Rice is an inexpensive and rich source of energy. It is a staple food in many countries around the world, with the most common variant being polished white rice.
While white rice is often associated with carbohydrates and a high glycemic index, it’s not the only type of rice out there. There are many different varieties offering different nutritional values, colors, flavors, and textures.
Some standout varieties are packed with nutrition through minerals and different plant compounds.
How Your Body Processes Rice
When you consume any carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into glucose. That’s the form of energy that your body uses the most. As it enters your bloodstream, it signals the body to release insulin which will deliver the glucose in your blood to your cells.
Our body’s cells will only take the glucose they need. Any excess will be converted into fatty acids and stored as body fat.
This is also why people with diabetes are wary of eating rice and try to minimize their portions or avoid it entirely. White rice has a high glycemic index, which means it can increase your blood sugar levels really fast.
That’s not always the case, as some rice varieties are healthier and boast a low glycemic index.
So which of these count as rice that’s good for you?
When talking about rice that’s good for you, brown rice is the most widely known. It is whole grain rice that has had the hull or outer protective shell removed but still has the bran and the germ.
Brown rice contains important flavonoid antioxidants that aid in disease prevention. This includes apigenin, quercetin, and luteolin. Studies have shown that regular consumption of foods containing these is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
While it contains a similar amount of carbohydrates and calories as white rice, brown rice contains three times as much fiber and is higher in protein.
These nutrients promote a feeling of fullness. You feel fuller faster and for longer, so you have better control of how much you eat.
A diet that regularly consists of brown rice leads to lower fasting blood sugar and insulin levels, making it a great choice for those with diabetes.
Black rice varieties have a deep dark color that often transitions into a dark purple when cooked. Examples of this rice that’s good for you are the Thai jasmine black rice and the Indonesian black rice.
In ancient China, it is referred to as the “forbidden rice” as it is reserved only for royalty.
If you are looking for a variant with the highest antioxidant activity, black rice is the choice for you.
These antioxidants slow down the progression of chronic conditions such as heart disease, certain cancers, and mental decline.
In particular, black rice is rich in anthocyanins or a group of flavonoid plant pigments with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Its anticancer properties are so potent that researchers were able to effectively suppress the growth and spread of human breast cancer cells using anthocyanins derived from black rice in test-tube research.
Thai red cargo rice and Himalayan red rice are deeply pigmented rice varieties which also boast a fiber and protein content higher than that of white rice.
Along with its impressive nutritional value and beneficial plant compounds, it has a higher concentration of antioxidants compared to brown rice. Like black rice, it also contains the anthocyanins apigenin, myricetin, and quercetin.
This gives it more potential to fight free radicals and decrease inflammation in your body, and may reduce your risk for chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Among those in this list, wild rice is not actually rice but the seeds of aquatic grasses. It’s used the same way as one uses rice in the kitchen as a more filling replacement for white rice.
As a whole grain, it contains about three times more fiber than white rice and significantly more protein as well.
Its antioxidant activity is up to 30 times greater than the plain white rice we know and is packed with vitamins and minerals as well.
Swap white rice for wild rice in your diet to boost your consumption of B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese.
Which Is the Best Rice That’s Good For You?
Different healthy rice varieties also differ in availability and price. Depending on your current health condition or the areas of health you would like to improve, there's healthy rice for you.
Each one contains its own impressive array of nutrients and plant compounds which aid in slowing the progression of and possibly even preventing serious chronic health issues.
It pays to watch what you eat. These days it’s too easy to grab what’s affordable or instant, but if you’re able then investing in healthier rice varieties will really pay off in the long run.
Rice Varieties To Avoid
Anything is bad when in excess, but white rice and prepackaged, blended varieties lack the nutritional benefits of those listed above.
Many of the beneficial plant compounds in rice and the nutrients they contain are removed as white rice is processed. Since it’s lower in fiber and protein, it’s also more likely to spike up one’s blood sugar levels.
As for prepackaged and blended varieties, this can vary greatly. However, some variants of ready rice can contain high amounts of sodium and calories. If you’re not careful, you can easily go over the daily recommended amount and increase your risk of certain diseases.
If rice is a staple in your household or diet, it’s best to choose one of the healthy rice varieties: brown, black, red, or wild rice. Rice is easy to prepare and can serve as a side for many dishes. You can also use rice in a wide array of recipes so you will never get bored of it.
Preparing your own rice rather than buying ready-to-eat rice also has its benefits. You can control portions, ingredients, and drastically cut down the sodium or sugars you would end up consuming in prepackaged versions.
Have you decided on your preferred variety of rice that’s good for you?