However, rice — white rice in particular — may not be appropriate for everyone's dietary needs. For instance, people who are trying to eat fewer carbs or calories may want a lighter alternative like riced cauliflower.
In addition, swapping out rice for alternative healthy choices, such as other whole grains, can add variety to your diet.
Here are 11 healthy alternatives to rice.
While it assumes a grain-like taste and texture after cooking, quinoa is a seed. This popular rice substitute is gluten-free and much higher in protein than rice.
It's also a good source of the vital minerals magnesium and copper, which play important roles in energy metabolism and bone health (4Trusted Source).
To cook it, combine one part dried quinoa with two parts water and bring it to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, allowing it to simmer until all the water is absorbed. Remove the cooked quinoa from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes, then fluff it with a fork.
If you're gluten-sensitive, only purchase quinoa that is certified gluten-free due to the risk of cross-contamination.
2. Riced Cauliflower
Riced cauliflower is an excellent low-carb and low-calorie alternative to rice. It has a mild flavor, as well as a texture and appearance similar to that of cooked rice, with only a fraction of the calories and carbs.
This makes it a popular rice alternative for people on low-carb diets like keto.
To make riced cauliflower, chop a head of cauliflower into several pieces and grate them using a box grater, or finely chop them using a food processor. The riced cauliflower can be cooked over medium heat with a small amount of oil until tender and slightly browned.
You can also purchase premade riced cauliflower in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
3. Riced Broccoli
Like riced cauliflower, riced broccoli is a smart rice alternative for people on low-carb or low-calorie diets.
It's similar in nutrient content to riced cauliflower, with 1/2 cup (57 grams) packing about 15 calories and 2 grams of fiber (6).
Riced broccoli is also an excellent source of vitamin C, with 1/2 cup (57 grams) providing over 25% of your Daily Value (DV). Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent cellular damage and boost immune health (6, 7Trusted Source).
Like riced cauliflower, riced broccoli can be prepared by grating broccoli with a box grater or chopping it in a food processor, then cooking it over medium heat with a bit of oil. Some grocery stores also sell riced broccoli in the freezer section.
4. Shirataki Rice
Shirataki rice is another popular rice alternative for low-carb and low-calorie dieters.
It's made from konjac root, which is native to Asia and rich in a unique fiber called glucomannan.
According to the product packaging, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of shirataki rice does not contain any calories (8).
However, when a food provides fewer than 5 calories per serving, the manufacturer can legally state that it has zero calories, which explains why a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of shirataki rice appears to be calorie-free (9).
Glucomannan, the primary fiber in konjac root, is being studied for many potential health benefits, including its ability to form a protective barrier along the lining of your intestines (10Trusted Source).
Still, you would need to eat a large amount of shirataki rice to consume a significant amount of glucomannan.
To prepare shirataki rice, rinse it well in water, boil it for 1 minute, and then heat the rice in a pan over medium heat until dry. Rinsing shirataki rice before cooking helps reduce its unique odor.
If you can't find shirataki rice locally, shop for it online.
Barley is a grain that's closely related to wheat and rye. It looks similar to oats and has a chewy texture and earthy taste.
With about 100 calories, a 1/2-cup (81-gram) serving of cooked barley provides about the same number of calories as an equal serving of white rice. Yet, it contains a bit more protein and fiber (2, 11).
To cook barley, bring one part hulled barley and four parts water to a boil, then reduce it to medium heat and cook it until the barley is soft, or about 25–30 minutes. Drain the excess water prior to serving.
6. Whole-Wheat Couscous
Couscous is a type of pasta that's widely used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. It's made of very small pearls of flour.
Whole-wheat couscous is a healthier option than regular varieties, as it's richer in fiber and protein.
Couscous pearls are much smaller than grains of rice, so they add a unique texture to the foods they're served with.
To make couscous, combine one part couscous and one part water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove it from heat and allow the couscous to sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff it with a fork before serving.
If your local supermarket doesn't offer whole-wheat varieties, you can find one online.
7. Chopped Cabbage
Chopped cabbage is another excellent alternative to rice. Cabbage is low in calories and carbs with a mild flavor that compliments many styles of cuisine.
It's an excellent source of vitamins C and K, with a 1/2-cup (75-gram) serving providing 31% and 68% of the DV, respectively (12).
To cook chopped cabbage, finely chop a cabbage by hand or using a food processor. Then cook it with a small amount of oil over medium heat until it's tender.
8. Whole-Wheat Orzo
Orzo is a type of pasta that's similar to rice in shape, size, and texture.
Whole-wheat orzo packs more fiber and protein than regular orzo, which makes it the healthier choice.
Still, it's fairly high in calories, providing about 50% more calories than an equal serving of white rice. Therefore, be sure to choose a portion size that is appropriate for your health goals (2, 14).
Whole-wheat orzo is a great source of fiber, which can help improve digestion by bulking up and softening your stool, as well as serving as a food source for your healthy gut bacteria (15Trusted Source, 16).
To prepare orzo, boil the pasta in water over medium heat until it reaches the tenderness you desire and drain it before serving.
You can shop for whole-wheat orzo locally, though it may be easier to find online.
Farro is a whole-grain wheat product that can be used similarly to rice, though it's much nuttier in flavor and has a chewy texture. It's similar to barley but has larger grains.
Farro contains a hefty dose of protein and — like quinoa — is another excellent plant-based source of this important nutrient (17).
To ensure you're getting all nine essential amino acids, pair farro with legumes, such as chickpeas or black beans.
To prepare it, bring one part dried farro and three parts water to a low boil and cook it until the farro is tender.
If your supermarket doesn't have farro in stock, try shopping for it online.
Freekeh — like barley and farro — is a whole grain. It comes from wheat grains that are harvested while they're still green.
It's rich in protein and fiber, with a 1/4-cup (40-gram) dried serving providing 8 and 4 grams of these important nutrients, respectively.
Freekeh is cooked by bringing it to a boil with two parts water, then reducing the heat to medium and allowing the grain to simmer until it's tender.
You can shop for freekeh locally or online.
11. Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur wheat is another whole-wheat substitute for rice.
It's similar in size and appearance to couscous, but whereas couscous is pasta made from wheat flour, bulgur wheat is small, cracked pieces of whole-wheat grains.
It's commonly used in tabbouleh, a Mediterranean salad dish that also features tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs.
With the exception of the vegetable-based alternatives on this list, bulgur wheat is the lowest in calories. It contains 76 calories in 1/2 cup (91 grams), about 25% fewer calories than an equal serving of white rice (2, 20).
It's a great rice alternative for those who are trying to cut calories but still want the familiar texture and flavor of a grain.
Bulgur wheat is cooked by boiling one part bulgur wheat and two parts water, then reducing the heat to medium and allowing the bulgur to cook until tender. Before serving, drain the excess water and fluff the cooked bulgur with a fork.
If you can't find bulgur wheat at your local supermarket, shopping online may be a convenient option.
The Bottom Line
There are many alternatives to rice that can help you meet your personal health goals or simply add variety to your diet.
Quinoa is a great gluten-free, high-protein option.
Vegetables, such as riced cauliflower, riced broccoli, and chopped cabbage, are low-calorie and low-carb alternatives packed with nutrients.
Plus, many whole-grain options, including bulgur, freekeh, and barley, can add a nutty, earthy taste and chewy texture to your dishes.
Next time you want to put rice aside and swap in something different, try one of the nutritious and diverse alternatives above.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
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Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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