie?

A: Smart choice! Pumpkin is a nutritious selection, especially as a high-fiber standout and source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. You can add chunks of fresh pumpkin to stews and stir-fries just like winter squash. Additionally, canned pumpkin is also a great time-saver and is just as nutritious. When purchasing canned varieties, make sure you buy pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix, which has a lot of added sugar. This smooth mashed pumpkin is ready to add to muffins and quick breads or to make delicious pumpkin soup. The soup can be a flavorful and filling side dish or made into a hearty main dish if beans, brown rice and some other vegetables are added.

Q: Following a workout, is it better to eat or not?

A: If your exercise routine is a low-level, moderate activity like walking, special attention to food or drink is probably not needed – especially if you are trying to lose weight. However, after a strength-training workout or vigorous sports or endurance exercise, food and drink are important to future success. The first one or two hours after a workout are known as the recovery period. During this time, changes in hormones and blood flow to muscle offer a unique window of opportunity where nutrients can have extra impact. Sports nutrition experts highlight three priorities during this recovery time: replenishing fluids lost through sweat; providing carbohydrate to restore muscle glycogen (the carbohydrate fuel muscles use during exercise); and providing protein to promote repair and rebuilding of muscle. Eating a full meal within this time frame is not necessary, but a snack is important. Most sports nutritionists suggest about 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate and 10 to 20 grams of protein, depending on body size and intensity of the workout. Examples include: cereal (or a cereal bar) with milk; fruit and yogurt; bread with sliced turkey; or a sports drink or juice with nuts. If you choose foods with enough carbohydrate, plain water is suitable to meet your rehydration needs.

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