The six types of rice: How to pick the best for healthy living?

Marie France Bodyline
healthy carbs, healthy living, rice types

Rice is staple for Asians, whereas it only serves as a side in some western foods. Being the main, rice is of course the primary supplier of carbohydrates or "carbs" into your body. And "carbs" is a feared word around the world, namely amongst diet-goers and health-conscious consumers. So much so that most low-carb diet plans forego rice altogether from the meals.

Why so? Let's just look at some of our neighbours where rice is the main and perhaps the only staple food. India and China now experience two of the worst type 2 diabetes epidemics in the world, even worse than in the US. This disease is connected to weight issues, particularly abdominal obesity, most likely contributed by intake of carbs. Now, don't jump the gun yet! The majority of the population in these countries eat white rice only.

If you did not know before reading this, you will from now on know that white rice, which we talked about above, is not the only rice out there. There are six primary types of rice commercially available for consumption, at least in Malaysia.

This would answer the question that goes around in some diet-goers' minds: If carbs can make you fat, why are some populations (e.g. Japanese people) thin while eating a high carb diet? That's because not all rice contains bad carbs, and not all Asians eat white rice.

Just to give you a brief analogy before we dwell further, there are 52 grams of carbs in one cup of long-grain cooked brown rice, while the same amount of cooked, enriched short-grain white rice has about 53 grams of carbs. On the other hand, cooked wild rice only has 35 grams of carbs, making it one of the best options if you want to reduce your carb intake. So, it is all about choices you make in your foods.

Let's go through each one of them next, to see what suits best for your nutritional needs.

First, there's the most famous white rice, which might be the one most consumed around the world. This rice comes in short-grain and long-grain varieties. When cooked, the short-grain ones is starchy and become soft and sticky, whereas cooked long-grain rice contains less starch and therefore may appear drier and not clumped together. White rice generally contains 90% CHO, 8% Protein and 2% Fat (Omega-6 fatty acids ? pro-inflammatory), some minerals and other notable nutrients. It is however low in fiber.

Brown rice vs White rice

Then there is the brown rice. Similar to white rice, it also comes in both short-grain and long-grain varieties. As it contains less starch, brown rice is generally chewier and heartier, and takes longer time to cook. In terms of nutrients, brown rice has more source of minerals such as magnesium and selenium, and has lower GL than white rice. Moreover, brown rice contains just 5% less CHO as opposed to that in white rice and has same percentage of protein and fat. Most importantly, brown rice contains 4 times more fiber than white rice, thereby being able to control the spike of blood sugar level in the bloodstream to give better blood sugar level, which makes this probably the most recommended rice for consumers with diabetes.

Third, there's the wild rice. Though technically it's not a rice, it's commonly referred to as one for practical purposes. Its chewy texture has an earthy, nutty flavor that many find appealing. It is more nutrient-dense than white rice and is an obviously better option for weight management because it could keep you feel fuller for longer due to its fiber contents. Wild rice further contains 35g CHO (including 3g fiber), 7g protein, vitamins and minerals. So evidently, wild rice has higher fiber, antioxidants, protein and more essential amino acids (lysine and methionine) and would be very suitable for protein-based diets.

Next, the parboiled rice, another popular choice among Malaysians and other regional countries. Parboiled rice comes from a complete grain of rice which is soaked, steamed and dried and finally the hull removed. Having undergone special processing, parboiled rice is a better source of fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin B-6 than white rice.

Parboiled rice

Next in line is Basmati rice. Basmati rice generally has higher fiber content which helps to keep food low on the glycemic index (that means no sugar rushes) and keep your immune system better. It also helps in consistency of your stools in order to prevent hemorrhoids. Hence, it will help greatly in weight loss and weight management as the fiber makes you feel fuller and thereby reducing the need for more food (or calorie!) intake. Again, for diabetics, this would be an ideal choice due to its low glycemic index which helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

Basmati rice

Last but not least, we have the Japonica rice (sinica rice). Easily distinguishable from the other types of rice, due to its shorter and plumper appearance, the raw grains are slightly glassy and translucent. It is moist, tender and sticky when cooked. It provides an ample supply of vegetable protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals and dietary fiber. In fact, according to Japanese culture, the Japonica rice contribute to good health and long life. No wonder the Japanese people are known to live beyond 100 years!

Japonica rice

*As causes for being overweight vary from person to person, weight loss results will also vary from person to person, dependant on various genetic or environmental factors such as food intake, individual rate of metabolism, level of exercise, etc. No individual result should be seen as typical.