As far as complex carbohydrates go, rice is by far one of the most popular and easy-to-adapt choices.
Many of the health benefits of rice come from the vitamins and minerals that it provides.
There are thousands of types of rice, but depending on how producers process them, they fit into two groups: white or brown (whole grain).
Rice is known to be a good source of various vitamins like niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, and offering various health benefits of rice . Brown rice is also rich in fiber and manganese, thereby improving digestion and overall health.
White rice is the most common type, though brown rice offers more health benefits of rice . Brown rice comes in a variety of shades, including reddish, purplish, or black.
Manufacturers make many products from rice, including rice flour, rice syrup, rice bran oil, and rice milk.
It also has the ability to provide instant energy, regulate and improve bowel movements, and manage blood sugar levels. It also plays a role in providing vitamin B1 to the human body.
No matter what kind of cuisine I choose to meal-prep, I’m usually making a cup or two of brown rice almost every week to go with my meals.
What is Rice?
Rice is a cereal grain, which belongs to the grass species Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima, also known as Asian and Australian rice respectively. The grain comes in more than 40,000 varieties with different shapes, sizes, textures, aroma, and colors.
Different types include white, brown, rose, noodle, black pearl, red yeast, wild, jasmine, and sushi rice, among others. They can be long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain and take a very short preparation time.
It is also known for the number of benefits that it imparts, becoming the reason it is often used in pet food, as an ingredient in cosmetics such as facial cleansers and moisturizers, and dietary supplements and pills.
Rice Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (186g) of cooked, enriched, short-grain white rice.
- Calories: 242
- Fat: 0.4g
- Sodium: 0mg
- Carbohydrates: 53.4g
- Fiber: 0.6g
- Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 4.4g
For most people, it is synonymous with short-grained white rice. This variety is considered healthy as it contains most of the nutrients
There are over 53 grams of carbohydrate in a single serving of white rice. Only a tiny amount of that carbohydrate comes from fiber. Most of it is starch and a small amount is sugar.
The glycemic index of white rice is estimated to be 73. The glycemic index of brown rice, on the other hand, is estimated to be about 68. Short-grain rice tends to have a higher glycemic index than long-grain, medium-grain, and brown rice.
Brown rice also has fewer carbohydrates than white rice at 49.6g per cup.
All rice is originally whole-grain, with the bran attached. White rice is produced by pearling, which is a process through which the grain passes through a machine where it is rolled and the bran is gently “pearled” off, leaving the white kernel intact. This makes the grain a processed, refined grain, no longer a whole grain. Pearling also lowers the cooking time and extends the shelf life of grains.
Rice is primarily composed of carbohydrate, which makes up almost 80%Trusted Source of its total dry weight.
Most of the carbohydrate in rice is starch. Starch is the most common form of carbohydrate in foods.
Starch is made up of long chains of glucose called amylose and amylopectin. Different types of rice have varying amounts of these compounds, which affects the texture of the rice:
- Basmati rice is rich in amylose, meaning it does not stick together after cooking.
- Sticky rice, or glutinous rice, is low in amylose and high in amylopectin, making it sticky after cooking. This makes it ideal for risottos, rice pudding, and eating with chopsticks.
These compounds also affect how easily the body can digest the rice.
The body takes longer Trusted Sourceto digest high-amylose rice because the amylose slows down starch digestion. In contrast, the body digests sticky rice very easily.
While many people find sticky rice more palatable, quick digestion can lead to unhealthful spikes in blood sugar levels, especially in people with diabetes.
Brown rice contains a higher amount of dietary fiber than white rice — 1.6 g per 100 gTrusted Source. During the processing of white rice, the grain loses the bran, or seed coat, which contains most of the fiber.
The bran contains mainly insoluble fibers, such as hemicellulose, and virtually no soluble fiber.
White and brown rice contain varying amounts of a soluble fiber called resistant starch.
Resistant starch increases butyrate in the gut. Butyrate boosts gut health by reducing inflammation, improving gut barrier function, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
There is almost no fat in rice, as long as you cook it without adding any oil or butter.
There are over 4 grams of protein in a 1-cup serving of white rice, and about 5 grams in the same size serving of brown rice.
Vitamins and Minerals
Rice can serve as a good source of B vitamins (including thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin) and iron. Rice is also an excellent source of manganese and magnesium.
Brown rice provides more vitamins than white rice.
In addition to thiamin and magnesium, brown rice contains selenium, which influences thyroid function and is important in antioxidant processes.
Most varieties of rice contain a high amount of carbohydrates and protein. The fiber content varies according to its different types. For eg., brown rice has more fiber than white and therefore, is often constituted as a healthy option. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, it is also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, manganese, selenium, and copper. The vitamins in it include niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamin. It is a great food for people wanting a gluten-free option and it contains negligible fat.
Health Benefits of Rice
It is a fundamental food in many cuisines around the world and is an important cereal crop that feeds more than half of the world’s population. The health benefits of rice are explained below.
Supports Bones, Nerves, and Muscles
Magnesium is the structural component of bones that assists in hundreds of enzyme reactions involved in the synthesis of DNA and proteins and is required for proper nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
Improves Colon Health
Rice contains resistant starch, which can lead to the formation of certain fatty acids that help the colon stay healthy. These fatty acids may also decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.
May Prevent Obesity
Rice forms an integral part of a balanced diet as it can provide nutrients without having any negative impacts on health. Potentially low levels of fat, cholesterol, and sodium also help reduce obesity and associated conditions. While most people have this misconception that white rice consumption causes an increase in blood glucose levels, which is one of the reasons for obesity, a 2013 research paper showed that there was, in fact, no association between the frequency of consumption and body weight, BMI or central obesity. Most people prefer brown rice over white for it has more fiber content and is, therefore, more nutritious.
Rice naturally does not contain any gluten and hence, causes no inflammation in the gut. This means that people suffering from celiac disease can easily include it in their diet. However, it is important to ensure that there hasn’t been any contamination while procuring, manufacturing, or packaging.
Brown rice is a whole grain. Whole grains have a wide range of health benefits.
According to the American Heart Association, whole grains improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Brown rice contains several heart healthy components, such as minerals, antioxidants, lignans, and dietary fiber.
Eating high fiber rice as a substitute for white rice may aid weight loss, along with a decrease in cholesterol.
Safe for People with Celiac Disease
Rice is a naturally gluten-free grain so it is useful to people with celiac disease and non-celiac sensitivity. Rice can be made into flour, noodles, bread, and syrup. It can also be made into milk and used as a non-dairy substitute for cow’s milk.
Provides Quick Energy
Athletes who need a lot of energy in the form of carbohydrates can get it from white rice. Many prefer white rice over brown for its high-carb, low-fiber profile.
May Control Hypertension
According to research published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, rice enriched with gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA helps in reducing hypertension. It also prevents the early onset of high blood pressure-related heart conditions.
Healthful Plant Compounds
Brown rice contains several other plant compounds that research has linked with health benefits.
White rice is a poor source of antioxidants and other plant compounds. Pigmented rice, including red-grained varieties such as purple rice, is particularly rich in antioxidants.
The bran of brown rice may be a good source of lignans and ferulic acid:
- Lignans are antioxidants that researchTrusted Source has linked with lower risks of heart disease, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, and breast cancer.
- Ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant found in rice bran. Review studies say it has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects and may help prevent cancer and diabetes.
May Improve Skin Care
As per a study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology, rice bran has bioactive compounds that help prevent aging. They are also used in various skincare products. It is also shown to have possibly antioxidant and skin-hydrating potential.  
Medical experts say that powdered rice can be applied topically to cure skin conditions. On the Indian subcontinent, its water is readily prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners as an effective ointment to cool off inflamed skin surfaces.
May Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s
In a rat model study by Michiaki Okuda et al., there was evidence which suggested that brown rice, when cooked under high pressure, retains its most important nutrients. This high pressured brown rice may reduce amyloid-beta in the brain, a major protein responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. It also showed the potential to improve cognitive dysfunction. However, more studies are awaited to corroborate this point.
May Have Diuretic & Digestive Qualities
As a diuretic, rice helps you eliminate toxins from the body like uric acid. It is also a possibly rich source of fiber, which increases bowel movement regularity and reduces the chances of cardiovascular diseases.
May Improve Metabolism
According to a report published in the Journal of Functional Foods, black rice can help reduce obesity and improve metabolism among mice who were fed the same for a period of 12 weeks. However, more research on this is still required.
May Boost Cardiovascular Health
As per a research published in the British Medical Journal, whole grains like rice help in reducing the risk of coronary heart diseases and other cardiovascular diseases.
It is known to have antioxidant properties that can promote cardiovascular strength by reducing cholesterol levels in the body, according to a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Wild and brown varieties are far better than the white variety since the husk of the grain is where much of the nutrients are; ironically, the husk is removed in white rice preparation.
May Relieve IBS
A team of researchers from New York University penned a detailed report on the recommended diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in 2018 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. In that, they concluded that a diet low in fermentable carbs known as FODMAPS is recommended for the management of this digestive disorder. Rice is a low FODMAP item, which is clinically suggested for consumption during IBS as it has resistant starch, which can reach the bowels and stimulates the growth of useful bacteria that help with normal bowel movements.
May Relieve Constipation
Rice can prevent chronic constipation. The insoluble fiber in it can act like a soft sponge that may be pushed through the intestinal tract quickly and easily. Brown rice and whole grains are known to be rich in insoluble fiber. However, it is also advisable to drink lots of water for relieving your constipated condition, in addition to eating fibrous foods.
Rice is a safe food staple. Regularly eating rice may, however, have risks, especially if it accounts for a large proportion of a person’s daily food intake.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition characterized by high blood sugar levels.
According to a 2019 review, white rice may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because it has a high glycemic index score, meaning that it can cause large spikes in blood sugar after a meal. Foods with a high glycemic index may increase the risk of diabetes.
That said, the review concludes that the differences between brown and white rice are inconclusive, and further studies in dietary patterns characterized by rice are needed.
On the other hand, brown rice — like other whole grains that contain fiber — may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
This difference between white and brown rice may be due to variations in the types and amounts of fibers and their glycemic index scores. It is important to note that consuming too many carbohydrates from any source can raise blood glucose levels, so it is important to control portion size regardless of whether the rice is whole grain or refined.
Eating fiber-rich whole grains instead of refined grains may have significant health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes.
Heavy metals can accumulate in the body over time, leading to adverse health effects. These include cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel, and arsenic.
Many studies have reported excessive amounts of heavy metals in rice from several countries. This a particular concern where rice makes up a significant portion of a person’s diet.
The bran contains a high concentration of heavy metals, which is why brown rice contains more heavy metals than white rice.
Compared to other common food crops grown in polluted areas, rice accumulates higher amounts of mercury and arsenic.
All cereal grains easily take up arsenic, but it seems to collect moreTrusted Source in rice compared with wheat and barley.
If possible, people should avoid eating rice grown near heavily polluted industrial or mining areas. This also applies to other food crops, such as vegetables.
Brown rice also contains an antioxidant called phytic acid, or phytate. This is known as an antinutrient because it prevents the body from absorbing essential minerals, such as iron and zinc.
Producers can reduceTrusted Source phytic acid levels by soaking and sprouting the seeds and fermenting the rice before cooking.
Rice is a staple food across the world. White rice is the most common, but brown rice may have more health benefits.
As a good source of several healthy minerals and antioxidants, brown rice may help prevent heart disease.
On the other hand, white rice — especially sticky rice — provides fewer nutrients and may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Be sure to read the nutrition facts panel and compare the nutrient content and purchase enriched versions of rice when available.