Rice is a wholesome and nutritious cereal grain that has qualities which make it ideally suited for special dietary and health needs.

Rice: Great Addition to a Healthy Diet

“Rice is a good choice for a healthy diet. It is a good source of complex carbohydrates and can help you achieve a reduced fat diet.” — American Dietetic Association

Rice sustains two-thirds of the world’s population. It is the most popular grain globally, supplying energy, complex carbohydrates, fiber, essential vitamins and minerals and beneficial antioxidants.

Whether you want to improve your nutrition, lose weight, boost your energy or help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes, rice can help you achieve your goals.

The World Loves Rice

Culturally, rice has long been associated with fertility. You see this in American society as a tradition of pelting brides and grooms with rice as they leave the church after their wedding ceremony.

Rice contains a very high percentage of carbohydrates (ranging from 23.3 to 25.5 grams per 100 grams of cooked rice).

As a matter of fact, 90 percent of the calories in rice come from carbohydrates. Rice, a complex carbohydrate food, provides more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than simple carbohydrate foods.


  • Contains only 103 calories per half-cup serving of white rice and 108 calories per half-cup serving of brown rice.
  • Is cholesterol-free.
  • Is fat-free.
  • Is sodium-free.
  • Is a complex carbohydrate.
  • Is gluten-free and non-allergenic.
  • Is easy to digest.
  • Rice is an ideal food to include in sodium-restricted diets.

Guidelines for Americans

According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, enriched and whole grain foods, like enriched white rice and whole grain brown rice, are among the food groups that form the basis of a healthy diet. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines state that 45 to 65 percent of daily calories should come from carbohydrates, preferably complex carbs. Rice, a nutrient rich complex carbohydrate, fits today’s recommendations to get the most nutrition from calories consumed, and provides energy the body needs for physical activity.

Dietary Fiber, Protein, Fat & Rice

Fiber. Experts recommend we consume at least 25 grams of fiber every day to decrease risk of chronic diseases. Fiber-rich foods help promote proper bowel function and reduce the risk of developing intestinal disorders. One-half cup cooked white rice provides 0.3 grams of dietary fiber. One-half cup cooked brown rice provides 1.8 grams of dietary fiber.

Protein The protein content of rice, while limited (ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 mg. per 1/2 cup of cooked rice), is considered one of the highest quality proteins to that provided by other cereal grains.

Fat Rice contains only a trace of fat (ranging from 0.2 grams for 1/2 cup cooked white rice to 0.9 grams per 100 grams for 1/2 cup cooked brown rice). The Dietary Guidelines of Americans include a reduction in current intake of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Because rice is very low in fat (less than 1-percent of the calories come from fat), and contains no cholesterol, it is an excellent food to include in all types of diets.

What Makes Rice Naturally Nutritious

  • Is sodium and cholesterol free.
  • Has only a trace of fat and has no cholesterol raising trans fats or saturated fat.
  • Is gluten-free and the most non-allergenic of all grains.
  • Is nutrient dense and contributes over 15 vitamins and minerals including folate and other B-vitamins, iron and zinc.
  • Has approximately 100 calories per half-cup cooked serving.
  • Is comprised of complex carbohydrates that are more slowly digested.
  • Triggers the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain that helps regulate and improve mood.
  • Is an energy food, supplying carbohydrates that fuel the body’s physical activity.

Rice protein is considered one of the highest quality proteins. It has all eight of the essential amino acids, necessary building blocks for strong muscles. Rice is also a good source of other essential nutrients: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, iron, and potassium. Rice is healthful for what it does not contain as well. It has only a trace of fat, no cholesterol and no sodium. This along with being non-allergenic, makes rice especially well suited for persons with special dietary needs.

Rice Eaters Eat Better

Research conducted by Iowa State University showed that U.S. consumers who eat rice have healthier diets than non-rice eaters. According to the data, people who eat rice have healthier diets in that they eat:

  • More fruits and vegetables.
  • Less fat and added sugars.
  • Higher amounts of nutrients like folic acid, potassium and iron.
  • Are less likely to be obese than non-rice eaters.

U.S. Grown Rice and Diet: A Perfect Combination

rice in bowlsMost of the white rice consumed in the United States is enriched. Rice naturally contains thiamin, niacin and iron. However, during the milling process, the quantity of these nutrients is reduced. To bring the nutritional level of the milled product up to that of the whole grain (brown), rice is enriched with thiamin, niacin, iron and folic acid . All enriched rice is additionally fortified with folic acid. In fact, enriched white rice is fortified with substantially more of the B-vitamin folic acid and is considered a good source, supplying over 10 percent of daily requirement per half-cup serving. Folic acid helps prevent chronic disease and birth defects.

Nearly 90 percent of the rice consumed in the U.S. is home grown. Each year, over 3 million acres are harvested by rice farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri. Types of rice grown are long, medium and short grain. There are many U.S. grown rice varieties available, ranging from classic white and brown rice, to basmati, jasmine, della and arborio, and specialty varieties like black japonica and aromatic red rice. Increasingly, aromatic rice varieties such as basmati and jasmine are also available to meet consumer demand.

Choosing the Right U.S. Grown Rice

There are no hard and fast rules on which type of rice to use in any particular recipe. The nice thing is that there are a number of varieties to choose from. Long grain white and brown rice work well in entrees, side dishes, soups and salads, if you prefer separate, distinct grains. It is perfect for pilafs, stir-fry and Southern favorites like jambalaya and gumbo. Short and medium grain rice are good choices for dishes that have a creamier characteristic, such as risotto or rice puddings, and also work well in rice salads. Short grain rice is the traditional rice used in sushi and other Asian dishes.

Rice offers versatility unsurpassed by any other food. It can be made a part of any meal in recipes for soups, salads, main dishes, and desserts. It is an easily prepared, economical base for gourmet recipes and quick and easy home cooking alike. The neutral flavor of rice blends well with all foods. From meats and dairy products, to fruits, nuts and vegetables, rice adds nutrition, texture and flavor to any dish it accompanies.

Eating and Cooking Brown Rice

Part of the push to replace processed foods with whole grains means eating more brown rice instead of white. Brown rice has more nutrient value than white rice. Brown rice is a 100 percent whole grain food. A one-half cup serving of cooked brown rice counts as a whole grain serving. Whole grains contain the nutrient-dense bran and inner germ layer where the majority of beneficial compounds are found as well as the starchy endosperm where most of the carbohydrate calories are located.

Brown rice protein is hypo-allergic and easily digested, making it an excellent alternative for anyone with a sensitive stomach or allergies to soy or dairy. Whole grains like brown rice help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, and aid in weight management.

Whole grains like brown rice include the bran and germ of the natural grain that are lost in processing to make white rice, which contains only the inner endosperm. A lot of good stuff gets lost in the bargain: Brown rice has almost 10 times as much phosphorus and potassium as white rice, for instance.

Brown rice is plant based; it’s not a complete protein, so pair it with other plant based proteins such as pea protein powder to complete the essential amino acid profile.

You can cook brown rice the same as white rice, but you may have to increase the amount of liquid in a recipe by about 1/3 cup per 2-cups of rice. Since brown rice can be a little bit harder to get tender, we’ll cover the “pilaf” method. This will add flavor and fluff to brown rice.

Pilaf Method

Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot. If desired, add 1/2-cup chopped onions for flavor but cook them until soft before adding rice. Add 1-cup rice to oil, toast, stirring and cooking quickly until all the grains are coated, for one minute. Add 2-1/2-cups water or vegetable stock. Bring to a fast boil and cook, uncovered, for one minute. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 40 to 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. The rice will be cooked but still firm (uncover it briefly and check it). Cover the pot and allow to rest for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and it is ready to eat.

Notes: Brown Rice will only last about six months before it gets stale. When it get stale, it is very difficult to get it tender. Red and black whole grain rice varieties are increasingly popular in the U.S. and offer all the whole grain goodness of brown.

Did you know?

Rice vinegar, made from fermented rice, is often used to add a slight acidity in cooked dishes and to make dressings for delicate greens. It is available either plain or sweetened.

Rice is gluten-free and can be an important staple in diets of individuals with gluten sensitivity. The National Institutes of Health report that Celiac Disease might affect three million Americans.

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