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Cropping Up: The Growing Popularity of Adlai

The benefits of a superfood that could be a substitute for rice.

Adlai: locally sourced and packed with a number of health benefits.
Once, I asked a college buddy of mine to say that she’s Filipino without saying that she’s Filipino.

We were at a restaurant that time, in a year when it wasn’t considered unsafe or inappropriate to be in one after streetlights are turned on. She looked at me knowingly before responding. And her response: to call our waiter and order another cup of rice.

While I’m sure there are people who don’t touch the stuff, rice is more or less a staple on a Filipino table. Various publications have tried to explain our love for it and a lot of them have come to one ironic conclusion: its popularity as a food item is not because of its flavor but rather, its lack thereof. Our dishes tend to be quite complex in taste and rice is the meek but substantial sidekick that lets most of them shine. Hence the popular belief that Filipinos love rice.

But love can hurt. And our love of rice is not exempted from that fact. While it has its own health benefits, eating too much of it also comes with a host of unwanted side effects. The grain, after all, has a high glycemic index which can lead to diabetes. Several studies also suggest that too much rice can lead to weight gain. However, there are alternatives. And, one in particular is starting to gain a lot of popularity in the Philippines.

Enter adlai, that which is known as Job’s tears in certain parts of the world.  A native of Southeast Asia, it is hailed as a superfood and more people are beginning realizing why. For one, it can be a substitute for rice in a sense that its general tastelessness and texture make it a good pair for various dishes. It is a versatile food item that can be used in many ways. Seafood paella, kimchi rice, sushi bake, mango sticky rice, and champorado are just some of the dishes that can be prepared using adlai. Some have even used it to make arroz caldo. Unlike rice, however, adlai has a number of health benefits that make it a friendly option for people who are watching what they eat.

According to The Fat Kid Inside, “adlai is completely gluten-free and has a low glycemic index—making it heart-healthy and completely safe for those who are watching their blood sugar.” The website also stated that it is high in dietary fiber, protein and various minerals like calcium, phosphorus, niacin, iron, thiamine and riboflavin. In other words, it is good for those who live an active lifestyle.

Marvin Agustin, one of the many public figures who have been vocally supporting the use of adlai.
Naturally, the aforementioned website isn’t the only group that recognizes how potent adlai is. Oh Crop!, for instance, is on the market and it dedicates much of its time and energy endorsing this superfood. Much recently, the group revealed that celebrity chef, Marvin Agustin is a co-owner of its adlai rice product and on a press release sent to this publication, the group called this a worthy investment due to the its numerous benefits. They spoke of the ones already mentioned above and included yet another that may prove to be quite relevant right now. These are difficult times, after all. People are suffering due to the economic challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. To buy adlai is to contribute to the well-being of our economy.

“If you are health conscious and you substitute quinoa for rice, time to rethink your choices and start supporting locals,” the group said. “This powerhouse grain is indigenous to our beautiful country, and is best sourced from farmers in Bukidnon and Cotabato. By buying Oh Crop!’s adlai rice, you are not only buying good quality and a healthier alternative but you are also supporting local farmers.”

Yes; consuming rice also achieves that. And one cannot deny that rice has a deep connection to our national identity and our way of life. But when people like the ones who run Oh Crop! tell you that adlai is worth trying out as a substitute, when they tell you—as they do on Instagram—that they’ll “save you’re a**” with it, it appears that there’s more than a grain of truth to that.

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