Though certain varieties of rice may be higher in fiber, protein, or antioxidants, all types of rice can fit into a nutritious, well-rounded diet.
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 also abundant in nutrients and powerful plant compounds, such as antioxidants.
This article discusses the most nutritious types of rice and how to maximize the health benefits of whichever variety you select.
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, both of which pack a significant amount of nutrients.
Both fiber and protein promote feelings of fullness and can help you maintain a moderate weight. What’s more, fiber can help regulate blood sugar and insulin, a hormone that supports blood sugar control (
However, research on the potential health effects of choosing brown rice over white rice is mixed.
For example, one 2021 review found that consuming brown rice in place of white rice reduced body weight but did not have a significant effect on blood sugar control in people with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes (
Brown rice is a whole grain variety of rice that contains several flavonoids and is slightly higher in protein and fiber than white 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 (
Oxidative stress has been associated with the progression of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, certain cancers, and cognitive decline (
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 anti-cancer 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 (
What’s more, in test-tube research, anthocyanins derived from black rice effectively suppressed the growth and spread of human breast cancer cells (
Black rice is especially rich in antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which have been shown to have anti-cancer effects in test-tube studies.
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.
Red rice is slightly higher in fiber and protein than white rice and rich in flavonoid antioxidants.
Additionally, it’s been linked to a number of health benefits in animal studies.
For example, some older animal studies indicate that replacing white rice with wild rice effectively reduces triglyceride and cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, all of which are risk factors for heart disease (
Wild rice is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese. What’s more, a 2009 study found that its antioxidant activity is up to 30 times greater than that of white rice (
Wild rice is rich in B vitamins, manganese, and magnesium. It has also been shown to reduce certain risk factors for heart disease in some older animal studies.
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.
Additionally, though white rice is slightly lower in fiber and protein, you can make up the difference by enjoying white rice as part of a balanced meal and pairing with other foods rich in protein and fiber (
White rice also has a higher glycemic index than brown rice, which is a measure of how much a certain food impacts blood sugar levels (
White rice is slightly lower in certain nutrients than brown rice, including fiber and protein, and has a higher glycemic index. However, it’s also enriched with iron and B vitamins and is lower in arsenic.
While certain packaged rice blends can make a healthy choice, many others are high in calories and sodium.
For example, a 1-cup, or 150-gram (g), serving of Uncle Ben’s Teriyaki Flavor Ready Rice packs 900 milligrams (mg) of sodium — about 39% of the Daily Value (
Additionally, processed products may contain added sugar, which should be limited as part of a nutritious diet (
Some packaged rice blends may be high in calories, sodium, or added sugar. Therefore, they should be enjoyed in moderation.
Research shows that consuming whole grains over refined grains is linked with improved health.
For example, one study estimated that replacing 50 g per day of white rice with the same amount of brown rice was associated with a 16% lower risk of type 2 diabetes (
Plus, these varieties are higher in disease-fighting antioxidants. Consuming a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods can benefit health in many ways.
Some older 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 (
However, white rice is a cultural staple in many diet patterns and can be a versatile and affordable addition to your diet.
If you frequently consume white rice or packaged rice products, try adding other nutrient-dense ingredients to your meal — such as vegetables, proteins, or legumes — to increase your intake of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
Preparing your own rice instead of using pre-made blends also 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 added sugar.
Though whole grain varieties of rice are higher in antioxidants, all types of rice can fit into a balanced diet. Be sure to pair rice with other nutritious ingredients to round out your meal, including vegetables, proteins, and legumes.
Whole grain rice varieties contain the bran and germ, providing more of specific nutrients like fiber, protein, antioxidants, and certain vitamins and minerals.
However, white rice also contains several valuable nutrients and can fit into a balanced diet as well.
Regardless of which type of rice you choose, be sure to enjoy alongside a variety of vegetables, proteins, and heart-healthy fats to help round out your meal.