Carolina Gold, the Lowcountry's Prized Heirloom Rice, Could Help You Live a Longer Life

This Southern staple is delicious and nutritious.

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Starchy and loaded with carbohydrates, rice isn't usually considered a health food. But not all rice is created equal. Just ask a Southerner.

National Geographic Explorer and best-selling author Dan Buettner recently spoke to Today about a strain of long grain rice that has been a Lowcountry staple for centuries, and how eating it could lead to a longer and healthier life.

 Carolina Plantation Carolina Gold Rice

Rebecca Angel Baer

Buettner highlights Carolina Gold in his new book, The Blue Zones Challenge: A 4-Week Plan for a Longer, Better Life, in which he explores the world's "Blue Zones," where people live much longer than average.

"Carolina Gold rice is an African strain of rice that pretty much disappeared until about 20 years ago," Buettner told Today. "It's a uniquely American crop because that strain has gone away. You can't go back to Africa and get that strain. You've got to go to the Carolinas."

Few people today have even heard of Carolina Gold, but according to Serious Eats, it was once the most popular rice grown in America, and the first commercial rice the U.S. ever produced. In 1820, approximately 100,000 acres of Carolina Gold was growing throughout the South. It disappeared from American tables after the Great Depression, until Dr. Richard Schulze, a Savannah optometrist, began planting is again in the mid-1980s.

Known for its textural, earthy mouthfeel, in his 2014 cookbook Heritage, Charleston chef Sean Brock called the heirloom grain "the most flavorful rice I have ever tasted."

Carolina Plantation Carolina Gold Rice
Rebecca Angel Baer

Unlike other carbohydrate-heavy species of rice, Carolina Gold fits the profile of foods Buettner has identified in other "Blue Zones" as helping people live longer and healthier.

"If you're eating a bowl of white rice, it's probably not the best idea," Buettner explained to Today. "Carolina Gold rice, it's different. It's a different species from the Asian rice. It's got a little gold hue to it. It's got a nuttier flavor. And it usually has some germ left in it, and that's where a lot of the nutrients are."

You can order Carolina Gold from both Anson Mills and Carolina Plantation. Trust us, your purloos, chicken bogs, and hoppin' Johns will thank you.

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