A grain is a grass crop that produces small seeds that can be harvested and consumed by humans or animals.

These small edible seeds are really the fruits of grass plants, which are among the most utilized plants on Earth.

Many foods, including rice, are cultivated from grain crops.

Other types of grains include wheat, oats, corn, barley, rye, and even legumes.

This article reviews all there is to know about rice, including its grain types and nutrition.

An intro to rice

Rice is one of the world’s most produced grains, feeding billions of people every day. In fact, as many as 3 billion people in over 100 countries rely on rice as a staple food (1, 2, 3).

Since 2000, global production of rice has increased by nearly 25%. In 2016 alone, the world produced approximately 756 million tonnes or 1.6 trillion pounds of rice (4).

Because rice is so versatile, it has traditionally been included in many different cuisines. There are thousands of rice varieties grown worldwide.

Two of the most commonly consumed types are Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glabberima (African rice) (5).

Some popular Asian rice varieties include jasmine rice, basmati rice, tinawon rice, and black rice. Asian rice varieties vary in color and grain length, and many have strong and fragrant flavor profiles (6, 7).

On the other hand, most African rice varieties are dark in color, ranging from red to brown to purple. Though African rice typically matures faster than Asian rice, it’s much more difficult to mill. Therefore, it’s not grown or consumed as commonly as it was in the past (8).

Grain types

In addition to variety, one of the most common ways to classify rice is by grain type.

Most rice can be classified as one of the following (9):

  • Short grain. This variety contains no more than 10% medium or long grain kernels. It produces soft, plump grains that usually cling or stick together.
  • Medium grain. This type contains no more than 10% short or long grain kernels. The grains are short and wide and perfect for dishes like risotto or paella, which require a lot of moisture absorption.
  • Long grain. This version contains no more than 10% short or medium grain kernels. It cooks up light, fluffy, and separate, unlike shorter grains.
  • Rough rice. This variety contains no more than 10% short, medium, or long grain kernels. It’s a coarse, whole grain rice that has a nutty taste and has not been milled. It’s also known as paddy rice.
summary

Rice is a grain that nourishes billions of people around the world. It comes in many varieties, each with unique properties.

Nutrition facts

Despite playing such a large role in the human diet, rice is deficient in many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are nutrients produced by plants that help prevent disease and improve overall health (1).

In fact, rice is mostly composed of carbs and a small amount of protein.

However, it’s important to note that the nutritional profile of rice can differ based on how refined it is and whether it has been enriched with vitamins and minerals.

All rice begins as a whole grain, but to lengthen the shelf life, it’s sometimes put through a milling process that removes the outer bran and germ of the grain, leaving only the endosperm. This is known as refined, or white rice.

Yet, the discarded bran and germ contain most of the nutrients.

Therefore, many refined rice varieties are enriched with additional nutrients after the milling process, which improves their overall nutritional profile.

Here’s a look at some of the differences between 1/2 cup (100 grams) of whole grain brown rice and the same serving size of refined, unenriched white rice (10, 11):

Brown riceWhite rice
(unenriched)
Calories357344
Protein7.1 grams6.7 grams
Fat2.4 grams0 grams
Carbs76.2 grams77.8 grams
Fiber2.4 grams0 grams
Iron19% of the Daily Value (DV)4.5% of the DV
Niacin30% of the DV0 mg
Vitamin C0 mg0 mg
Calcium0 mg0 mg

Although some nutrients are present in very similar amounts, you may notice that levels of others differ significantly.

For example, brown rice contains notably more fat, fiber, iron, and niacin than unenriched white rice. However, in the United States, most rice has been enriched with niacin, iron, and folic acid.

Additionally, choosing a whole grain rice variety instead of refined white rice has been linked to health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (12, 13, 14, 15).

Therefore, it is recommended that at least half of the grains you consume each day come from whole grain sources, such as unrefined rice (16).

summary

The nutritional profile of rice varies depending on how refined a particular variety is. In general, whole grain brown rice contains more nutrients than refined white rice. Whole grain varieties are also associated with improved health.

Grain-free diets

Even though regularly consuming whole grains has been linked to multiple health benefits, some people may choose to eliminate grains from their diet for various reasons.

For example, some people may cut out grains as a strategy to lose weight, while others have to due to an allergy or intolerance. Although, very few people have an allergy or intolerance to rice.

When following a grain-free diet, all rice varieties must be excluded — whole grain and refined.

In addition, some other products that are made from rice may be excluded. These include rice syrup, rice noodles, rice milk, rice cakes, rice flour, and rice starch.

summary

All types of rice are considered grains. Therefore, grain-free diets eliminate all types of rice and all products made from them.

The bottom line

Rice is a small edible seed that is cultivated from grain plants around the world.

It nourishes billions of people each day, and thousands of varieties exist.

Nutritionally, rice provides primarily carbs and a little protein with few other nutrients.

Choosing whole grain varieties over refined ones will provide higher amounts of fiber and some micronutrients.

Plus, doing so may help improve your health overall.

However, if you’re following a grain-free diet, you need to cut out all varieties of rice, including whole grain brown rice.