A team of researchers say they have discovered a new method of cooking rice that they claim may cut the calories by up to 60%.
The team's leader, Sudhair James, announced the findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society earlier this month.
James, who studies at the College of Chemical Sciences, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, said the team started the research to try and find a way to fight obesity, especially in the developing world.
The result of the research is a "simple cooking method that anyone could do from home," he said at a news conference.
The key to James' method lies in the starch in rice. There are two forms of starch, and people can digest only one.
James hypothesized that if researchers could come up with a way to change the digestible starch into the non-digestible starch, the body would absorb fewer calories.
Experimenting with 38 types of rice, his team found a way to do just that.
Here is how to do it:
•Add a teaspoon of cooking oil to boiling water
•Add a half a cup of rice
•Simmer the rice for 40 minutes, or boil for 20 to 25 minutes
•Put it in the fridge for 12 hours
James said that the initial cooling of the rice is an essential part.
A cup of non-fortified rice is typically about 240 calories, which researchers say can be significantly cut using this cooking method.
"If the best rice variety is processed, it might reduce the calories by about 50% to 60%," he said.
Kantha Shelke, a food chemist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, told BuzzFeed News that the research is a "great example of leveraging food science."
She called the researchers' findings "plausible," adding that the coconut oil could have the effect on starch in rice as described.
However, Shelke said, the effect is only valid "as long as the starch is consumed when cold."
"Heating melts some of the crystals and increases its digestibility and, therefore, its glycemic response," she said.
Shelke added that it's doubtful the research will affect worldwide obesity.
"Obesity is a multi-factorial condition and every little bit helps," she said, "but just reducing the digestibility and the glycemic index of rice cannot reverse or prevent obesity, which is a complex health condition."
It is possible, though, that the research could lead people to prepare rice in a way that reduces calories and helps in their overall health, she said.
"Anything we can do to make our foods more healthful will catch on, for people are becoming increasingly interested in foods that are honestly healthful," Shelke said.