Get ready to have your mind go poof. Even though everyone and their mom thinks that brown rice is the best rice for your body, there’s another option out there that’s worth a taste.
Say hello to wild rice. Technically, this dark, nutty grain is actually a type of grass. But if it looks like rice, and it cooks like rice, then hey! No big thing.
Here’s what makes it so awesome, plus how to get your fill.
What Is the Healthiest Type of Rice?
Let’s picture wild, brown, and white rice sitting on a (delicious) spectrum. On the healthier end of the spectrum sits wild rice: Compared to the others, the grass is lower in calories, and delivers more protein to help you stay fuller longer, says registered dietitian Alex Caspero. It also packs a whopping 30 times more antioxidants than the white variety.
White rice is at the other end of the spectrum. Because it’s been stripped of its nutrient-rich outer hull, it has the least amount of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Nutritionally speaking, it’s pretty similar to white pasta, Caspero says.
Brown rice is somewhere in the middle. Though if you had to give a precise location, it would probably sit closer to wild rice than to white. It’s still a good source of fiber, and it offers up most of the same vitamins and minerals found in wild rice.
If you’re a numbers person, here’s how it all breaks down (per one cup cooked):
- Wild rice: 121 calories, 6.5 g protein, 3 g fiber
- Brown rice: 218 calories, 4.5 g protein, 3.5 g fiber
- White rice: 205 calories, 4 g protein, .5 g fiber
Should You Avoid Other Types of Rice?
Wild rice has a lot to offer, so it’s definitely worth adding to your diet. Use it in grain salads or pilafs, for stuffing Portobello mushroom caps or winter squash, or in soups. You could even try grinding uncooked wild rice and using it as a crunchy, gluten-free coating for fish, suggests the Whole Grains Council.
That’s not to say that you need to bid farewell to brown rice, though. “It’s like comparing apples to blueberries,” Caspero says. “Blueberries contain more antioxidants, but both are healthy options. It doesn’t mean that apples aren’t still a great choice.”
So instead of thinking about dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) solely in terms of which grain is healthiest, balance the nutritional stuff with your personal preferences. “So many foods are healthy choices. Don’t stress about choosing the “healthiest” one all the time,” Caspero says.
It’s even fine for white rice to have an occasional spot in your rotation. Just balance things out by pairing it with nutrient-dense foods. “Just as there’s a difference between pasta marinara and pasta alfredo, there’s a difference between white rice with vegetables in a light sauce and white rice with butter,” says Caspero. Psst — if you really do want fettuccine alfredo, here’s a healthy one.
Doesn’t Rice Contain Arsenic?
Of course, no food is perfect — not even wild rice. Like brown and white rice, tests show that wild rice absorbs small amounts of arsenic that occur naturally in the soil and water.
The FDA has long monitored arsenic levels in rice, and recently proposed safety limits on rice-based products, such as infant rice cereal, for babies and young children. They also recommend that pregnant women eat a variety of foods and whole grains to offset the potential risks of arsenic in rice (though there’s no official limit for how much rice pregnant women should eat).
But adults who eat a well-rounded diet aren’t at risk, and according to the FDA, consumers don’t need to worry about changing their rice consumption. But if you’re concerned, here are two ways to reduce your exposure:
- Cook your rice like pasta. Findings show that cooking rice in a large amount of boiling water (six to 10 parts water to one part rice) and draining it can reduce the amount of arsenic in your rice by up to 60 percent.
- Mix things up. Enjoy rice a few times a week, but round things out with other whole grains, too, such as quinoa, buckwheat, or millet.