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What is the healthiest type of rice? A dietitian shares her No. 1 pick — and 2 runners-up

Good news: You probably already have this top pick in your pantry.
/ Source: TODAY

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Rice is an affordable, convenient and nutritious staple in many family meals. It’s a simple, starchy side that spans many cultural dishes. Plus, rice is an easy ingredient to use in practically any meal, even dessert. 

But sorting through the sheer variety of rice on store shelves can be overwhelming. Although all types of rice are a healthy part of a diet, some varieties have a few standout nutrition stats that make them more desirable. Here is a breakdown of some of the most important nutrition facts about rice, including a dietitian’s top pick for the healthiest rice.

What is the healthiest type of rice?

No matter the type of rice you choose, rest assured that it’s a healthy, whole food that adds nutrition to your plate. All types of rice have carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants and more than 15 vitamins and minerals. 

Many rice varieties are whole grain, meaning they contain all parts of the grain and the nutrition within them. On the other hand, white rice has only one part of the grain, so it has less protein and fiber than the whole grain varieties. For that reason, my healthiest rice pick is an accessible whole grain that is probably already in your pantry: brown rice.

Brown rice is easy to find, inexpensive and nutritious. One cup cooked of brown rice has: 

  • 248 calories
  • 5.5 grams protein
  • 2 grams fat
  • 52 grams carbohydrates
  • 3 grams fiber (11% daily value)

Brown rice deserves the top spot because of its fiber and protein content. Fiber plays a role in regulating hunger levels and reducing cholesterol, and protein is crucial for muscle building and controlling appetite. 

Research shows that people who eat brown rice instead of white rice have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The authors attribute these findings to the pyhtochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber within the grain. 

Other healthy types of rice

Two other varieties of rice are worth mentioning in the healthiest category. First, black rice — also known as forbidden rice — is a whole grain rice with Chinese origins. Its black color comes from anthocyanins (inflammation-fighting antioxidants) within the rice. Black rice is nutty and chewy and takes about 45 minutes to cook. It’s a little more expensive and harder to find than brown rice, but it’s still a great option for many home cooks. 

About one-quarter cup dry (or 1 cup cooked) of black rice provides:

  • 160 calories
  • 4 grams protein
  • 1.5 grams fat
  • 34 grams carbohydrates
  • 1 gram fiber (4% daily value)

Lastly, wild rice is a noteworthy whole grain, although it’s technically not a rice. Wild rice is a semi-aquatic grass that grows in North America. It’s dark brown and has all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants of other whole grain rice. 

One cup of cooked wild rice has:

  • 160 calories
  • 6.5 grams protein
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 35 grams carbs
  • 3 grams fiber (11% daily value)

As a matter of fact, wild rice has more protein and the same amount of fiber as brown rice. It didn’t top the list because it’s technically not considered “rice.” 

Is white rice bad for you?

Since white rice isn’t a whole grain and it’s full of starchy carbs, many people think it’s a no-no for their health. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. White rice has more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, selenium, fiber, iron and zinc.

Rice is naturally gluten-free, which is helpful for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. And both white and brown rice have resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that makes you feel full and promotes a healthy body weight.

What's the healthiest type of white rice?

There are many types of white rice, including basmati, jasmine and arborio. The nutrition profile of the different varieties is relatively the same. The difference lies in the aroma, texture and grain size. 

Is basmati or jasmine rice healthier?

Both basmati and jasmine rice have very similar nutrition. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists the nutrition stats for both types of rice as interchangeable. 

One cup of cooked basmati or jasmine rice has:

  • 246 calories
  • 4 grams protein
  • 5 grams fat
  • 44 grams carbohydrates
  • 1 gram fiber

Jasmine is a long-grain rice with a “popcorn” aroma. It’s soft and often used in Thai dishes. Basmati rice is also a long-grain rice that is savory and chewy, and it’s commonly found in Indian and Mediterranean dishes. Both types of rice can be swapped into any recipe that calls for a long-grain. 

The healthiest rice for weight loss

Only a few studies have examined the effects of rice varieties on weight loss, and the findings are generally inconsistent. However, one review states that brown rice may positively influence body weight, due to the fiber within the grain. Fiber helps keep you full and facilitates weight loss

The healthiest rice for diabetes

Brown rice has more fiber and other beneficial nutrients that steady blood sugar and potentially prevent diabetes. A randomized controlled trial explored how substituting brown rice for white rice may influence Type 2 diabetes risk factors. The study found that brown rice may benefit HbA1c, a blood sugar marker, among participants with metabolic syndrome.

Several studies have sought to determine if high rice consumption is linked to the development of diabetes, specifically in Asian populations. One large cohort study found that higher rice consumption (of any kind) is not linked to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.