Brown Rice, Bright Brain

picture of the brain

Brain Synergy and Brown Rice

Written by Bettina Zumdick

The masculine or left-focused-brain is enjoying the Sunday football game on TV, the status quo, with all familiar rituals, while the feminine or right-focused-brain is seeking to stretch the invisible muscles of consciousness with yoga and mind altering practices, seeking some unknowable ‘something more’.
This gross simplification is meant to demonstrate the differences of the two brain hemispheres.

Attaining synergy of the right and left hemispheres of the brain allows us to experience the two ends of a paradox while we rise to a greater perspective, integrating the different aspects of consciousness and thus achieving inner peace and wellbeing. Brain synergy has also been labeled the ability to attain enlightenment. Eating well-prepared Brown Rice and other whole foods may well be the foundation to allow higher brain function to occur.

Brain Synergy allows us to step beyond the masculine/feminine stereotypes, beyond black or white or any dualistic thinking process. These days, many people’s brain function stops short of even reaching the frontal hemispheres of the brain. Stress, environmental and internal toxins, free radicals, poor nutrition, deficient oxygen levels in the blood, hypoglycemia and other contributing factors result in a short circuit or vicious circle in the brain, leaving us in a paradigm of fear, competition and survival of the fittest.

75 percent of a person’s health and longevity is determined by lifestyle factors such as what we eat, how much we exercise, how we love and are loved, whether we deem our life as meaningful and purposeful, whether we meditate, etc. Only 25 percent of a person’s health and longevity is dictated by our genes, according to recent studies[1].
MRI scans have clearly shown how the activation of prefrontal cortex (left and right side) results in being able to remain calm and stress-free, live in peace and experience joy. Prefrontal cortex activity also indicates that the whole body is generally healthy.

In order to understand how to set the stage in the body to attain prefrontal cortex activation or better yet synergy of the brain, we need to look at some of the other, deeper brain areas, as they are fundamental factors in whether we succeed or fail in the achieving of brain synergy.

Let us begin with examining the deep inner brain: part of the limbic brain, in particular the hippocampus and amygdala.

The hippocampus can be compared to a distribution center, compiling information received from the outside via the senses and then directing appropriate responses towards processing to either the amygdala or the cerebral cortex. When the hippocampus perceives something as dangerous, the information is routed to the amygdala. The amygdala’s function is one of ‘fight or flight’ – a more instinctual, older program in the brain of our species. On the other hand, when more sophisticated responses such as solution oriented thinking or perceiving a challenge as an opportunity is called for, the hippocampus routes information to the cerebral cortex.

The hippocampus is a very delicate part of the brain, which can easily break down under the influence of physical and emotional stress and its accompanying hormones (cortisol and adrenaline in particular).  Free radical and chemical damage from toxins in foods, medications or the environment also play roles in wreaking havoc on the sensitive hippocampus.

When our brain, in particular our hippocampus is damaged by hormones, toxins or too many free radicals from various sources, it can no longer serve as a discerning distribution center. The results are most undesirable, as default mechanism sets in and creates a vicious cycle. The default mechanism works by channeling all incoming information through the amygdala. While the hippocampus send all information to the amygdala, a person is stuck in this vicious cycle, perceiving everything, even the most harmless circumstances, as a source of danger. In response to the perception of danger, the amygdala activates the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenalin – the stress hormones, further damaging the hippocampus and the vicious circle is complete.

Many people today are living with constant high stress levels - living in a paradigm of competition and survival of the fittest. This mode of being has become the norm among a vast percentage of people living in the US.

In terms of weight, the brain only represents 2.5 percent of the total human body weight. However, it is well known that the brain consumes 20 percent of the energy calories, when the body is at rest.

The energy factories of our body cells, including our brain cells, called mitochondria, use carbohydrates as fuel. Depending on what kind of carbohydrate we are choosing to consume and which – if any - other micro-nutrients are provided along with the carbohydrate of choice, this can make all the difference between breaking the vicious cycle or keeping it going.

While white sugar or other simple sugars, are carbohydrates, brain function and overall function of the body is weakened by this particular expression of a carbohydrate. White sugar is highly processed, and thus devoid of all other micronutrients, such as antioxidants, that act like mitigating factors in the health of the body and brain cells.

Simple sugars as in white sugar, fruit sugar, etc. burn quickly and raise the blood-sugar level dramatically for a short period of time, and then blood-sugar level drops just as dramatically (unless we keep taking sugar non-stop). When abundant antioxidants and other micronutrients are accompanying the sugars you are eating, the damage is not as extensive to the cells of the body, nor the hippocampus cells in particular. However if that is not the case, a vicious cycle is launched: a severe drop in blood-sugar level usually makes us reach for something else to eat, typically a doughnut, candy, soda, etc., in other words processed foods which further damage the hippocampus cells and thus compromise higher brain function.

In the event that we can’t raise our blood-sugar level quickly and hypoglycemia (low-blood-sugar level) sets in, this activates the adrenal glands to release the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. If a person is experiencing hypoglycemia on a daily or weekly basis, even mild forms of hypoglycemia, then the hippocampus cells are harmed and poof - there goes our ability to attain brain synergy and in many cases our ability to use logic and reason, or to use creative learning.

Complex carbohydrates, as in brown rice are essential, as they allow the brain and body to be nourished evenly for a long period of time.

Brown Rice, properly prepared and consumed daily, will provide a much more even level of energy and nourishment, preventing and alleviating hypoglycemia, and thus preventing further damage to brain and other organs of the body.

Furthermore, Brown Rice contains many antioxidants (more than 70) to prevent free radical damage, and in particular one very significant antioxidant: Glutathione, which is the basis for the enzyme glutathione S-transferase. This enzyme is extremely valuable in the detoxification process of cells, repair of DNA, immune enhancement, activation of other enzymes and more. It is deemed a master antioxidant in human physiology.

Glutathione along with another important antioxidant (also found in Brown Rice) called Super Oxidase Dismutase or SOD are able to turn on a genetic switch in our mitochondria, which allow the mitochondria to produce a vast range of antioxidants within the cell that protect the mitochondria and the cells from free radical damage, which is important for our body, brain and especially our sensitive hippocampus. Only when our hippocampus can function, again, will we be able to step out of the paradigm of competition and survival of the fittest.

Brown Rice is one of the whole foods containing Glutathione. It is stored within the Whole Brown Rice Grain in such a way that it does not deteriorate before it gets to the table, unless the grain is broken or moldy. Glutathione stored in many other more rapidly perishable foods loose their Glutathione content quickly – long before it gets to the table. However it is crucial to soak your Brown Rice 12 – 24 hours before cooking it, in order to get the benefit of Glutathione as well as the vast array of other antioxidants[2] (for further information, please read pages 22 – 23 in Authentic Foods by Bettina Zumdick). Phytic Acid and other enzyme inhibitors prevent us from getting the benefits in Brown Rice if eaten without soaking. At the same time, these enzyme inhibitors also ensure the continued availability of these nutrients, which would otherwise decompose.

The complexity of nutrients in Brown Rice work in our favor, in fact they are much more effective than isolated vitamins or other isolated micro-nutrients and supplements, which are not easy to absorb through our digestive system, as they lack the intricacy and networking of their accompanying nutrients.

Other factors, such as daily physical exercise in fresh air, specific substances like sulforaphane, found in the cabbage family vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, collards, etc.), omega 3 fatty acids, and DHA or docosahexaenoic acid producing brown sea vegetables like nori, also help repair damage to the brain and specifically the hippocampus.

And while I have diligently tried to highlight specifics about brain function and micronutrients in this article, I also believe the following, as stated in my book Authentic Foods (p.26): “Scientific studies try to analyze their objects of interest by dissecting them. Unfortunately, this mosaic separation and isolation into specific nutrients looses the greater perspective of the harmoniously orchestrated composition of phytonutrients working together.”

Brown Rice along with the before mentioned factors turn on a genetic dormant switch in the body that allows us to step into a paradigm of compassion, connection and perceiving safety and opportunity rather than fear and danger. This is the basic foundation for attaining brain synergy and stretching the invisible muscles of our consciousness further in logical and creative ways to become the solution oriented people and society that I believe we truly are.


[1] Hum. Genetics 1996, Mar; 97(3):319-23.

The heritability of human longevity: a population-based study of 2872 Danish twin pairs born 1870 – 1900.

Centre for Health and Social Policy, Institute of Community Health, Odense University, Denmark


[2] Before cooking whole grains it is important to soak them for 12 - 24 hours or overnight prior to the cooking process. Dry whole grains contain enzyme inhibitors, such as phytic acid, which allow the grains to remain intact in a dormant state for a very long time, until the outer conditions are suitable for developing into a new plant again. These enzyme inhibitors unfortunately have a suppressing effect on our digestive enzymatic process. We can only partially digest non-soaked grains, with most of the valuable phyto-nutrients being un-available. Soaking will deactivate the enzyme inhibitors resulting in much greater nutritional value and digestibility when eating the soaked and cooked rice.

Brown Rice growing in Amherst, MA

Brown Rice growing in Amherst, MA