Wild rice is a whole grain that has been growing in popularity in recent years.
It is very nutritious and believed to have numerous health benefits.
The current research on it is limited, but a few studies have shown great promise.
Despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all.
Although it is the seed of an aquatic grass, just like rice, it's not directly related to rice.
The grass grows naturally in shallow freshwater marshes and along the shores of streams and lakes.
There are four different species of wild rice. One is native to Asia and harvested as a vegetable. The remaining three species are native to North America, specifically the Great Lakes region, and harvested as a grain.
Wild rice was originally grown and harvested by Native Americans, who have used the grain as a staple food for hundreds of years. It's only referred to as rice because it looks and cooks like other types of rice.
However, it tends to have a stronger ﬂavor and higher price.
Bottom Line: Wild rice is a species of grass that produces edible seeds resembling rice. It tends to have a stronger taste and cost more than rice.
A 100-gram serving of cooked wild rice provides (1):
- Calories: 101.
- Carbs: 21 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fiber: 2 grams.
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI.
- Folate: 6% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 8% of the RDI.
- Zinc: 9% of the RDI.
- Copper: 6% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI.
Wild rice also contains small amounts of iron, potassium and selenium.
The low calorie and high nutrient content makes wild rice a nutrient-dense food. It is a very impressive source of minerals, and a great plant source of protein.
Bottom Line: Wild rice contains an impressive amount of several nutrients, including protein, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.
Wild rice contains more protein than regular rice and many other grains.
A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of wild rice contains 4 grams of protein, which is twice as much protein as regular brown or white rice (1, 2, 3). Furthermore, the protein in wild rice is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.
This makes it a good protein option for vegetarians and vegans.
Meanwhile, the fiber content of wild rice is the same as brown rice, with each providing 1.8 grams of fiber per 3.5 oz serving. Alternatively, white rice provides little to no fiber.
Bottom Line: Wild rice contains more protein than other types of rice, but the same amount of fiber as brown rice.
Antioxidants are considered to be important for overall health.
They are believed to protect against aging and reduce the risk of several diseases, including cancer (4, ).
Researchers at the University of Minnesota determined that wild rice is extremely high in antioxidants (6).
In another analysis of 11 different samples of wild rice, it was found to have 30 times greater antioxidant activity than white rice (). Additionally, in a 2014 scientific review of wild rice, one of the most prominent findings was its high antioxidant levels ().
Bottom Line: Wild rice is very high in antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of several diseases.
While research on wild rice itself is limited, a large number of studies have examined the effects of whole grains, such as wild rice, on heart health.
Generally, a higher intake of whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease (, ).
In a large analysis of 45 studies, researchers found that people who ate the most whole grains had a 16–21% lower risk of heart disease, compared to those who ate the least ().
In particular, one study found that increasing whole grain intake by 25 grams per day decreased the risk of a heart attack by 12–13% ().
Another study found that eating at least 6 servings of whole grains per week slowed the buildup of plaque in arteries ().
Lastly, several animal studies have been done on wild rice and heart health. These studies showed that eating wild rice reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol and helped prevent plaque buildup in arteries, which should lower heart disease risk (, ).
Bottom Line: Eating wild rice has been shown to improve heart health in animal studies, and many studies show that eating whole grains is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease.
According to research, diets high in whole grains like wild rice can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20–30% ().
This is mainly attributed to the vitamins, minerals, plant compounds and fiber found in whole grains.
In a large analysis of 16 studies, researchers found eating whole grains was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, while consuming refined grains like white rice was associated with an increased risk ().
Researchers suggest eating at least two servings of whole grains each day to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Data from six studies, including 286,125 participants, suggest that eating two servings of whole grains per day is associated with a 21% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes ().
Although it hasn't been tested in humans directly, eating wild rice has been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce insulin resistance in rats ().
The glycemic index of wild rice is 57, which is similar to that of oats and brown rice (19).
Bottom Line: Eating whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and some animal studies show that eating wild rice improves blood sugar control.
Wild rice is generally safe for human consumption.
However, in some cases it may be contaminated with ergot or heavy metals.
Wild rice seeds can be infected with a toxic fungus called ergot, which may be dangerous if eaten.
Some side effects of ergot toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, seizures and mental impairment.
Infected grains typically have pink or purplish spots or fungus growths that are visible to the human eye.
Additionally, grain standards and agricultural practices in most countries help prevent contamination, so ergot toxicity in humans is very rare.
Similarly to regular rice, wild rice may contain heavy metals.
Over time, heavy metals can accumulate in the body and cause health problems.
Toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic have been identified in 26 brands of wild rice sold in the US (20, ).
These could become problematic if consumed regularly in large amounts, but are probably not a cause for concern in people who eat a varied, real food-based diet.
Bottom Line: Wild rice may contain heavy metals, and sometimes it can be infected with a toxic fungus called ergot. This is probably not a concern for people who eat a varied diet.
Wild rice has a nutty, earthy flavor and a chewy texture.
It's a great substitute for potatoes, pasta or rice. Some people eat it alone, while others mix it with other rice or grains.
Alternatively, wild rice can be added to a wide variety of foods such as salads, soups, casseroles and even desserts.
It's simple to make, although it can take anywhere from 45–60 minutes to fully cook.
Therefore, it may be a good idea to make large batches and freeze the leftovers for later meals.
Here is a simple recipe:
- 1 cup wild rice
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Rinse the wild rice with cold water.
- Place the rice in a saucepan and add 3 cups of water and salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce it to a simmer and cover the pan.
- Simmer covered for 40–60 minutes until the water is absorbed. You will know the wild rice is fully cooked when it cracks open and curls.
- Strain the rice and fluff it with a fork before serving.
Bottom Line: Wild rice has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It can be eaten alone or added to a variety of foods such as salads, soups, casseroles and desserts.
Wild rice is a special type of grain that's chewy and tasty.
It's higher in protein than regular rice, and it contains several important nutrients and an impressive amount of antioxidants.
What's more, eating wild rice regularly may improve heart health and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
If you haven't tried wild rice yet, then you're in for a treat.