What is the healthiest type of rice? A dietitian shares her #1 pick and 2 finalists

Rice is an affordable, convenient and nutritious staple in many family meals. It’s a simple, starchy side that spans many cultural dishes. Plus, rice is an easy ingredient to use in almost any meal, even dessert.

But sorting through the wide variety of rice on store shelves can be overwhelming. While all types of rice are a healthy part of a diet, some varieties have some outstanding nutrition stats that make them more desirable. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most important nutritional facts about rice, including dietitians’ top picks for the healthiest rice.

What is the healthiest type of rice?

No matter what type of rice you choose, rest assured that it’s a healthy, whole food that adds nutrition to your plate. All types of rice have carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants and more than 15 vitamins and minerals.

Many varieties of rice are whole grain, meaning they contain all the parts of the grain and the nutrition in it. On the other hand, white rice only has part of the grain, so it has less protein and fiber than whole grains. For this reason, my healthiest rice pick is an accessible whole grain that’s probably already in your pantry: brown rice.

Brown rice is easy to find, inexpensive and nutritious. A cooked cup of brown rice has:

  • 248 calories
  • 5.5 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 52 grams of fat
  • 3 grams of fiber (11% of the daily value)

Brown rice deserves first place for its fiber and protein content. Fiber plays a role in regulating hunger levels and lowering cholesterol, and protein is crucial for muscle building and appetite control.

Research shows that people who eat brown rice instead of white rice have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The authors attribute these findings to the phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber in the grain.

Other types of healthy rice

Two more varieties of rice should be highlighted in the healthiest category. First of all, black rice also known as forbidden rice is a whole grain rice of Chinese origin. Its black color comes from the anthocyanins (antioxidants that fight inflammation) in the rice. The black rice is nutty and chewy and takes about 45 minutes to cook. It’s a bit more expensive and harder to find than brown rice, but it’s still a great choice for many home cooks.

About a quarter cup of dry (or 1 cup cooked) black rice provides:

  • 160 calories
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 1.5 grams of fat
  • 34 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1 gram of fiber (4% of the daily value)

Finally, wild rice is a remarkable whole grain, even though it’s not technically a rice. Wild rice is a semi-aquatic grass that grows in North America. It is dark brown in color and contains all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants of other brown rice.

One cup of cooked wild rice has:

  • 160 calories
  • 6.5 grams of protein
  • 0.5 grams of fat
  • 35 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3 grams of fiber (11% of the daily value)

In fact, wild rice has more protein and the same amount of fiber as brown rice. It didn’t top the list because it’s not technically considered rice.

Is white rice bad for you?

Because white rice isn’t a whole grain and is full of starchy carbs, many people think it’s a no-no for their health. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. White rice has more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, selenium, fiber, iron and zinc.

Rice is naturally gluten-free, which is helpful for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. And both white and brown rice have resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that makes you feel full and promotes a healthy body weight.

What is the healthiest type of white rice?

There are many types of white rice, including basmati, jasmine and arborio. The nutritional profile of the different varieties is relatively the same. The difference lies in the aroma, texture and grain size.

Is basmati or jasmine rice healthier?

Both basmati rice and jasmine rice have very similar nutrition. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture lists the nutritional statistics for the two types of rice as interchangeable.

One cup of cooked basmati or jasmine rice has:

  • 246 calories
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 5 grams of fat
  • 44 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1 gram of fiber

Jasmine is a long grain rice with a popcorn flavor. It is mild and often used in Thai dishes. Basmati rice is also a long grain rice that is salty and chewy, and is commonly found in Indian and Mediterranean dishes. Both types of rice can be swapped out for any recipe that calls for long grain.

The healthiest rice for weight loss

Only a few studies have examined the effects of rice varieties on weight loss, and the findings are generally inconsistent. However, one review states that brown rice can positively influence body weight, due to the grain’s fiber. Fiber helps keep you full and makes weight loss easier.

The healthiest rice for diabetes

Brown rice has more fiber and other beneficial nutrients that maintain blood sugar and may prevent diabetes. A randomized controlled trial explored how replacing brown rice with white rice can influence type 2 diabetes risk factors. The study found that brown rice can benefit HbA1c, a marker of blood sugar, among participants with metabolic syndrome.

Several studies have attempted to determine whether high rice consumption is related to the development of diabetes, specifically in Asian populations. A large cohort study found that higher consumption of rice (of any kind) is not associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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