Rice isn’t as much of a staple in the West as it is in the East, but it still plays a large role in the majority of our diets.
So just how healthy is the carbohydrate-rich grain?
Like all cop-out answers, the response to the question is the classic, ‘it depends’.
That is to say, it depends on the type of rice you’re eating. The uber-popular white rice is considered a nutritionally lesser “refined grain”, due to its bran and germ elements being eradicated during the milling process. This robs white rice of B vitamins, iron, and fiber. Some white rice is enriched with iron and vitamin B afterwards, though fiber is never re-added.
Brown rice is similar to its white alternative, though it’s considered a ‘whole grain’, as only the inedible, outer husk is removed. Brown rice keeps its bran and germ content, making it a better source of antioxidants, vitamin E, and the elusive fiber. A cup of medium-grain brown rice contains 3.5 grams of fiber; the same serving of white rice has 1 less gram.
Plus, research suggests that a part of the rice – the subaleurone layer – which is in brown rice, but not white, can help with high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Oh, and if you haven’t had enough rice comparison: a large study including thousands of men and women indicated that subbing brown rice for white can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Now, we haven’t forgotten about wild rice. The rice that’s actually the seed of a water grass has more protein than brown rice, as well as specific antioxidant & cholesterol-lowering goodness.
While brown & wild rice are nutritionally superior to white rice, be wary of store-bought rice medleys, which can be high in sodium. A cup of Near East Whole Grain brown rice pilaf, for example, has 600 milligrams of sodium; a cup of regular, cooked brown rice only has 8 milligrams of sodium.
Related: How to Make Your Own Pho
And a reminder to those who need to keep an eye on their blood sugar, or are counting calories: try to limit your rice portions to a half-cup, seeing how calorie & carb-dense rice is. One cup usually holds over 200 calories, and up to 50 grams of carbs, so portion accordingly!