Is Rice Healthy? The Healthiest Types of Rice

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Whether serving up arroz con pollo, a tasty stir-fry, or mushroom risotto, rice is a staple in most diets and cuisines. “Rice is not only affordable and accessible, but it’s relatively easy to make,” says Claire Carlton MS, RD, LD/N, a North Carolina–based registered dietitian, nutritionist, and digestive health expert. “Rice is also a fiber-rich source of nutrients and naturally gluten-free.”

Of course, there is a slew of healthy grains to choose from, but rice is among the most readily available, particularly white and brown rice. Plus, rice comes in a variety of colors, textures, and sizes, each with a distinct flavor and health benefits. We asked experts to reveal which rice grains offer the healthiest benefits and give us the good, bad, and ugly of brown rice and white rice nutrition.

Black Rice

Although sometimes harder to find, black rice is the number one nutritional rock star among rice varieties. It’s high in fiber and nutrients that lower cholesterol, promote healthy digestion, and stave off chronic disease. A black rice bowl can also give you a hearty hit of protein, serving up almost 10 grams in one cooked cup.

“Black rice has been shown to have the highest level of antioxidants of all rice varieties, due in large part to the anthocyanin content—a powerful anti-inflammatory that gives the grains their dark purplish hue—as well as flavonoids and carotenoids,” explains Megan Roosevelt, RDN, LA-based registered dietitian, nutritionist, and founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com.

Nutritional Facts of Black Rice

A cup of uncooked black rice contains the following:

Macronutrients:

Calories: 720 calories
Protein: 
156 grams (g)
Total Carbohydrates: 
156 g
Fat: 
4 g
Cholesterol: 
0 g

Micronutrients:

Calcium: 0 mg,
Iron: 
2 mg, 8% DV (Daily value)
Potassium: 
320.4 mg, 8% DV
Sodium:
 159.2 mg, 8% DV
Choline:
 376 mg, 76% DV

Wild Rice

Another healthy rice winner is this chewy, long-grain version, native to North America. Like black rice, the high fiber level in these brown and black grains aids digestion and lowers cholesterol. Wild rice is also packed with B-vitamins and important minerals like magnesium and zinc.

Nutritional Facts of Wild Rice

A cup of uncooked wild rice contains the following:

Macronutrients:

Calories: 571 calories
Protein: 
23.5 grams (g)
Total Carbohydrates: 
120 g
Fat: 
1.73 g
Cholesterol: 
0 g

Micronutrients:

Calcium: 33.6 mg
Iron: 
3.14 mg, 17% DV (Daily value)
Potassium: 
683 mg, 15% DV
Sodium:
 11.2 mg, 0% DV
Choline:
 56 mg, 10% DV

Brown Rice

With its nutty, dense texture, brown rice is one of the better-for-you starch options; it’s high in B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. “It’s also a whole grain and high in fiber, which helps to stabilize blood sugar and promote a feeling of fullness,” explains Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP, a California-based functional medicine doctor and clinical nutritionist. “Brown rice gets things moving in your digestive tract, as well, while feeding healthy bacteria in your gut.”

Nutritional Facts of Brown Rice

A cup of uncooked brown rice contains the following:

Macronutrients:

Calories: 679 calories
Protein: 
13.9 grams (g)
Total Carbohydrates: 
141 g
Fat: 
6.66 g
Cholesterol: 
0 g

Micronutrients:

Calcium: 16.6 mg
Iron: 
2.39 mg, 13% DV (Daily value)
Potassium: 
462 mg, 10% DV
Sodium:
 9.25 mg, 1% DV
Choline:
 39.8 mg, 7% DV

Red Rice

Red rice may not be on your radar like white or brown, but it’s a nutritional powerhouse that shouldn’t be ignored, as it’s both high in protein and fiber.

“Additionally, red rice contains antioxidants such as flavonoids, which we know help to fight cancer-causing free radicals within the body as well as play an important role in mediating inflammation, which is imperative to the management of chronic disease,” says Lena Bakovic, MS, RDN, CNSC, at Top Nutrition Coaching. “Red rice holds a high nutritional value, and definitely packs a good bang for the buck.”

Red rice contains more than your recommended daily allowance of manganese, and is a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B3 (niacin).

Nutritional Facts of Red Rice

A cup of uncooked red rice contains the following:

Macronutrients:

Calories: 708 calories
Protein: 
14 grams (g)
Total Carbohydrates: 
152 g
Fat: 
6 g
Cholesterol: 
0 g

Micronutrients:

Calcium: 16.6 mg
Iron: 
2.39 mg, 13% DV (Daily value)
Potassium: 
462 mg, 10% DV
Sodium:
 9.25 mg, 1% DV
Choline:
 39.8 mg, 7% DV

White Rice

White rice may get a bad rap as a processed food. The processing removes the bran and germ, which provide much of the fiber and nutritional value of the rice. And that’s what gives white rice its signature mild flavor and extends its shelf life.

But white rice still has plenty of nutritional value. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable classifying white rice as being ‘bad,'” Bakovic says. “White rice is almost always enriched with nutrients such as folic acid, iron, niacin, thiamine, and selenium, which are added back in to the white rice after processing.”

Since white rice has a key role in many of the world’s cuisines, it’s a common addition to many dishes. “In many cultures, eating rice daily is habitual and an important dietary pattern respective to that culture,” Bakovic says. And as long as it’s a part of a balanced diet, it’s just fine to include it.

Nutritional Facts of White Rice

A cup of uncooked, enriched white rice includes:

Macronutrients:

Calories: 702 calories
Protein: 
12.9 grams (g)
Total Carbohydrates: 
155 g
Fat: 
1.13 g
Cholesterol: 
0 g

Micronutrients:

Calcium: 17.6 mg
Iron: 
8.5 mg, 47% DV (Daily value)
Potassium: 
168 mg, 4% DV
Sodium:
 1.95 mg, 0% DV
Choline:
 3.3 mg, 1% DV

Packaged Rice Blends

Want to get a mix of the health benefits of rice—and create a colorful side dish? You can find rice blends on the shelves that combine several different types of rice in a single bag. It might be a good way to sneak in some of the higher-fiber, nutrient-rich rice types.

Nutritional Facts for Rice Blends

You’ll want to check the package of the rice blend you’re trying for complete nutritional facts, as they can vary widely depending on the types of rice included and the proportions of each rice type.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is white rice healthy?

    While it may be more palatable to some, white rice isn’t nearly as good for you as the more colorful varieties. “It’s been processed to strip away the hull, bran, and germ, which is where most of the nutrition is found,” explains Roosevelt. “It gives it a softer texture than wild or brown rice, however, it’s less nutritious, lacks fiber, and has a higher glycemic index.”

    That being said, many white rice brands are fortified with folic acid, calcium, and iron, which slightly boosts its benefits. Plus, the lower fiber content may be preferable to those dealing with digestive issues.

  • Is yellow rice good for you?

    Yellow rice is not its own rice variety, like brown or black rice. It’s white rice cooked with either turmeric, saffron, or achiote (annatto)—or a combination of the three—to give it the yellow color. Because of the turmeric, yellow rice provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Additionally, it contains riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. Plus, you’ll find that yellow rice has minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium.

  • Should I worry that rice is high in arsenic?

    As you may have heard, rice is high in arsenic, a known carcinogen that contributes to higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease. “For adults, the recommendation is to eat no more than two servings per week, which includes rice syrup and rice flours that may be on the labels of some pre-packaged foods,” warns Petersen. “Short-grain rice has less arsenic than long-grain rice. Also, a study from Consumer Reports found that brown basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan are some of the safest rice sources.”

    Here’s the good news: You can reduce the carcinogen content in your rice with proper cooking techniques. Petersen recommends first rinsing your rice about five times in a sieve. Then, cook the rice as you would pasta, using a 10-to-1 ratio of water to rice instead of the typical 2-to-1. Once the rice cooks thoroughly, drain and rinse it again.

    To counter any ill effects, Petersen also suggests serving your rice with foods high in antioxidants, like dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and turmeric. Once cleaned, colorful rice grains can be a tasty, nutritious addition to your weekly diet.

  • Is it good to eat rice every day?

    Rice can be just fine to eat daily, as long as it’s part of a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy products or alternatives, Bakovic says.

  • Are there any reasons why you shouldn’t eat rice?

    As a grain and a decent source of carbohydrates, rice—especially refined white rice—can spike blood sugar, which can be an issue for people at risk of diabetes.

    As mentioned above, rice tends to be higher in arsenic—a potential carcinogen—than other grains, so you may want to limit your exposure by choosing lower-risk rices, such as brown basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and washing your rice before you cook it.

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