There are so many types of rice - more than 40,000 to be exact! Do you ever wonder what type of rice is best for you and your body? Here, I'll break it down for you. At the end, I'll give my thoughts on how I use rice in my diet and what may make sense for you.
Short-grain, medium-grain, long-grain, black, white, brown, red, yellow! There are so many options and each rice has its own nutritional profile, benefits, and effects on the body.
White rice of varying kinds, is an economical and versatile addition to the table. It can be used in making sushi, pilafs, risottos, rice pudding. It does, however, get a lot of flack because of its processing. White rice goes through a complete milling and polishing process that removes naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals. The refining of the grain removes the husk, bran, and germ layers, which contains the majority of nutrients. Because of this, it has the highest starch & carbohydrate content (especially short grain white rice), and the highest glycemic index load (it makes your blood sugar rise the quickest). This also means it is more easily digested and tolerated by most people.
On the flip side, brown rice is a whole grain with only the outer hull removed. Because it is more 'in tact' and in its natural state, brown rice is a good source of fiber, minerals, antioxidants and has been studied to be an effective agent in the support against medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Since it contains more fiber than white rice, its glycemic index is lower, which means a slower rise in blood sugar. It has a slightly nutty taste and a different texture than white rice. It also happens to take longer to cook!
Black rice, or forbidden rice, is an heirloom variety with a great nutritional profile as well, including antioxidants (specifically anthocyanins) which are also found in blueberries and blackberries. I like cooking this rice with culinary coconut milk, and topping with slice mango for a delicious nutty Thai dish accompaniment.
Wild rice is actually not a rice at all, but a seed of a grass from a different botanical family! Wild rice is a great source of fiber, minerals, and B-vitamins. It is very nutrient dense and contains more amino acids than white rice. The texture is also quite different than white rice and the cooking time is longer, but with these benefits, I'd suggest giving it a try.
Sprouted rice, what's that? Sprouted grains are becoming a larger presence on the store shelves these days. They are also touted for being healthier than non-sprouted varieties. Sprouted rice is no different - it means the rice kernels have been sprouted (in the transition phase from seed to new plant) and then dried and bagged to sell. There is evidence that sprouting rice can increase its nutrients such as amino acids, soluble fiber, and B-vitamins. Sprouting also potentially increases the bioavailability of the rice, making it easier to digest and absorb. Sounds good, right?
So what is best? Out of all these amazing varieties, what to choose? Well, variety is the spice of life....
I like to change it up. I think there is a place for all of these types of rices, including the ones I didn't mention in detail (Himalayan Red rice anyone?). I do tend to use more wild rice and sprouted grains in general on my dinner plate. But even white rice has a place. White basmati rice, which is a great, quick-cooking option, actually has a lower glycemic index than all other white long-grain varieties. I find this to be very useful in the kitchen and the family loves it. When I have the prep and cooking time, I'll go for wild rice. Trader Joe's also has a Sprouted Rice Mix that includes brown, red, and black rice that is wonderful and I find myself buying quite often. Forbidden rice is an exotic antioxidant-rich choice. I'd suggest trying any of these and keep a rotation.
And lastly, to organic, or not to organic? We'll revisit this query in other posts, but with our current topic of rice; my answer is organic if you can. The reason? Rice has been studied and found to have some arsenic exposure from the soil it's grown in. Buying organic reduces this exposure, but still is not a guarantee. If you can find it and it fits in your budget, choose the organic option.
Jackson, B.P., Taylor, V.F., Karagas, M.R., et al. (2012). Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup. Environmental Health Perspective Vol. 120 (5). pp. 623-626.
Tian, S., Nakamura, K., & Kayahara, H. (2004). Analysis of Phenolic Compounds in White Rice, Brown Rice, and Germinated Brown Rice. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry Vol. 52 (15). pp 4808-4813.
Kong, F., Moztop, H., Singh, P., et al. (2011). Physical Changes in White and Brown Rice During Simulated Gastric Digestion. Journal of Food Science Vol. 76 (6). pp E450-E457.
Insights and Inspirations on nutrition, food, wellness, recipes, and more! All posts by Jaime Frinak.