Grain Gains: The Healthiest Rice Types for Your Diet

Rice is a common grain frequently included as a part of a balanced diet. However, there are many types of rice, and their nutritional aspects and usage applications vary. Learn how to pick the healthiest alternative based on your dietary preferences and goals.

Types of rice and their nutritional profile

Among many rice varieties, the most commonly consumed ones are categorized as white and brown. Frequently consumed white rice varieties include but are not limited to arborio, basmati, calrose, and jasmine.

Brown rice 366 kcal 77 g7 g3 g3 g
Arborio rice351 kcal77 g7 g1 g2 g
Basmati rice359 kcal77 g9 g1 g1 g
Calrose rice352 kcal80 g6 g1 g1 g
Jasmine rice/Fragrant rice350 kcal77 g8 g1 g1 g

Rice's nutritional value can change based on the quality of soil, harvesting time and methods, milling, and processing.

What's the best rice type when counting calories?

Grains, including rice, are good sources of carbohydrates in the diet. Rice also contains fiber, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc.

A food's calories should not be the primary determinant when choosing. However, if you're on a calorie-restricted diet, you may choose between alternative foods based on their calorie content.

The calorie content of rice varieties is similar. It's important to consider that nutritional value is as important as, if not more important than, calories when choosing foods for weight management.

For carbohydrate-rich foods, glycemic index (GI) can be used to select healthier options regarding blood glucose management. The glycemic index determines the ability of carbohydrate-containing foods to increase blood sugar levels.

If the GI of a food is low, it increases blood glucose levels more slowly than high glycemic index foods, which spike blood glucose levels. A spike in blood glucose levels results in a spike in blood insulin levels, which can contribute to weight gain if other parameters of diet or lifestyle are not well managed.

Proteins and carbs: rice for gaining muscle mass

Amino acids are building blocks of muscle. Personalized, healthy, and balanced diets containing enough protein and energy sources are essential for building muscle.

Although rice contains small amounts of protein, it is a good source of carbohydrates and thus energy. 100 g raw rice has about 70 to 80 grams of carbohydrates.

Also, it's important to replace lost carbohydrates and energy and get enough protein after training to enhance muscle synthesis. Quickly absorbed sources of carbohydrates, such as rice, can contribute to faster recovery of muscle, which then can increase the quality of following exercises.

White rice vs. whole grain

Whole grains consist of bran, endosperm, and germ. Brown rice is a whole grain because it contains all three parts. On the other hand, bran (the part containing fiber) is removed from white rice. Therefore, brown rice is considered a healthier option since it's not refined.

Health authorities suggest daily consumption of 70–90 grams of whole grains as a part of a healthy and balanced diet, which, in this case, you can get from brown rice. However, a healthy and balanced diet can certainly contain varieties of rice. You can add other types of rice to your diet to increase the diversity in taste, texture, and nutrients.

Rice types that spike insulin

Carbohydrate-rich foods affect blood glucose and insulin levels in various degrees. The glycemic index is a score indicating how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food increases blood glucose levels.

The glycemic index of rice changes based on rice variety, post-harvest processing, cooking technique, and duration. A higher score indicates that food increases blood glucose levels faster.

The highest glycemic index scores were reported for white rice varieties, such as basmati rice (83/100). Lower glycemic index scores were reported for boiled (66/100) and steamed (50/100) brown rice.

Cooking time also affects the glycemic index. For example, while 5 minutes of cooking regular rice was reported to have a glycemic index of around 54–62, 15 minutes of cooking was reported to have a glycemic index of 79–87.

Therefore, to achieve the lowest glycemic index of rice, you can choose brown rice and decrease cooking time.

Practical considerations

You can eat a variety of rice types to diversify your meals. However, remember, mainly choosing whole grains over refined grains is recommended. While choosing rice, you can consider:

Nutritional value. The nutritional profiles of whole grains, such as brown rice, and refined grains, such as white rice, are different. Although they provide similar calories, brown rice contains more fiber than white rice.

Glycemic index. If taste is not the primary determinant when choosing a rice type, you can select the one with the lowest glycemic index.

Grain type. Short, medium, and long-grain rice are used for different culinary purposes. Short-grain rice is generally used when making sushi because its texture is chewy, medium-grain rice sticks together, and long-grain varieties (such as basmati and jasmine rice) tend to separate.

Taste. Different rice varieties have slightly different tastes, such as nutty, floral, and starchy.

Rice is a good carbohydrate source with many varieties; brown and white rice are the most frequently consumed. Brown rice has higher fiber and a lower glycemic index than white rice. You can enjoy various rice types as a healthy and balanced diet.


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