Rice is a staple food in many countries and provides billions of people around the world with an inexpensive, nutritious source of energy.
There are many varieties of this popular grain that differ in color, flavor, and nutritional value.
Some are abundant in nutrients and powerful plant compounds that benefit health, while others have less impressive nutrition profiles.
This article discusses the most nutritious types of rice and why you should choose certain varieties over others.
The following varieties of rice have nutritional characteristics that make them stand out from others.
Brown rice is whole-grain rice that has had the outer protective shell, known as the hull, removed. Unlike white rice, it still contains the bran layer and the germ — which both pack a significant amount of nutrients.
For example, brown rice bran contains the flavonoid antioxidants apigenin, quercetin, and luteolin. These compounds play an important role in disease prevention.
Regular consumption of foods rich in flavonoids has been linked to a lower risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and certain cancers (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
Brown rice provides similar numbers of calories and carbs to white rice, which has had the bran and germ removed. However, the brown variety has about three times more fiber and is higher in protein (3Trusted Source).
Both fiber and protein promote feelings of fullness and can help you maintain a healthy weight. What’s more, choosing brown over white rice can help regulate blood sugar and insulin, a hormone that supports healthy blood sugar levels (4).
A study in 15 overweight adults demonstrated that those who ate 7 ounces (200 grams) of brown rice for 5 days had significantly lower fasting blood sugar and insulin levels than those who consumed the same amount of white rice.
Additionally, the brown rice group experienced a percentage change in fasting insulin that was 57% lower than the 5-day percentage change observed in the white rice group (5Trusted Source).
As a result, brown rice may be a better choice for those with diabetes. What’s more, it’s high in magnesium, a mineral that plays an essential role in blood sugar and insulin metabolism (6Trusted Source).
Red rice varieties, such as Himalayan red rice and Thai red cargo rice, are deeply pigmented and contain an impressive array of nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
This type is higher in protein and fiber than white rice varieties, but where it really shines is in its antioxidant content.
Like black rice, it’s packed with flavonoid antioxidants, including the anthocyanins apigenin, myricetin, and quercetin.
In fact, research shows that red rice has significantly more potential to fight free radicals and contains higher concentrations of flavonoid antioxidants than brown rice (11Trusted Source).
Flavonoids can help decrease inflammation in your body, keep free radical levels in check, and may reduce your risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Though wild rice is technically the seeds of aquatic grasses, it’s popularly used like rice in the kitchen.
It’s recognized as a whole grain and contains about three times more fiber and significantly more protein than white rice, making it a more filling choice (3Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Additionally, it’s been linked to a number of health benefits in animal studies.
For example, rodent studies indicate that replacing white rice with wild rice effectively reduces triglyceride and cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress — big risk factors for heart disease (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Wild rice is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese. What’s more, research shows that its antioxidant activity is up to 30 times greater than that of white rice (18Trusted Source).
Brown, black, red, and wild rice are all nutritious options that contain an impressive array of nutrients and disease-fighting plant compounds.
Less nutritious varieties
There isn’t anything wrong with eating white rice or packaged rice blends in moderation, but they lack the nutritious qualities of the varieties mentioned above.
White rice has had the husk, bran, and germ removed. Though this process extends the shelf life of the final product, the nutrients and beneficial plant compounds found in the bran and germ are lost during processing.
As a result, it contains less fiber, protein, antioxidants, and certain vitamins and minerals than brown rice.
Since white rice is lower in fiber and protein, it’s also less filling and has more of an impact on blood sugar than brown rice (19Trusted Source).
It’s much lower in antioxidants than brown, black, red, or wild varieties as well (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
Pre-made and packaged blends
While certain packaged rice blends can make a healthy choice, many others are high in calories, sodium, and unnecessary ingredients.
For example, a 1-cup (150-gram) serving of Uncle Ben’s Teriyaki Flavor Ready Rice packs 870 mg of sodium — nearly 38% of the recommended intake (22, 23Trusted Source).
Consuming too much sodium can increase your risk of serious health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke (24Trusted Source).
Additionally, processed products can contain added sugars, artificial colorings, and preservatives — ingredients that you should limit for optimal health (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
White rice and packaged rice products are less nutritious than brown, black, red, or wild varieties. Only eat them occasionally and in moderation.
Which type should you choose?
Research shows that consuming whole grains over refined grains improves health.
For example, a study in more than 197,000 people found that replacing 50 grams per day of white rice with the same amount of brown rice was associated with a 16% lower risk of type 2 diabetes (27Trusted Source).
Whole grains are also linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, and certain cancers (28Trusted Source).
Therefore, choosing whole-grain brown, red, black, or wild rice is an excellent choice for health.
Plus, these varieties are richer in disease-fighting antioxidants. Consuming a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods can benefit health in many ways.
Studies demonstrate that people who consume more dietary antioxidants — such as those in brown, red, black, or wild rice — have lower risks of conditions like metabolic syndrome, depression, certain cancers, and heart disease (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
Though white rice is healthy in moderation, replacing it with whole-grain varieties is sure to provide more nutrients.
If you frequently consume ready-to-eat rice meals or other packaged rice products, try one of the healthier varieties listed above.
Preparing your own rice allows you to determine what ingredients you would like to add or leave out of your recipe. This can drastically cut down on your intake of sodium and other additives like preservatives and added sugars.
Whole-grain brown, red, or wild rice varieties can make nutritious additions to your diet. Try preparing your own rather than buying pre-made products.
The bottom line
Choosing certain rice varieties over others can be a simple way to improve your diet.
Whole-grain rice varieties contain the bran and germ, providing more of specific nutrients like fiber, protein, antioxidants, and certain vitamins and minerals.
Choosing whole-grain over white rice can benefit health in many ways and may even reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Making a point to choose rice that’s higher in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants over refined products is a smart and easy way to boost health.