IS RICE HEALTHY? HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
The basics and the not-so-basics of eating it as part of a balanced diet.
With the New Year, the circle of diet trends and weight-watching hyper fixations starts anew. All of us are a little bit naughty around the festive holidays, after all. But one question crops up time and time again: Is rice healthy? That’s an answer with multiple parts, but none of them bad.
From creating delicious dinner dishes to beefing up your breakfasts, let’s dive into the wonderful world of rice and why it should always be a staple in your pantry.
Rice and its many types
Rice is a starchy grain which grows on grassy plants, most commonly in irrigated rice paddies, and forms a staple component for a large percentage of the world’s population. Once processed, it can be boiled, ground into flour, fried, and can be eaten either by itself or made into a wonderful variety of dishes across the board.
There are over 40,000 varieties of rice worldwide, though they can all be set into three main categories: long grain, medium grain and short grain. While we won’t list out the lot, fun as that would be, here are some of the most common you’re bound to recognise.
If you’re ever cooked a risotto, odds are you’ve used arborio (or carnaroli) rice. Its slow release of starch is what makes risotto so deliciously smooth and creamy.
Served alongside your favourite curries, basmati is a long grain rice that can be used in a variety of ways. It’s lightly nutty and aromatic in flavour, and excellent for pilafs and biryanis.
Explore our biryanis recipes here.
Sometimes called ‘forbidden rice’, black rice is almost always whole grain. It has an earthy, nutty flavour, is a good source of iron and protein, and takes around an hour to cook (but it’s worth the wait).
Considered a whole grain (and can also be named wholegrain), brown rice is only processed to remove the inedible hull, keeping the bran and germ intact. Because of this, it retains more of its nutrients which is why it is often chosen over white rice by athletes and health conscious eaters. It also means it has a shorter shelf life overall and can generally take longer to cook.
Check out our guide to cooking brown rice.
Sometimes marketed as sushi rice or sticky rice, Japanese rice grains are short, plump, and stick together because of how much moisture they retain once cooked. It’s perfect for serving alongside your main meal, making onigiri (rice balls), and in your favourite sushi dishes.
White rice is a classic, reliable grain which works perfectly across the board. The main difference between white and brown rice is that, in this case, the husk, germ and bran have been removed, and the grain has been polished.
Unlike its namesake, wild rice is actually a type of marsh grass seed and grows mostly in parts of North America and Canada. It contains fibre, complete proteins, is full of antioxidants, and has a chewy outer texture with a soft grain. (Source healthline.com/nutrition/wild-rice-nutrition-review#protein-and-fiber)
Want to learn more about about the different types of rice? Take a look at our rice guide Here.
Fact or fiction: Brown rice is healthier than white
The important thing to note here is that both brown and white rice are the same grain – the big difference is how they’re processed. Because the germ and bran are removed, white rice valuable nutrients, like antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, fats, and fibre, unless they’re reintroduced later on.
When it comes to deciding which to include in your diet, however, you’ll need to consider a few factors, including your own health. If you have certain medical conditions, like kidney disease or diabetes, or need to adjust a high or low fibre diet, you should research which carbohydrate will serve you best. (Source medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319797)
How is rice processed?
Once rice has been grown, harvested and dried for as long as needed, it’s time to process. First comes hulling, which in itself can be multiple stages long, to remove the inedible hull. At this point you have brown rice.
From here, to extend shelf life, brown rice can be pearled which removes the bran layer. Once the bran has been rubbed away, the grains are cooled and polished to give it more of a shine.
And, finally, grains are checked to ensure you’re getting the very best on the table. From paddy to plate, we pride ourselves on the quality and standards of our rice.
(Sources hindustanggroup.net/modern-rice-milling-proces / madehow.com/Volume-5/Rice.html / theforkedspoon.com/types-of-rice.com)
5 key health benefits of rice
- White rice digests easily – many people prefer to stick to white rice as it’s low in fat and fibre, meaning it’s less likely to cause any gastrointestinal issues.
- Enjoy a burst of energy – as an easy source of carbohydrate, white rice is the ideal food for replenishing gylcogen and refuelling after exercise.
- It’s naturally gluten-free – for people with coeliac disease, rice and rice flour is an excellent alternative to wheat-based foods.
- Cholesterol – Brown rice contains more fibre than white rice. Studies suggest a higher fibre diet can contribute to lowering cholesterol.
- From your head to your toes – rice contains magnesium which is essential for the overall health of your bones, muscles and nerves.
(Sources ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5794245 / verywellfit.com/foods-that-are-easy-to-digest / verywellfit.com/rice-nutrition-facts-calories-and-health-benefits)
Rice vs pasta: Which is healthier?
When thinking about whether rice or pasta is the healthiest alternative, ask yourself another question: “Why do I need to know?”. Like many things, the answer will depend entirely on what you need in your diet. If you’re looking for more fibre and protein, pasta is a must-have. Low gluten and low calorie, then rice is the winner. (Source vegfaqs.com/rice-vs-pasta/#Rice_vs_Pasta_Which_is_Healthier)
Is it okay to eat rice every day?
As a staple across the globe, you may often wonder whether eating rice every day is a good or bad thing. The answer is neither “yes” or “no”, but rather “it depends”. It depends on what type of rice you eat, how much of it you eat, and your overall health and lifestyle.
To avoid getting into too much detail, the best answer we can give is to embrace variety. Enjoy rice a few times a week, but break meals up with grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and couscous, and celebrate it as part of a delicious, varied diet.