The Blessing of GABA Rice


The ultimate Jewish doctor, the Rambam (Maimonides), recommends that people eat good quality whole grain bread and avoid other flour products like cake and noodles. Properly made bread (naturally risen, sourdough/wild yeast bread, made without yeast) is the most digestible grain according to many opinions. The actual fermentation process necessary to prepare the dough slightly pre-digests the grain and increases beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Plus, bread is the basis for a meal, according to Jewish law, the food that everyone, king or pauper, eats. Today, not everyone can eat bread or has the inclination to make a good bread with a wild-yeast starter.

There are other whole grains and other prepartions that are also nutritious and easily digestible. Whole grains contain significant amounts of micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential fatty acids, and so on. From an energetic standpoint, different whole grains have different energetic or macro-nutritional profiles.

Whole wheat, for example, is a large, sweet-tasting, fatty grain,  which is generally grown in temperate or cooler climates. On a micronutritional note, wheat is fairly high in folate and choline.

It is quite different from teff, a tiny, bitter-sour tasting grain from Ethiopia. Teff contains less than half the choline of wheat, and no folate, but is higher in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. It also contains prodigious amounts of calcium. The a-gliadin-fraction, a component of gluten that causes celiac, isn’t present in teff, so celiacs can eat it.

Some people have gluten (a protein) intolerance or sensitivity and must avoid grains with gluten or more specifically, gluten containing a-gliadin-fraction. For them, high-protein grains such as teff, quinoa and amaranth are appropriate choices. Gluten is the protein that makes bread, “bready”–the molecules, when activated, contribute to the viscosity and extensibility of the dough. The breadier the texture, generally the more gluten the flour contains.

Note: Some people who think they have a gluten sensitivity are not sensitive to gluten at all. It’s the yeast, sugar, air and other ingredients in poor quality breads that make them have digestive upsets. For some, consuming large amounts of bread, or food in general, is the real culprit behind “gluten sensitivity”. (This post goes into more detail.)

On an energetic level, tiny grains such as teff, quinoa, and amaranth tend be good for people who are heavier or lethargic. The large, rounded grains of wheat, in contrast, tend to be expansive and good for children or others who need to gain weight or grow–wheat is said to have a “relaxing” quality. Various energetic attributes can be applied towards each of the grain varieties.

Another way of looking at the energtic properties of food, including grains, is to take into consideration where they are grown. Do they grow in a cold climate, during winter? Do they grow in a hot, dry climate or a wet, warm climate? These provide clues as to their seasonal appropriateness, though today, with the overwhelming out-of-season choices we have, it is pretty near impossible to eat according to season. Taking into consideration the person’s “inner season”. This inner-environment (which is illustrated by the physicality of the person as well as tendencies towards particular physical and emotional health states), grains can be chosen for their ability to provide balance.

Rice, which is the most popular staple grain crop, after corn/maize, in the world, can be grown in a variety of climates but needs a tremendous water during the sprouting and growth period. In Macrobiotics rice is considered to be the most balanced of the grain, but I personally believe this is due to the cultural bias of the (Japanese) founders of macrobiotics; for most Japanese (and Chinese, Indians, etc.), rice is the staple food. Any other grain pales in comparison.

Rice too, contains varying amount of gluten depending on the variety, but not the a-gliadin-fraction. Many people can tolerate it, especially if it is whole-grain, unpolished rice, aka “brown” rice.

Still, some people cannot eat rice without bloating or exhibiting symptoms similar to gluten intolerance. There is an answer: GABA rice. GABA, (also called GBR or Germinated Brown Rice),  is whole grain rice which has been sprouted. It can be served lightly cooked or well-cooked or even raw. For many people on restricted diets or who need easy-to-digest foods that are highly nutritious, GABA rice is kind of a miracle-food.

It contains a more complete protein profile, including nutrient which gives it its name: GABA.  Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an important neuro-transmitter that affects the brains but also affects other organs. It is important in the  the development of neural and embyonic stem stells. Word of caution that many natural-foodies forget to tell you: Just because a food contains a nutrient,  doesn’t mean that the nutrient is bio-available.

The research so far seems to show that ingesting GABA rice can make a positive contribution to health. Researchers in Japan have found that regularly eating GABA rice lowers blood pressure, improves kidney function, and reduces sleeplessness.  GABA rice improved the learning ability of mice (nice, but rodents are not humans). Another study has found that GABA rice extract inhibits leukemia cell proliferation and causes cancer cells to die. (Remember to consider the source of the any scientific research and take it with a grain of salt).

It’s a fact that sprouted rice, like any sprouted seed, bean, nut, or grain, is loaded with important vitamins and enzymes. The sprouting process, which I’ll hopefully blog about another time, changes the nutritional profile of the food.

Are the enzymes in sprouts bio-available? Some scientists say no, some say yes. But anecdotal evidence shows that eating lightly cooked or raw sprouted foods in small to medium quantities can help the digestion in people who have particular digestive issues. Of importance is the fact that nearly all grains are considered to be acid-forming in the body. But when you sprout a grain, it becomes more alkaline.

Think about what happens when a seed is planted. With the addition of water, it sprouts (or germinates, the more scientific term). The power that is in the seed is unleashed and when that happens, the sprout, which is the beginning stages of the mature plant, develops. After a few days, the baby stems and leaves develop.

Growth is something every single organism has in common–every life form grows in some way. What an amazing code for life G-d has put into every bit of genetic material. What an abundance of information is packed into a tiny seed.The old chestnut, “A mighty oak from a tiny acorn grows,” stands up to serious meditation. Although every spring and summer I sprout various seeds, nuts, and grains, I get excited when every batch begins to grow. (Children love sprouting, by the way.)

When you ingest and digest the sprout, some of those nutrients make their way into you. Okay naysayers, your stomach acid destroys some of the nutrients as it does with every food, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t gaining value–otherwise, why eat?

You can buy GABA rice, aka hatsuga genmai, in tiny, precious (expensive) bags in most health-food stores. You can even buy a perfected rice-sprouter created for this purpose by the Japanese, who did most of the research into the health benefits of GABA rice. But you can also make it yourself. It is incredibly easy.


Take 2 cups of your favorite wholegrain rice. You can use short, medium or long-grained rice. Make sure it is not parboiled rice–if it is, it will say so on the package or container. Check the rice for infestation–I’ve found bugs even in pricy bags of sealed brandname brown rice.  Rinse the rice well in pure water. (Always clean grains and beans).

Put the rice in a bowl and pour over it slightly warm water, about 85 to 100 degrees. Some keep the rice warmed by heating it with a light bulb, an insulated hot plate, or the GABA rice sprouter, but I have had excellent results without heating it at all, even in my spring-chilled kitchen.

I change the water every 8-12 hours and keep it soaking until I see a “tail” beginning to form near the top. It generally takes three to four days for a medium grain rice such as Lundberg “Golden Rose” to show a little sprout. If I am going to eat it raw, I let it sprout until the little sprout-tail is 1/8 an inch long or longer, which might take a few days longer. When you change the water you will notice a strong smell. A natural fermentation process is taking place. The water might even bubble! Don’t worry about it–the rice will still taste good. You’ll rinse it before you use it.

When it has sprouted as much as I want, I drain the rice and let the moist rice sit to dry out for an hour or so. You can lightly cook this rice (it takes about 1/4 the time non-GABA brown rice takes) right away, or you can eat it raw. You can freeze it (uncooked) and defrost it shortly before cooking. It can keep uncooked in the refrigerator for about 5 days.

8 responses to “The Blessing of GABA Rice

  1. Wonderful article. I’ve tried making GABA rice without success. Do you drain it every time you rinse it (as you do for sprouting beans) or keep it soaking until the final day? I’ve read recipes in which the rice is drained daily.
    I cook ordinary brown rice in a ceramic pot placed inside a pressure cooker (macrobiotic style) for 40 to 45 minutes. How long should I cook GABA rice in this manner?
    thank you for clarifying.

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