What is the healthiest rice?

What is the healthiest rice?

Rice has been one of the most produced and consumed grains in the world for centuries, and for good reason. Rice contains fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and even protein and healthy fats. It’s a versatile grain that pops up everywhere and can be used in just about any dish. There are different types of rice based on differences such as grain size, flavors, processing, and color.

Here we explore four different types of rice – white, brown, black and red – based on color and the contribution they may or may not make to our diet. For recipe ideas, check out 5 Healthy Brown Rice Recipes for Weight Loss.


The most common of all rice varieties, white rice is ubiquitous in many grocery store locations, is often a staple ingredient in meal kits, and makes an appearance on many popular restaurant menus. It’s an affordable food that soaks up flavor and pairs well with a range of dishes, from curries to sushi to jambalaya and everything in between. White rice is fortified rice, which typically contains added iron, thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (vitamin B3), and folic acid. It has been ground to remove not only the outer husk, but also the bran and germ layers of the kernel. It contains about 160 calories per ¼ dry cup.

Brown rice

Brown rice is one of the most recognized whole grains, alongside some of its cousins ​​like oats, whole wheat, and quinoa, because it contains the three important parts of the grain: bran, endosperm and germ. Interestingly enough, however, brown rice only has about 1.5 grams more fiber per ¼ cup dry serving than white rice, so it doesn’t have the same impact on fiber as other whole grains. in the market compared to their refined counterparts. Although the extra gram of fiber, which is mostly insoluble, may be helpful for digestive health by acting as a mild laxative, the difference is not as stark as, say, a sugary refined cereal versus a bran cereal.

cooked forbidden rice

Black rice, also known as purple, forbidden or emperor’s rice, has been popular among eastern cultures for years, but has been slower to make its way to the western part of the globe. Black rice has a black color when dry, but when cooked it takes on a more purple hue. This ancient rice has been studied for its concentration of anthocyanins, a flavonoid pigment, which may be associated with protection against cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Black rice contains more fiber and protein than brown rice, at around five grams of protein and three grams of fiber per ¼ cup dry serving. Black rice is best eaten in porridge, rice salads or fried rice.

red rice in bowls with fork and spoon

Red rice is a deep red/honey grain with a slightly savory, nutty flavor and chewy texture. Some existing research has investigated the positive inhibitory effects of red rice on leukemia, cervical, and stomach cancer cells due to its proanthocyanidin content. Red rice may also exhibit anti-diabetic effects, as studied in a 2016 article by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study found a 2.3- to 2.7-fold increase in basal glucose uptake (important for proper blood sugar regulation) from exposure to red rice bran extracts. Analyzes of various types of rice also tend to find red rice to be higher in tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E, which is linked to neuroprotection, anticancer activity, and cholesterol-lowering qualities. Red rice works wonders in pilafs, salads and soups.

So which rice to choose? Select a rice that suits your taste buds and is suitable for certain dishes, making sure to see the ingredients to avoid added seasonings or salt so you can control these additions in your own cooking. If you’re open to any form of rice to round out your meal, snack, or dessert idea, go for black rice as your top choice for its impressive fiber, protein, and possible chronic disease-fighting ability.

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a nationally recognized dietitian. Learn more about Molly

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