Author's opinion

Healthiest Rice: Best 5 Rice You Can Eat In 2024

Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

Published at 18:44

Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Medical reviewer

Some types of rice are healthier than others. Photo: kuvona/Shutterstock

Rice provides 20% of the calories[1] consumed around the world. According to the National Institute of Health, 3.5 billion people[2] rely on rice for their nutrition, especially in areas such as Asia, Africa, and South America. But is rice healthy?

Well, some types of rice are healthier than others. And, unfortunately, the unhealthiest types of rice are the ones most of us eat.  While we recommend eating the healthiest rice varieties every week, there are some types of rice you should avoid. Read on to discover the top healthy rice choices and which types of rice to avoid.

What Is The Healthiest Rice?

Eating more rice can be healthy, but not all types of rice are good for you. So, what is the healthiest rice? Discover the 5 healthiest rice varieties you should eat.

  1. Brown rice
  2. Wild rice
  3. Black rice (Aka forbidden rice)
  4. Red rice
  5. Parboiled rice

5 Healthiest Rice You Should Eat

These are the healthiest rice to eat due to their nutritional value. Here we’re talking about the cultivar of rice, rather than the shape of the rice. All rice varieties can come as long grain rice, medium grain rice, or short grain rice, and which you choose depends on the type of best healthy rice dish you’re preparing.

Brown Rice

Brown rice makes the healthiest rice cakes. Photo: Myibean/Shutterstock

This is a type of whole-grain rice that still contains its bran layer and germ. After these outer layers are removed, what’s left are refined grains known as “polished” rice, i.e., white rice. However, the bran and germ layers are the most nutritious[3], which is why this rice is considered healthier than white rice.

Brown and white rice provide the same calories, but brown rice contains more protein, making it the best for bodybuilding. This rice also contains almost three times as much fiber. Fiber from whole-grain rice can improve gut health[4], improving metabolism, blood sugar balance[5], and satiety. 

In addition, brown rice is high in nutrients such as magnesium and zinc. Most people are low in magnesium, which increases the risk of chronic illnesses[6] such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. 

Brown basmati rice is the most common type and is great used in a stir fry. Glutinous cooked brown rice is stickier and can be used to make rice pudding or sticky rice, usually prepared with coconut milk. This rice also makes the healthiest rice cakes. 

Wild Rice

This is another type of whole-grain rice that is a form of aquatic grass. It has a nutty flavor and is rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Studies show that the antioxidant activity of wild rice[7] is 30 times greater than white rice and can be purchased in bulk at most health food stores.  

The health benefits include: 

Studies in mice show that this rice can lower inflammation levels[10] and increase levels of good gut microbes, possibly improving digestive health more than other rice varieties. Thus, this rice is a good option for healthy rice dishes.

Black Rice (AKA Forbidden Rice)

Black rice is especially high in dark-pigmented antioxidants. Photo: Thanthima Limsakul/Shutterstock

Ever wondered what gives black rice its color? Black rice, also known as “forbidden rice,” is especially high in dark-pigmented antioxidants[11].

Black rice bran contains high levels of anthocyanins, purple-colored antioxidant compounds[12] that have been studied due to their health-promoting properties. Anthocyanins are proven to

The anti-diabetes potential of black rice is so promising scientists think that future anti-diabetes drugs will be designed by studying the constituents of black rice bran.

Red Rice

Popular varieties of red rice are Thai red cargo rice and Himalayan red rice. This type of rice is high in resveratrol[14], another powerful antioxidant present in red-colored functional foods such as red grapes, berries, and apples. The health benefits of resveratrol have been studied for decades, and studies suggest resveratrol may protect against numerous diseases ranging from cancer to heart failure.

And this rice has another superpower. Studies show that this rice can inhibit amylase[15] – the enzyme in your saliva that breaks down carbohydrates into sugar. This reduces the amount of sugar available for you to absorb and may make red rice the healthiest rice for weight loss

Besides being the healthiest rice for weight loss, studies in mice suggest that red rice bran extract even activates genes that help balance blood sugar[16]. Finally, cell-based studies suggest that red rice extract can inhibit herpes virus[17] and cancer cells.

[Note: This rice isn’t the same as ‘red yeast rice,’ a type of rice containing natural statins[18] made by fermenting rice with a red-colored mold[19].]

Parboiled Rice

Parboiled rice has been partially cooked and then dried again, making it faster and easier to cook at home. Photo: Diana Taliun/Shutterstock

Parboiled rice is white or brown rice that’s been part-cooked and redried, making it faster to cook at home. White parboiled rice is more common.

A recent systematic review suggests that parboiled rice is better[2] for sugar-in-blood balance than both brown and white rice. It’s also higher in calcium, selenium, and B vitamins and lower in antinutrients like phytic acid. Phytic acid is an ingredient in certain foods that can decrease the absorption of the nutrients in that food.

What’s more, reheated parboiled rice[20] has a low glycemic index compared to fresh-cooked white rice, making next-day parboiled rice even better for you. Cooked rice forms resistant starch[21] as it cools down – a form of carbohydrate humans can’t digest (though it’s great for your gut microbiome).

Compared to normal rice, parboiled rice has a more chewy texture. Studies show it takes people 25% longer to eat reheated parboiled rice, which slows the rise in blood sugar – simply because you’re eating more slowly.

Make sure to go for brown parboiled rice because white parboiled rice has a higher glycemic index[22].

Is It Healthy Eating Rice Every Day?

Lots of people eat rice every day. Eating rice daily can be healthy as long as you’re choosing whole-grain rice the majority of the time. However, most of the rice consumed daily around the world is plain white rice. That’s a problem because white rice has a high glycemic index, spiking the sugar levels in your blood, and can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

We recommend replacing white rice with brown rice as much as you can. Eating whole grains – such as brown, wild, black, or red rice – daily can promote satiety and blood sugar balance and even extend your lifespan[23] by lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer[24]

What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Rice?

After eating rice, your gut breaks down the carbohydrates into sugar, which is absorbed into your bloodstream alongside the other nutrients. The fiber and resistant starch (carbohydrates you can’t break down) go to your intestines and feed your gut bacteria. 

But your body will react differently depending on the type of rice grains you eat.

For instance, when you eat whole grain or parboiled rice, your blood sugar will rise more slowly. More fiber or resistant starch will reach your gut, supporting gut health and improving gut motility[25]

Eating more whole-grain rice, such as wild rice, instead of wheat products may even improve chronic gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome[26] (IBS).

On the other hand, when you eat white rice, the sugar levels in your blood will spike more quickly and less fiber will reach your gut. Eating too much white rice can contribute to constipation[27] and insulin resistance, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes[14]. These are the main differences between brown and white rice.

Less Nutritious Rice Should Not Eat

We’ve talked a lot about the types of best rice to eat more of, but which ones should you avoid? Here are some of the most common varieties of white rice to avoid:

  • Basmati rice
  • Jasmine rice
  • Arborio rice
  • Sushi rice
  • Pre-made packaged rice
  • Fried rice (usually made with white rice)

However, not all types of white rice are the same. The healthiest white rice is basmati rice.

Studies suggest that white jasmine rice is the worst, triggering high blood sugar[14] and insulin levels compared to other types of white rice. Despite providing the same amount of calories per gram, white basmati rice contains significantly more protein than jasmine rice.

So, if you enjoy white rice from time to time, opt for basmati rice as plain white rice tends to have a higher glycemic index.

Final Thought

There are many varieties of rice, but some are better for you than others. Rice is a staple food around the world and can contribute to a healthy diet – as long as you eat whole-grain rice such as brown rice.

Whole grain rice still contains its bran and germ, retaining all of the beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. White rice, on the other hand, is much less nutritious, leading to blood sugar spikes and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes if eaten regularly.

Next time you go food shopping, stock up on whole-grain rice varieties such as brown-, wild-, red-, and black rice.

Ellie Busby is a Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT) and nutrition writer. She holds a bachelor’s in Chemistry and a Masters in Nutrition.

Resources

MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

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