Rice is a staple food in many countries across the globe.

It’s inexpensive, a good source of energy, and comes in many varieties.

Though rice is conventionally cooked before consumption, some people wonder whether you can eat raw rice and if doing so has any additional health benefits.

This article explains whether you can eat raw rice.

Risks of eating raw rice

Consuming raw rice has been associated with several health concerns.

Food poisoning

Consuming raw or undercooked rice can increase your risk of food poisoning.

This is because rice can harbor harmful bacteria, such as Bacillus cereus (B. cereus). In fact, one study found that B. cereus was present in nearly half of the commercial rice sampled (1).

B. cereus is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in soil and can contaminate raw rice. This bacteria can form spores, which can help act as a shield to allow B. cereus to survive cooking.

However, this bacteria is generally not a concern with freshly cooked rice because high temperatures can minimize its growth. Whereas with raw, uncooked, and improperly stored rice, the cooler temperatures may promote its growth (2).

Food poisoning linked to B. cereus may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, or diarrhea within 15–30 minutes of consumption (3).

Gastrointestinal issues

Raw rice has several compounds that may cause digestive issues.

For starters, it contains lectins, a type of protein that acts as a natural insecticide. Lectins are sometimes referred to as antinutrients because they may reduce your body’s ability to absorb nutrients (4).

Humans are unable to digest lectins, so they pass through your digestive tract unchanged and may damage the gut wall. This may lead to symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting (5).

Typically, when rice is cooked, the majority of these lectins are eliminated by heat (4).

Other health concerns

In some instances, a craving to eat raw rice could be a sign of an eating disorder known as pica — an appetite for non-nutritive foods or substances.

Though pica is uncommon, it’s more likely to occur among children and pregnant women. It’s temporary in most cases but may require psychological counseling.

Consuming large amounts of raw rice due to pica has been associated with side effects like fatigue, abdominal pain, hair loss, tooth damage, and iron deficiency anemia (6, 7).

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have pica, it’s important to seek medical advice, as the condition may cause serious health complications.

Summary

Eating raw rice has been associated with adverse health effects, such as food poisoning and gastrointestinal issues. A desire to consume raw rice may be a sign of the psychological disorder pica, which is linked to serious health issues.

Does raw rice have any benefits?

Consuming raw rice doesn’t appear to have any added benefits.

What’s more, consumption of raw rice has been associated with many adverse health consequences, such as dental damage, hair loss, stomach pain, and iron deficiency anemia (6, 7).

Though raw foods have gained popularity in recent years as proponents claim they offer more health benefits, that isn’t the case for raw rice.

If you enjoy rice and would like to get more added benefits out of it, try switching to other varieties of rice, such as brown, black, red, or wild rice.

Compared with white rice, these varieties tend to be higher in antioxidants, and contain more minerals and vitamins, particularly B vitamins (8).

Summary

Raw rice doesn’t offer additional health benefits. If you desire a healthier option, try switching to rice varieties like brown, black, red, or wild rice, which are more nutritious.

The bottom line

Consuming raw rice is unsafe and poses several health concerns, such as food poisoning from B. cereus and damage to your digestive tract.

A desire to consume raw rice or other non-nutritive foods could be an underlying sign of pica, which is a psychological disorder that has been associated with hair loss, fatigue, stomach pain, and iron deficiency anemia.

Moreover, raw rice isn’t more nutritious than cooked rice. If you would simply like a healthier rice option, try switching to brown, black, red, or wild rice.