Is the rice good? The many health and weight loss benefits

THE PLANETS he practically lives on rice.

“Rice is a grain that is eaten around the world—in Asia, several African countries and European countries, as well as Central and South American countries,” says Dana Ellis Hance, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at UCLA Medical Center and assistant professor at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. “It’s a staple around the world.”

And you shouldn’t avoid rice because of what you may have heard from some so-called nutrition “expert.”

“It’s not a food to fear or villainize,” says Ellis Hoones.

Yes, rice is a high carb food. But carbs aren’t bad. Really.

Your brain and muscles thrive on carbohydrates (or glucose) and use the nutrient as their primary source of energy.

“Our brains use five grams of glucose every hour to function,” says Ellis Hance. That’s 120 grams of glucose per day. A third cup of cooked rice has 15 grams of carbohydrates, so it shows it can be part of a healthy diet,” she says.

“Depending on your food or food/cultural preferences, you can eat rice with beans, rice in sushi, rice as a side to Asian dishes. Rice can be the main part of the dish, as in risotto, or as part of the dish, as in paella,” she says.

However, not all rice is created equal. Brown rice is often considered preferable to white rice, but the grains actually come from the same plant.

“Rice is the seed of a grain or grass plant that grows in submerged fields,” says Annelie Vogt von Hesselholt, RD, founder of DietitianDoc. “During harvesting and processing, when only the outer layer of the husk is removed, you get brown rice, which is considered whole grain. Further removal of the husk and bran layers leaves what we know as white rice,” she says.

“Rice—especially brown rice—is also rich in fiber, manganese, selenium, iron, magnesium, copper, and B vitamins. Fiber, in particular, can help digest food, improve cholesterol levels, and give you help you feel fuller longer, which is important for weight management,” she says, adding that other nutrients in rice support the immune system.

What is the nutritional value of rice?

It depends on the type of rice.

As we discussed above, brown rice is the star in the rice verse, but there’s no need to knock white rice.

“Whole rice consists of carbohydrates with a small amount of protein and a minimal amount of fat. Brown rice is a whole grain. This means that it contains all the parts of the grain – the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ and the carbohydrate-rich endosperm. White rice contains only the endosperm; the bran and germ are removed,” explains Johna Burdeos, RD. “Brown rice has more fiber, nutrients and antioxidants than white rice, but not by a significant amount.”

In terms of texture, brown rice is often chewy and takes longer to cook thanks to the bran and germ remaining intact. Despite the differences, Bourdeos says that both brown and white rice can be eaten as often as you like (in appropriate portions) as part of a healthy diet.

“[Rice] is a worldwide staple. It’s not a food to fear or villainize.”

Burdeos breaks down the macronutrients per cup: “For one cup of cooked rice, brown and white rice are about 200 calories. Both contain about 44 grams of carbohydrates. Brown rice has five grams of protein and white rice has four grams. White rice has less than one gram of fiber, and brown rice has three to four grams of fiber. Fat is minimal in both: white rice has 0.4 grams of fat and brown rice has 1.7 grams of fat.

But back to brown rice vs. white rice: One key takeaway, Vogt von Heselholt says, is to choose brown rice over the more processed white rice at least 50 percent of the time because of brown rice’s nutritional profile. Do your best to stick to a serving size of about half a cup.

In addition to white and brown rice, there are other types of rice with positive health benefits.

“Indonesian and Thai black rice have the highest antioxidant values ​​of all rice varieties. It is particularly high in anthocyanins, or plant flavonoids, which are anti-inflammatory and help fight cancer. Himalayan and Thai red rice varieties are high in fiber and other types of antioxidants called quercetins, which help fight chronic diseases and cancer,” says Vogt von Heselholt. “Wild rice, although it is a grass and not a grain, is commonly used as a grain. It provides three times more fiber than white rice and can be anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-hypertensive and important for the immune system.

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“One serving of cooked rice is equivalent to ½ cup because it is such a concentrated source of energy. Men should limit it to about eight total grain servings per day, depending on age and activity level,” shares Vogt von Heselholt.

“Indonesian and Thai black rice have the highest antioxidant values ​​of all rice varieties.”

Some of her favorite ways to enjoy rice? “Rice can be mixed with broccoli, garlic, and olive oil for a healthy anti-inflammatory side dish, added to saffron paella for added pizzazz, or mixed into a bowl of cauliflower and cilantro for a lower-calorie meal.”

Bourdeos, on the other hand, is the protector of the Buddha’s cup. “The Buddha bowl is a great example of diversity where you can make a dish around rice. Basically, you just add fresh and/or cooked vegetables and protein to the bowl along with the rice and top with a sauce or dressing. Try adding grilled vegetables like mushrooms and squash, cooked chicken or beans and a creamy tahini dressing,” she says.

“Or try a deconstructed taco bowl with rice, spicy seasoned ground beef, black beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, lettuce or greens, chopped fresh cilantro, avocado, squeezed lime, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.” If you want to try rice with a plant-based meal, make the above bowls with beans, chickpeas, or tofu for your protein.

Bourdeos adds that you can also increase the heartiness of a bean or lentil soup by adding rice.

Is rice good for weight loss?

Yes

“Although rice is high in carbohydrates, brown rice in particular can be beneficial for weight loss. Because the outer bran layers remain intact in brown rice, it is high in fiber. Fiber can help digest food, delay stomach emptying, and help you feel fuller for longer, all of which are important for weight management,” says Vogt von Heselholt, noting that brown rice also requires more chewing that naturally lends itself to eating smaller portions.

fresh paella in a pan on a wooden table

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But there are some caveats to keep in mind when increasing your rice consumption: “Some studies have linked high amounts of white rice consumption to metabolic syndrome, or risk factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” says Bourdeos.

Still, she points out, other studies have found no link between white rice and obesity. As always, any food is best in moderation.

Ellis Hunes emphasizes that rice can be good for weight loss when combined with an overall healthy diet. “Rice is not particularly high in calories, although it is higher than some foods, of course. The thing about rice is that it expands to 3 times its original volume, so it can be quite filling and, depending on the variety, relatively high in fiber,” she says. “Brown and black rice will be healthier than white rice because of their extra fiber and extra antioxidants, especially black rice.”

Is rice healthy?

Also yes.

“Rice, and especially brown rice, is rich in fiber, antioxidants, manganese, selenium, iron, magnesium, copper and B vitamins,” says Vogt von Heselholt. “Fiber in particular can help digest food, improve cholesterol levels and help you feel fuller longer, which is important for heart health, weight and diabetes management and cancer prevention.” The other nutrients are important for the immune system and also help prevent chronic disease and cancer.”

When shopping for rice, Vogt von Heselholt suggests looking for whole grain brown rice to get all the health benefits described above.

“This is because the nutrients are built into the bran layers of brown rice, while they are removed when white rice is made. Choosing black, red or wild rice are good options, all of which have disease-fighting properties and nutrients,” she says, adding that you should skip flavored packaged rice mixes, as they can be high in calories, sodium and other ingredients. Ellis Hunnes also suggests looking for US-grown rice, which is generally low in arsenic.

Follow these tips for making the best rice and get busy in the kitchen.

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