Image: Four colors of rice
Hualien Agricultural Improvement  /  AP
This image released by Taiwan's Hualien Agricultural Improvement Station shows four different colors of rice. The colorful grain is not just pleasant for the eye, but contains additional nutrients as the colors come from natural foods, not dyes, researchers say.
updated 6/29/2005 9:06:01 PM ET 2005-06-30T01:06:01

With Taiwanese youngsters increasingly drawn to Western hamburgers and fries, government researchers are trying to lure them back with something more traditional — sort of: rainbow-colored rice.

The ancient Asian staple will soon be available here in pink, green, yellow and purple, each with its own nutritional boost, said scientist Lo Tze-yen of the Hualien Agricultural Improvement Station in eastern Taiwan.

The colors come from healthful foods — not dyes — Lo said.

"It's killing two birds with one stone; you eat the rice, plus fruits and vegetables," he said.

Yellow rice gets its hue from curcumin, an herb that's a spice in curries and is believed by some to be an antioxidant that may help prevent cancer.

Green rice comes from the nutritious bitter gourd, often used in Asian soups and stir-fried dishes. Pink comes from tomato, and purple from a mixture of vegetables.

"We hope to develop up to 14 colors so people can have a different color of rice every day for two weeks," Lo said.

The Taiwanese government's council of Agriculture started trying to develop the product a year ago, noting that many children on this wealthy, industrialized island prefer Western fast food to a bowl of rice.

The colored rice is expected to be in stores by the middle of next year, and will likely cost about twice as much as plain rice, Lo said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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