Happy Onigiri Day! Onigiri are Japanese rice balls, which are portable, picnic-ready treats so popular that they have their own iPhone emoji: . Most convenience stores in Japan carry onigiri, neatly shaped into compact triangles and wrapped in roasted seaweed. They’re one of my favorite snacks when I’m traveling in Kyoto because they’re a healthy alternative to most food on the go. In addition to being delicious, these handfuls of rice are also one of nature’s best ingredients for the skin.
“My favorite beauty secrets are the ones right beneath my nose, or in this case, in the palm of my hands.”
Savvy Japanese women discovered long ago that with the milky liquid from the first wash of rice left their hands soft and glowing. This silky water, rich in komenuka (Japanese for rice bran) softens and polishes skin. Rice also nourishes the body with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Here are three ways rice benefits the skin from the inside out:
- Rice is a rich source of inositol, a powerful antioxidant and beneficial moisturizer for the skin. Inositol is a naturally occurring antioxidant our bodies create, but environmental factors and the aging process can slow down its production. Applied topically, inositol helps skin stay hydrated and soft.
- Gamma-oryzanol, another antioxidant in rice bran, is a natural UV-absorber. Alone, it can’t replace a sunscreen, but its photo-protective effect provides additional anti-aging benefits. It also helps even out skin’s complexion by slowing the progress of pigmentation.
- Rice is also an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B2, B12, E, maganese, iron and phosphorous. These minerals aid in keeping bones healthy and encourage collagen production.
To make your own onigiri at home and enjoy the health benefits of rice, you’ll need at least two cups of freshly steamed rice. Place it in a bowl and allow to cool enough so you can handle the rice. Sprinkle some salt into wet hands and scoop a handful of rice with one hand. Gently shape into a triangular shape, or into a sphere. Press the rice tightly, but do not let it become a paste. Set on a plate and form another onigiri, until you’ve used up the rice. Onigiri can be enjoyed plain, or you can season the rice and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. If you have roasted seaweed, wrap onigiri in a small sheet of it. The contrast between the crisp seaweed and soft rice is a delightful, elegant treat.
Sometimes, the simplest ingredients are the most powerful when it comes to caring for our skin and our bodies. My favorite beauty secrets are the ones right beneath my nose, or in this case, in the palm of my hands.