Home> Healthy food >Health benefits of rice
Reading time: 15 minutes

Health benefits of rice

Health benefits of rice

Rice is one of the most well-known cereal grains in the world. It is the staple food for half the world’s population. It is easy to cook, and it is delicious to taste. But does it have nutritional value? Are there any side effects of consuming rice? And what kind of rice is the most valuable for our health? Read on to find out more.

The history of rice

Rice has been known as a valuable grain crop for over 10,000 years. Although the precise location where rice was first cultivated is disputed, we know with some certainty that the birthplace of rice is in Asia. Rice in Asian countries is the primary cereal and an integral part of the culture. For example, rice is a ritual food in the Japanese Shinto religion. In Hinduism, rice is used as an offering and is sprinkled on the heads of participants during wedding ceremonies.

There is a monument to rice in Tokyo. Rice is called “Mother Rice” in Thailand and “breadwinner of humankind” in India. In several Asian countries, rice cakes are eaten on holidays to symbolize wealth, longevity, and happiness.

It is believed that rice was first brought from Asia to ancient Greece. It spread further from Greece to other southern European countries and North Africa. For example, the first mention of rice cultivation in Italy dates back to 1475. To the Caribbean, rice came sometime in the late 15th century. In the 16th century, the Spanish brought it to Mexico, and the Portuguese introduced it to Brazil. Rice first traveled to the USA with enslaved people in 1685 from Madagascar and became a valuable export product during the following 50 years.

American Rice: Out of Africa

Over time, rice has spread all across the globe. It is cultivated in 112 countries, of which India and China are the largest producers.

The question that comes to mind is why did rice become so popular? 

Rice has a crucial biological advantage over other crops – it can grow in water. This is because of the special plant tissue called aerenchyma. Aerenchyma stores oxygen and helps deliver it from the plant’s leaves to the flooded roots. No other grain crop can tolerate the prolonged excessive flooding or waterlogging of the soil. This means that rice can utilize spaces that are unsuitable for other crops. Growing in water is also a natural method for weed control, as weeds do not grow there.

There is considerable number of varieties of rice that differ with respect to the soil condition, temperature, presence of sunlight, rainfall, etc. This means that rice can grow in a range of different regions.

The International Rice Genebank at the International Rice Research Institute (founded in 1960) assesses about 100,000 varieties, forms, and types of rice. The actual number can be much higher because only some varieties have been registered. For example, the Indian M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation assesses that India alone has more than 100,000 varieties of rice grown by farmers. It is quite possible that even more types of rice became extinct during the years of agricultural progress.

How many rice varieties are there?

Types of rice

There are different classifications of rice types, depending on the criterion used. 

Classification according to the features relating to development and growth

Japanese rice is usually grown in warm temperate zones. However, it is also relatively cold-tolerant. It responds well to fertilization and is known for producing high yields.

Indian rice is distinguished by long and thin grains. This type of rice is widespread in the tropics. It is rather unpretentious but less productive than Japanese.

Nata Gonchar

Holistic Nutritionist, founder
of the project WOW Bali

TOP-10 ingredients
for your health and
balanced meal plan
Nata Gonchar

Holistic Nutritionist, founder
of the project WOW Bali

As Hippocrates said, you are what you eat. The meaning of this phrase concerns every person, who takes care of his health. The food we eat has a big impact on our vital activity, state of health and quality of life.

Nowadays healthy diet is very popular and everyone knows that he should give up junk food. But not everyone knows what he must eat except for grain, vegetables and protein food.

It's essential to diversify your diet. Every bite of food should provide you with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are necessary for good health.

So how can we have a proper nutrition plan?

We prepared a PDF-file to help you. It contains TOP-10 ingredients, which should be added to everyone's diet.

Mixed types have features characteristic of both the Japanese and the Indian types.

Classification according to shape and size

Short-grain rice is often called round-grain because the width of the grains is almost equal to their length. And because its grains stick together during cooking, it is also known as sticky rice. When cooked, the grains actively absorb moisture and can boil to the consistency of a cream. An example of a short-grain variety is Italian arborio, used for risotto, soups, and desserts.

Medium-grain rice is plump and short and is usually 2-3 times longer in length than in width. When cooked, rice grains become moist, sticky, and tender. Medium rice is great for savory dishes, especially for baking or steaming. An example of a medium-grain variety is Valencia rice. The name comes after the Spanish province where the paella dish comes from. Valencia rice releases starch during cooking, forming a layer of crispy crust at the bottom. But when cooked in an open pan with good air circulation, it retains an al dente or firm texture.

The history of rice

Long-grain rice remains crumbly after cooking; individual grains do not stick to each other thanks to the unique starch composition. This type goes well with spices, and it absorbs them well.The most famous representative of long-grain rice is basmati rice, which means “fragrant” in Hindi. It is distinguished from other varieties primarily by its distinct nutty aroma. Smooth basmati rice is cream or yellowish, and it can be translucent. When cooked, it doubles in size without losing its crispness. The secret to the basmati rice’s distinctive texture is that it is aged for at least one year. 

Classification according to the method of grain processing

Polished rice is the most popular white rice. Processing removes the shell of the grains, which become smooth and even. This type of rice can be stored for much longer, but the beneficial properties are also lost along with the shell.

Unpolished rice is less affected than a polished one. It retains the shell and a large amount of nutrients in it, so this type of rice is considered the most useful. Unpolished rice is also known as brown or whole-grain rice.

Parboiled rice is rice that has undergone additional processing before peeling and shelling. Parboiled rice differs from other types of rice in color and grain structure. It stands out with its unusual color, which can be cream, yellowish, or golden. Such rice is soaked, steamed at low pressure, and then dried. Because of its processing method, it requires less cooking time than regular white rice. The grains of parboiled rice retain many of the health benefits that would usually be lost during polishing. When steamed, rice grains absorb the beneficial properties from the rice shells, which are later discarded.

Classification according to the grain color

This classification distinguished white and brown rice. The color indicates the degree of processing of grains. It is possible to find white and brown types of rice of any length, including basmati rice, sticky rice, etc.

White rice is rice without any husk or bran. Its grains are more tender than, for example, brown or black rice. This kind of rice has a longer shelf life. But, as noted earlier, the product’s beneficial properties are almost entirely lost during its processing. Therefore, although cooked faster and easier to digest, white (polished) rice is considered less healthy. 

The bran around the grain is not removed during processing with brown rice. This gives this type of rice a looser texture and a nutty flavor. The brown rice needs more time to cook. However, the health benefits of it are worth that extra wait during cooking. Technically, this rice can be of any size, but long-grain rice is the most common. 

There are also types of rice that do not lend themselves to classification, e.g.:

Black rice, also known as Chinese black rice and forbidden rice, is a long-grain rice. It is black and turns purple when cooked. This rice has a nutrient-dense outer layer, making it one of the best antioxidant sources. Black rice is a fantastic side dish when cooked in seasoned broth. Another great option is to use it in desserts. 

Red Himalayan (butana) rice is an unpolished medium-grain rice that retains some outer layers after grinding. This gives it a distinct dark-pink color. After cooking, such rice acquires a b nutty flavor and retains all the beneficial properties of unpolished rice.

Wild rice is technically not rice. It is a kind of grass that grows in the same conditions as any other rice. Wild rice contains more protein than other varieties. The grain has a smoky, nutty flavor and crumbly texture when cooked. It takes much longer to cook than any other type of rice. 

Rice nutrition facts

The nutritional value of rice includes its composition, calorie content, and the presence of vitamins and minerals. It depends on the variety and the degree of processing. White rice is the most refined type of rice. It is also the least nutritious type of rice. Nevertheless, all types of rice contain water-soluble vitamins B1, B2, B3 (PP), B5, B6, and B9 and minerals – magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

The below table compared the composition and nutritional value (per 100g) of the number of rice types.

Type of rice Nutritional value Vitamins Minerals Comparative
White rice 360 kcal

Fats 0.6 gr

Proteins 6.6 gr

Carbohydrates 79.3 gr

Only water-soluble B1, B2, B3 (PP), B5, B6, and B9 Calcium 9.0 mg

Iron 0.8 mg

Magnesium 35.0 mg 

Phosphorus 108.0 mg

Potassium 86.0 mg

Sodium 1.0 mg

Zinc 1.2 mg

Copper 0.1 mg

Manganese 1.1 mg

Contains the least fat and the most carbs compared to the other types.
Brown rice 362 kcal

Fats 2.68 gr

Proteins 7.50 gr

Carbohydrates 76.17 gr

Only water-soluble B1, B2, B3 (PP), B5, B6, and B9 Calcium 33.0 mg

Iron 1.8 mg

Magnesium 143.0 mg

Phosphorus 264.0 mg

Potassium 268.0 mg

Sodium 4.0 mg

Zinc 2.0 mg

Copper 0.3 mg

Manganese 3.7 mg

Contains the most calories and fats. Has more calcium and manganese than white rice.
Wild rice  357 kcal

Fats 1.08 gr

Proteins 14.73 gr

Carbohydrates 74.90 gr

Fat-soluble A, beta-carotene, E, and K.

Water soluble B1, B2, B3 (PP), B4, B5, B6 and B9.

Calcium 21.0 mg

Iron 2.0 mg

Magnesium 177.0 mg

Phosphorus 433.0 mg

Potassium 427.0 mg

Sodium 7.0 mg

Zinc 6.0 mg

Copper 0.5 mg

Manganese 1.3 mg

Selenium 2.8 mcg

Contains the most protein of all types. Contains water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Has the densest mineral composition of all types except for calcium and manganese. The only type that contains selenium.
Black rice 350 kcal

Fats 1 gr

Proteins 7-15 gr

Carbohydrates 80 gr

Fat-soluble A, beta-carotene, E, and K.

Water soluble B1, B2, B3 (PP), B4, B5, B6 and B9.

Calcium 30 mg

Iron 3.4 mg

Magnesium 140 mg

Phosphorus 260 mg

Potassium 260 mg

Sodium 4 mg

Zinc 2.1 -2.3 mg

Manganese 3.6 mg

Contains water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Contains the most iron out of all rice types.

Regardless of the rice type, its calorie content is higher than that of many other kinds of cereal. For comparison, 100 g of wheat grain contains 330 calories, corn contains 348 calories, and sorghum contains 332 calories.

Health benefits of rice

Due to its composition, rice has several health benefits. The following benefits are associated with all rice varieties:

  • Rice groats do not contain gluten, making it an indispensable element of the diet for people with gluten sensitivity and intolerance. It can also be recommended as a first complementary food for children.
  • Depending on their variety, rice grains contain about 10% protein and 20 essential amino acids, of which the majority are lysine, valine, and methionine. Proteins and amino acids are the building materials necessary for the human body.

Amino Acids in Rice Grains and Their Regulation by Polyamines and Phytohormones

  • The unprocessed types of rice, for example, brown or wild rice, are a rich source of dietary fiber, which may help lower blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Health benefits of dietary fiber

  • The starch and fiber in rice coat the gastrointestinal mucosa, which is why boiled rice can be helpful in gastrointestinal disorders such as gastritis and ulcers.

Are rice and spicy diet good for functional gastrointestinal disorders

  • Rice has an antidiarrheal effect.

Health benefits of rice

  • Unprocessed rice varieties (brown and wild rice) have a low glycemic index, which can be recommended for people with insulin resistance and diabetes.

A systematic review of the influence of rice characteristics and processing methods on postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses

  • Pigmented rice varieties, mainly red and black, are a rich source of antioxidants that protect body cells from oxidation, which helps prevent premature aging.

Health-Promoting Compounds in Pigmented Thai and Wild Rice

  • The B-vitamin complex found in rice is involved in energy production. It may improve the condition of hair, skin, and nails and strengthen the nervous system. Folic acid (vitamin B9), especially rich in wild rice, is essential during pregnancy. To maintain the high level of B vitamins in the rice, it is important to cook it in just enough water for the grains to cook, and no extra water should be added during cooking.

Influence of cooking process on the content of water‐soluble B vitamins in rice marketed in Iran

  • Due to its high potassium and low sodium content, rice can be recommended for people with diseases requiring a low-salt diet, such as diseases affecting joints and disorders associated with kidney or cardiovascular activities. Wild rice is especially beneficial as it has the highest source of potassium compared to other types of rice.

Health-Promoting Compounds in Pigmented Thai and Wild Rice

  • Rice is a source of manganese, a mineral that is a cofactor for over 30 enzymes and has many functions in the body. Manganese is one of the most potent antioxidants in humans called superoxide dismutase (SOD). Manganese participates in the metabolism, regulates the thyroid gland’s hormones, improves the nervous system’s function, takes part in the antioxidant protection of cells and the construction of bones and connective tissue, and supports the reproductive function. Manganese deficiency is common in those suffering from obesity, diabetes, and allergies. As such, rice – predominantly brown and wild rice – is a recommended source of manganese. The daily requirement for manganese is 2 mg. 50 g of black rice contains the daily requirement of manganese.

Manganese superoxide dismutase: guardian of the powerhouse

  • Rice is a source of magnesium, a mineral that is part of more than 300 enzymatic reactions. Its role in the body is extensive – it participates in the production of energy, it is necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system, it promotes detoxification, it has an antioxidant effect, etc. Magnesium deficiency is a common result of stress, alcohol abuse, and gastrointestinal dysfunction. The daily requirement for magnesium is at least 400 mg. 50 g of wild rice contains almost a quarter of the daily need for magnesium.

Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions

  • Wild rice is a source of selenium, which has an antioxidant effect, is involved in the thyroid gland function, provides antiviral and antibacterial protection, affects the reproductive health of men and women, and has an anti-stress effect. Selenium deficiency is often observed in patients with liver diseases and intestinal dysbiosis. The daily requirement for selenium is about 60 mcg. 50 g of wild rice contains 1.4 mcg of selenium. Wild rice can be served with sea fish or seafood – the most selenium-rich food source. 

A Comprehensive Review on Selenium and Its Effects on Human Health and Distribution in Middle Eastern Countries

  • Rice is also a source of phosphorus, which is necessary for building bones and teeth. Phosphorus participates in energy metabolism and immune function and is a part of cell membranes. Phosphorus deficiency is observed with a lack of vitamin D and protein in the diet, celiac disease, obesity, and alcohol abuse. The daily need for phosphorus is about 800 mg. Wild rice is the richest source of phosphorus. 50 g of wild rice contains a quarter of its recommended daily amount.


  • Vitamin E, abundant in wild and black rice especially, has a high antioxidant capacity, stimulates muscle activity, facilitates glycogen accumulation in the muscles, and affects collagen and elastin formation. Vitamin E also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and helps prevent its photoaging. Vitamin E deficiency is often observed in those with liver diseases, deficiency of fats in the diet, and inflammation of the intestinal mucosa. The daily requirement for vitamin E is about 15 mg, and this increases with muscle load. Wild and black rice flavored with a small portion of fragrant wheat germ oil is an excellent food to help replenish vitamin E deficiency and to maintain its recommended daily intake.

Role of Micronutrients in Skin Health and Function

What type of rice is the most beneficial to our health

To answer this question, we must first take a closer look at the structure of a rice grain.

A whole grain of rice consists of an outer shell. It is relatively hard but comes off easily. After the shell’s separation, a grain remains covered in husks. The outer shell determines the color of the grain (it may be brown or red). It contains various nutrients, including fats, proteins, amino acids, and fiber. Beneath the husks is the endosperm – a nutrient reserve of grain. The endosperm is what we know as “white” or “polished” rice. It contains between 90–94% of starch and around 6–10% of protein, but it lacks B vitamins and minerals. 

As can be seen from the comparative table above, each rice variety has its characteristics. As for which type of rice is the healthiest, any type can be part of a balanced diet. However, rice with less processing has higher nutritional value. Eating exclusively white rice, on the other hand, can lead to severe vitamin deficiencies, manifesting, for example, as beriberi.

If you rank rice types according to their health benefits, you’ll get the following sequence:

  1. The most beneficial is black rice, as determined by the highest vitamin and mineral composition and antioxidant content compared to other types of rice.
  2. Then comes the brown rice. It is beneficial because it contains the husk layer rich in nutrients.
  3. The parboiled rice comes next. It has a lower glycemic index than white rice, and its vitamin composition is richer than in white rice. 
  4. White rice comes last because very few nutrients are left post processing in the polished rice grain.

Possible side effects of rice consumption

Despite the beneficial properties of rice, it is not recommended to consume it in excess (in this respect, it does not differ from any other product). 

In addition, under certain conditions, the benefits of rice can be annulled entirely. 

Possible side effects of rice consumption

White rice is a refined product, excessive and frequent consumption of which can lead to obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat

White rice has a high glycemic index, meaning its consumption increases blood sugar levels. Those who have diabetes should avoid white rice and replace it with types of rice with a lower glycemic index, for example, brown rice.

The fiber and starch in rice help with diarrhea but can also contribute to constipation, especially white rice. Therefore, for those predisposed to constipation and/or problems with peristalsis, the harmful effects of white rice may outweigh the health benefits.

Effects of rice-based and wheat-based diets on bowel movements in young Korean women with functional constipation

Rice should not be consumed by people with a food allergy to the protein part of rice. This is a rare allergy, but it is essential to remember that such allergies may occur.

Rice can contain toxic heavy metals – arsenic, lead, and cadmium – absorbed from the soils. The presence of these compounds depends on the region of growth. Soaking rice in water before cooking can help to eliminate some toxic metals from it. However, limiting rice consumption is important to avoid potentially excessively consuming harmful substances.

Toxic and Essential Elements in Rice and Other Grains from the United States and Other Countries

Rice is a cereal, and as with any grain, it is primarily a carbohydrate. The overabundance of carbohydrates in the diet is not beneficial. Therefore, rice is recommended as part of a complete meal, balancing it with quality proteins and fats. For example, add nuts, plant-based milk, seeds, butter, eggs, etc., to cooked rice to create a balanced breakfast.

How to choose, cook and store rice

To take advantage of all the health benefits of rice, it must be selected properly, cooked, and preserved.

How to choose good quality rice? Often a low-quality product is hidden in opaque packaging. To estimate the appearance of rice, it is best to buy it in transparent packaging. The shape and size of the grains must be identical unless it is indicated on the package that it contains a mixture of different varieties of rice. There should be only a few cracked grains in the package. The presence of opaque white grains indicates that rice is unripe. Yellowed grains could be the result of their improper storage.

How to store rice? After purchase, rice should not be stored in its original packaging. Pour it into a dry, clean glass, tin, or ceramic container. Rice (as well as other grains) should be kept away from sinks and stoves because moisture and steam can adversely affect it. The place where cereals are stored should be inspected regularly to ensure proper ventilation, monitor the cleanliness of surfaces, and check for insects and their larvae.

Boiled rice should not be left at room temperature for long periods, as its spores harbor bacteria that can cause food poisoning. It is always best to cook as much rice as you can eat in one go and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

How to cook rice? There are three most popular ways to cook rice: 

  1. Boiling in plenty of water. For the grains not to stick together and to the bottom of the pan, bring the water to a boil first and only then add the rice. If there is more water than the grains can absorb, drain the remainder and “dry” the rice either in the oven or over very low heat. 
  2. Cooking in a certain amount of liquid. With this method, the grains absorb all the liquid, so there is no need to drain the water and dry them. This cooking method helps preserve more vitamins in rice than boiling it in plenty of water. Here we provide tips on how to approximate cooking time and grain/water ratio for different types of rice:
    • brown rice – cook for 50-60 minutes, ratio of 1/2 to water
    • white rice – cook for 18-20 minutes, ratio of 1/2 to water
    • wild rice – cook for 45 minutes, ratio of 1/3 to water
  3. Steam cooking. This method takes longer than other methods. It is not suitable for rice varieties that take a long time to cook, such as brown or wild rice. In practice, only white rice can be prepared this way. It needs to be softened before steaming by soaking it for 1 hour. It can be steamed either in a pot or in special steamers.

How to choose, cook and store rice

Whichever method you choose, don’t rely solely on the cooking instructions. Cooking time depends on the type of rice and individual preferences. Always check for readiness about 5 minutes before the earliest time indicated in the instructions. This can be done by tasting the rice or squeezing it between your thumb and forefinger. If the grain is soft, the dish can be served.

Tips for Cooking Rice:

  • If you’re cooking round-grain rice that should end up sticky and creamy, like risotto rice, don’t rinse it. If a sticky consistency is not desired, it is best to rinse the rice to remove surface starch from the grains. This will help prevent long-grain and medium-grain rice from sticking together. To rinse the rice, place it in a bowl, cover it with cold water, stir the grains with your fingers, drain the water, and repeat. Do this several times or until the water runs clear. Alternatively, stir the rice in a fine-mesh strainer under cold water.
  • Soaking rice reduces cooking time and is generally recommended for basmati and brown rice. Some short-grain sticky rice recipes call for both soaking and rinsing. When in doubt, refer to the recipe.
  • Do not stir the rice while it is cooking, as this will cause it to clump. If you are making a mixed rice dish, we recommend cooking the wild rice separately from the white rice and mixing them at the end. This way, you won’t overcook white rice and get the perfect texture of wild rice.