When was the last time you ate rice? Chances are, it was sometime last week, or maybe even just a day or two ago. This is because rice is one of the most common grains in the world!
Rice is so popular that it accounts for 20% of the world’s calorie intake, and more than 3.5 billion people incorporate rice as a primary part of their meal planning. Sometimes, people even eat rice as part of more than one of their meals in a day. Its abundance makes it a relatively inexpensive grocery store purchase.
Farmers have grown this staple for thousands of years; historians have even found evidence that rice was grown in some areas of the world around 8,000 years ago.
Today, Able will take you through all you need to know about rice. Don’t worry; we won’t go back 8,000 years, but we will share information about rice’s nutritional value. Let’s discover more about rice with Able.
The most simple answer is that rice is a grain and a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel supply line that keeps you energized throughout the day.
A grain is a nutrient source that, when untouched, we refer to as a ‘whole grain.’ Nutritionists make this distinction because grains are often processed and stripped of some nutrients when manufactured for shelf life.
There are three parts to a whole grain: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran is like the shell for the grain — it is the other layer that protects the seed inside. Bran feels rough and hard to the touch and brings plenty of nutrition to the table. It not only supplies your body with fiber but also with minerals and antioxidants.
Next comes the germ, which is like the center or the heart of the grain. The germ is at the grain’s core and is chock full of nutrients. Thanks to the germ, when you eat whole grains, you fuel your body with carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Last but not least is the endosperm. Starch is the endosperm’s primary component, although it also supplies you with a tiny amount of protein.
There are a couple of different parent umbrella categories that nutritionists use to classify rice. One way to describe different types of rice is by its length or shape; another method calls on how manufacturers process the rice.
Rice can be classified as long, short, or medium grain. It is important to note that these lengths describe the rice’s appearance after it cooks. Even though long-grain rice absorbs water and slightly softens during preparation, it still has a firmer, drier texture than other rice types.
Medium-grain rice, the “middle ground” for shape, has a less firm and more moist consistency once cooked. As such, these grains can stick to each other when cooked in boiling water.
Finally, as its name implies, short-grain rice is the shortest in length. It is stickier than medium-grain rice because it has the softest, most moist texture.
Have you ever had mango sticky rice for dessert? If so, you were eating a deliciously sweet bowl filled with short-grain rice. The pattern here is that the shorter the rice, the stickier it becomes when cooked.
Another way to refer to different types of rice is to specify the processing method for that particular batch of grain.
There are two main types of rice within this classification: brown rice and white rice.
Brown rice is rice in its purest, most untouched form. This type of rice has not been altered from its whole-grain form, so it still contains all three parts that comprise a grain. Because brown rice keeps its outer and firmer bran layer, it not only takes longer to cook but also takes more work and time for your stomach to break down and digest.
White rice put most simply, is brown rice that manufacturers refine at the mill plant. White rice has its bran layer removed to extend its storage life; white rice also has its germ core removed, which takes away many nutrients. Thus, white rice is brown rice that has been processed to leave only the grain’s endosperm component.
The main reason manufacturers eliminate the bran and germ from white rice is that omitting these two parts improves white rice’s taste, lengthens its shelf life, and eases its cooking compared to its brown counterpart. Rice without germ and bran is thought to taste better, and has a softer texture for easier cooking and digesting; brown rice tastes chewier and even has nutty hints to it.
While there is debate around whether white rice is good for you or not (which we will get to soon), one thing is certain: general recommendations suggest that brown rice is better for you than white rice.
Right off the bat, brown rice is a whole grain, which means it yields an ample nutrient supply to your body.
Brown rice has high fiber content and supplies you with important vitamins and minerals, including manganese, selenium, magnesium, and B vitamins.
Because brown rice has many nutrients and fiber, this whole grain is an efficacious fuel that can sustain you for a long time when added to your diet. Brown rice also has nutrients that are healthy for your heart, helping to target and lower high LDL cholesterol levels to mitigate the propensity for heart disease.
Brown rice is thus a great contributor to weight loss because it keeps you full for longer and makes you less prone to overeating. If you include a good amount of brown rice in your diet when you create your meal plans, the chances are that you will have a far easier time maintaining a healthy body weight than if you were to eat white rice solely.
White rice has some nutrients — its endosperm contains starch and some protein, although a small amount. White rice is also a good folate source.
However, because white rice has less nutritional value than brown rice, it is technically not as healthy.
White rice is higher in calories and does not keep you full for very long because much of its nutritional content has been removed. Filling up on white rice is more like filling up on empty calories.
Some studies even indicate that white rice might put you at a higher risk for developing diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, due to imbalanced blood sugar levels.
By definition — a refined high carbohydrate grain stripped of most of its fiber and nutrients — white rice does not sound like it has much going for it health-wise. Some studies link this grain type to obesity and various diseases, and diets that emphasize a low carbohydrate strategy stipulate no white rice in any meal plan.
That said, more research needs to be done regarding the potential risks associated with white rice. A good rule of thumb is to aim to eat everything in moderation for a healthy and well-balanced diet.
White rice is not completely nutrient deficient — yes, it loses a vast majority of its nutrients. Still, manufacturers recognize this and often enrich this rice with vitamins and minerals, like iron, to compensate for the loss.
However, nothing is as healthy or true as a food’s most natural form, so even though treatment enriches white rice with some of its lost nutrients, it still lacks the same nutritional value as its more natural brown countergrain.
White rice also has some benefits that brown rice cannot claim, including that white rice lacks a hard outer layer and does not contain gluten. White rice is far easier to digest than brown rice without a hard shell, so it is a good addition to someone’s diet if they have digestion issues. Also, white rice lacks gluten, so is great for people with gluten intolerances.
The bottom line is that white rice is not as healthy as brown rice, but it is not terrible for you, either. White rice still has some nutrients, and as long as you eat this food in moderation and stick to reasonable portion sizes, you will stay on track with a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Rice is a common food and remains a dietary staple in many countries around the world — but is rice good for you? The answer is yes and no. Certain types of rice are better for you than others, namely brown rice.
While not yielding nearly as many nutritional benefits as brown rice, white rice still contains nutrients and is thus not bad for you. The caveat here, as with most carbohydrates, is everything in moderation. No, white rice is not bad for you and will not sabotage your diet, as long as you consume this refined carb in moderation.
At Able, we give you a personalized approach to health and well-being. If you are trying to manage your weight, whether it’s to lose weight, gain muscle, or tone your body, we are here to help you work towards feeling better from now on and for good. Get your nutrition plan today when you sign up on our App, and take the first step towards a happier, healthier you. The change starts today!