February 23, 2024

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Nutrition Facts, Health Effects, and How to Cook

White rice is a grain of rice that has had its husk, bran, and germ removed. It’s a highly popular food worldwide because it is inexpensive and provides basic nutrition. While white rice has the parts removed that bring many of the health benefits associated with rice, it is often enriched with added nutrients to offset what it lost in the milling process.

This article discusses the health benefits, nutrition facts, and risks of consuming white rice.

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White Rice Nutrition

The nutritional value of white rice differs from other rice varieties because of how it is processed.

Carbohydrate

White rice is considered a refined carbohydrate because it contains low levels of dietary fiber. While many may think that white rice is considered a simple carbohydrate because it has less fiber, it still falls into the category of complex carbohydrates because of its structure.

White rice is digested faster than other complex carbs, such as brown rice, because there is a lack of fiber. In a 100 gram (g) (3.5-ounce) serving, there are 28 total carbs. Almost 80% of white rice’s total dry weight is carbohydrates.

Fiber

There is less than 1 gram of fiber in a 100 g serving of white rice. Because of that, it is often considered less nutritious than brown rice varieties. While white rice is high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, it does contain enough nutrients to be considered a healthier food, especially when it is enriched.

What Does “Enriched” Mean?

During the milling process of white rice, it loses many of its essential nutrients. Enriching white rice involves restoring some of the nutrients lost during this process.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

White rice and brown rice come from the same plant and are technically the same thing. The key difference is that the bran and germ of brown rice are removed during the milling process to produce white rice. That is what gives it its white color.

Brown rice, on the other hand, remains more intact. The germ and bran are not removed from brown rice. These components hold much of the nutrients and contain high levels of fiber. Brown rice has high levels of insoluble fiber, which helps digestion and prevents constipation.

How to Choose

If you’re on the fence when choosing the type of rice you want to add to your diet, you have to consider your personal health. Both types offer some nutritional value, but brown rice is the healthier choice. Many people opt for white rice because it is still relatively healthy, and people may prefer the taste or texture to brown rice.

What Are the Health Benefits of White Rice?

White rice contains several health benefits when eaten as part of a well-rounded diet and in moderation. They include:

Heart Health

White rice can aid in heart health because of its nutrient content. Recent research has found little to no connection between the consumption of white rice and cardiovascular events or conditions.

Enriched white rice also has 20% of your daily folate needs, a nutrient needed for heart health. Getting enough folate in your diet has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiac conditions.

Plant Compounds

Because the bran and germ are removed from white rice grains, they do not contain many helpful plant compounds. Since white rice does not contain compounds that act as antioxidants within the body, it is not a good antioxidant source.

Vitamins and Minerals

White rice contains several vitamins and minerals the body needs for various processes.

Nutritional Content of White Rice per 100 g and Percent of Daily Values (DV)
Enriched Unenriched 
Calories  123 123
Protein  2.9 g  2.9 g 
Carbs  26 g  30 g 
Fat 0.4 g 0.4 g
Fiber 0.9 g 0.9 g
Folate 20% DV 1% DV
Manganese 18% DV 18% DV
Thiamine 14% DV 5% DV
Selenium 13% DV 13% DV
Niacin 12% DV 12% DV
Iron 10% DV 1% DV
Vitamin B6 8% DV 8% DV
Phosphorus 6% DV 6% DV

With enriched white rice, you will get more of certain nutrients, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), iron, and folate. These three nutrients help with metabolism and the function of the nervous system, the health of the heart, muscles and production and maintenance of healthy red blood cells, and making genetic material and cell division, respectively.

How to Know If White Rice Is Enriched

Many labels will show the nutritional value of white rice, and some brands may also have the word “enriched” on the package. To choose the most nutritious rice, compare different brand labels.

Risks

While rice is a staple in many cultures, consuming it in great amounts does come with some possible health risks, especially for people with certain health disorders.

Diabetes

White rice is higher on the glycemic index than many fruits and vegetables because it digests quicker, causing blood sugar levels to rise faster. People who have diabetes need to manage their blood glucose effectively, and eating too much white rice may lead to unsafe increases in blood sugar.

Research has examined white rice and its effects on health and found that it may even increase the risk of someone developing type 2 diabetes because of where it falls on the glycemic index.

What Is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index is a food ranking scale that places foods either high or low, depending on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Those high on the list raise blood sugar levels more significantly than those low on the list. 

Heavy Metals

Rice of all varieties can absorb heavy metals, such as lead, nickel, and arsenic, from the environment. Brown rice is typically more dangerous in terms of heavy metal content than white because it still has its bran, where heavy metals often accumulate.

That said, it is still possible for trace metals to remain in white rice until you consume it. The risk of getting overloaded with heavy metals by eating rice is typically only high if it is your primary food source.

Antinutrients

An antinutrient is a compound or substance that makes it harder for the body to absorb essential vitamins and minerals from food. There are no antinutrients in white rice.

The bran of rice contains an antinutrient known as phytic acid, which is removed when milling to make white rice. Because of that, brown rice is more of a risk when it comes to antinutrients than white.

How to Cook and Eat White Rice

Cooking white rice can be a simple process, and there are many versatile ways to add rice to your diet. The best way to cook is to either steam or boil the rice.

Rinse rice before preparing, which involves:

  • Place the rice in a large bowl.
  • Cover it with cold water.
  • Stir the rice with your hands.
  • Pour out most of the remaining water.
  • Repeat seven to 10 times until the water becomes clear.
  • Strain the water from the rice.
  • Let air-dry for 15 minutes.

The cooking process for both after the rice has been cleaned is as follows:

Steaming

  • Place rice and cold water into steamer.

  • Turn heat to high.

  • Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

  • Turn off heat and let the rice sit covered for 5 minutes.

  • Fluff rice and serve.

Boiling

  • Combine rice and water in a pot.

  • Bring to a boil.

  • Cover and simmer on low heat for 18–20 minutes.

  • Turn off heat and let rice sit covered for 10 minutes.

  • Fluff rice and serve.

Once the rice has been cooked to your liking, you can enjoy it in a variety of ways, including:

  • As a staple side dish alongside greens, lean meats, and other vegetables
  • In risotto (using a white rice variety called arborio) or other rice-based meals
  • In a dessert, such as rice pudding
  • To accompany a stir-fry or vegetable bowl
  • Mixed with curries, soups, or stews

Dietary Tips

The healthiest way to eat white rice is either in moderation and by boiling or steaming it, not further cooking it in oil. While there are some nutritional benefits to white rice, it doesn’t have enough vitamins and minerals to be considered a healthy food you should consume daily, especially for people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes.

Water to Rice Ratio

To cook white rice successfully, it’s important to get the water-to-rice ratio correct. As a general rule, you should use two parts water to one part rice.

Cooking directions for different brands of rice will vary slightly, so if you’re unsure how to cook it, check the directions label on your chosen brand.

Summary

White rice is not the healthiest food option, but it does provide carbohydrates for energy, as well as some essential vitamins and minerals, such as thiamine, selenium, and manganese. One of its most notable nutrients, folate, can aid in heart health. People with a high risk of cardiovascular events may benefit from a moderate amount of white rice in their diet.

White rice is a popular staple food globally, and its versatility and value make it so desirable. Cooking white rice is a simple process, and it can be ready in under 30 minutes.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro

Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.