Wild rice is a whole grain that has been growing in popularity in recent years.

It’s very nutritious and believed to offer numerous health benefits.

Though research is limited, a few studies have shown great promise.

This article tells you everything you need to know about wild rice.

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Despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all.

Although it is the seed of an aquatic grass like rice, it's not directly related to it.

This 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 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.

SUMMARY Wild rice is a species of grass that produces edible seeds resembling rice. It tends to have a stronger taste and steeper price than rice.

A 3.5-ounce (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 Daily Value (DV)
  • Folate: 6% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 8% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 8% of the DV
  • Zinc: 9% of the DV
  • Copper: 6% of the DV
  • Manganese: 14% of the DV

With 101 calories, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked wild rice provides slightly fewer calories than the same serving of brown or white rice, which offer 112 and 130 calories, respectively (1, 2, 3).

Wild rice also contains small amounts of iron, potassium, and selenium.

The low calorie and high nutrient contents make wild rice a nutrient-dense food. It’s a very impressive source of minerals and a great plant-based protein source.

SUMMARY Wild rice boasts impressive amounts of several nutrients, including protein, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.

Wild rice contains more protein than regular rice and many other grains.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of wild rice provides 4 grams of protein, which is twice as much as regular brown or white rice (1, 2, 3).

Though it’s not a rich protein source, wild rice is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Meanwhile, the fiber content of wild rice is the same as brown rice, with each providing 1.8 grams of fiber per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. On the other hand, white rice provides little to no fiber.

SUMMARY Wild rice contains more protein than other types of rice but the same amount of fiber as brown rice.

Antioxidants are important for overall health.

They’re believed to protect against aging and reduce your risk of several diseases, including cancer (4, 5).

Wild rice has been shown to be high in antioxidants (6, 7).

In fact, in an analysis of 11 samples of wild rice, it was found to have 30 times greater antioxidant activity than white rice (7).

SUMMARY Wild rice is very high in antioxidants, which may help reduce your risk of several diseases.

While research on wild rice itself is limited, many 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 (9, 10).

A review of 45 studies noted that people who ate the most whole grains had a 16–21% lower risk of heart disease, compared with those who ate the least (11).

In particular, one study found that increasing your whole-grain intake by 25 grams per day may decrease your risk of a heart attack by 12–13% (12).

Another study observed that eating at least six servings of whole grains per week slowed the buildup of plaque in the arteries (13).

Lastly, several animal studies indicate that eating wild rice reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevents plaque buildup in arteries, which may lower heart disease risk (8, 14).

SUMMARY Eating wild rice has been shown to improve heart health in animal studies. Similarly, other studies suggest that eating whole grains like wild rice is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease.

Diets high in whole grains like wild rice may decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes by 20–30% (15).

This is mainly attributed to the vitamins, minerals, plant compounds, and fiber in whole grains.

In a review of 16 studies, whole grains were associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, while refined grains like white rice was linked to an increased risk (16).

Researchers suggest that eating at least two servings of whole grains per day may reduce your risk of this condition.

Data from 6 studies in 286,125 people indicates that eating 2 servings of whole grains per day is associated with a 21% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk (17).

Though it hasn't been tested in people, eating wild rice has been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce insulin resistance in rats (18).

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food spikes your blood sugar. The GI of wild rice is 57, which is similar to that of oats and brown rice (19).

SUMMARY Eating whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. What’s more, some animal studies suggest that eating wild rice improves blood sugar control.

Wild rice is generally safe for human consumption.

However, it may be contaminated with ergot or heavy metals.

Ergot toxicity

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.

Heavy metals

Similarly to regular rice, wild rice may contain heavy metals.

Over time, heavy metals can accumulate in your 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 United States (20, 21).

These could become problematic if consumed regularly in large amounts but shouldn’t be a concern for people who eat a varied diet.

SUMMARY Wild rice may contain heavy metals and can be infected with a toxic fungus called ergot. Contamination is probably not a concern for people who eat a varied diet.

Wild rice has a nutty, earthy flavor and 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 variety of dishes, such as salads, soups, casseroles, and even desserts.

It’s simple to make but takes 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:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (160 grams) of wild rice
  • 3 cups (700 ml) of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Rinse the wild rice with cold water.
  • Place it in a saucepan and add the water and salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan.
  • Simmer covered for 40–60 minutes until the water is absorbed. The wild rice is fully cooked when it cracks open and curls.
  • Strain the rice and fluff it with a fork before serving.
SUMMARY Wild rice has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It can be eaten alone or added to many dishes, 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 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.