What Is the Healthiest Type of Rice?
By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
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.
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 (3).
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 (5).
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 (6).
Black (Forbidden) Rice
Black rice varieties, such as Indonesian black rice and Thai jasmine black rice, have a deep black color that often transitions to purple when cooked.
This type is sometimes referred to as forbidden rice, as it's said to have been reserved for royalty in ancient China.
Research shows that black rice has the highest antioxidant activity of all the varieties, making it a nutritious choice (7).
Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells from damage caused by an excess of molecules called free radicals, which contribute to a condition known as oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress has been associated with the progression of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, certain cancers, and mental decline (8).
Black rice is particularly rich in anthocyanins, a group of flavonoid plant pigments that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Anthocyanins have been shown to have potent anticancer properties as well. Population studies suggest that higher consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer (9).
What's more, in test-tube research, anthocyanins derived from black rice effectively suppressed the growth and spread of human breast cancer cells (10).
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 (11).
Though wild rice is technically the seeds of aquatic grasses, it's popularly used like rice in the kitchen.
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 (15, 16, 17).
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 (18).
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.
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.
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 (27).
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 (29, 30, 31, 32).
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, black 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.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.
Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.
The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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