Snacking on a rice cake certainly won't add a lot of calories to your diet, but it doesn't have much else to offer. You won't get a lot of vitamins, minerals or even fiber from the crunchy patty. Because they are ultra-low in calories, though, rice cakes make a healthy alternative to chips if you're looking for something to enjoy with your favorite dip recipe.
A single 9-gram plain, multigrain or brown-rice-and-rye rice cake each contains around 35 total calories. Because the main ingredient in rice cakes is carbohydrate-rich rice, most of the calories come from carbs. Twenty-nine calories, amounting to 84 percent of the total calories, are from carbohydrates. You will get a small amount of protein and fat from a rice cake. Just 3 calories, or 8 percent of calories, come from protein. The remaining 3 calories -- another 8 percent of calories -- are from fat.
Rice cakes aren't particularly rich in fiber. You'll get less than 0.5 gram of fiber from a single patty, depending on the variety. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" states that you should get 14 grams of fiber from your diet for every 1,000 calories. For example, if 1,600 calories a day tends to be typical for you, shoot for 22.5 grams of fiber each day. One rice cake has just 2 percent of your fiber requirement, based on 1,600 calories.
Your crispy snack may curb your appetite for the time being, but it isn't likely to keep you full for long. Rice cakes are high on the glycemic index, with an average rating of 82. Foods high on the scale, with a glycemic index of 70 or above, tend to race through your digestive tract quickly. High-glycemic foods have been shown to make your blood sugar peak rapidly and then drop right back down. This can affect your metabolism and thus your appetite, leaving you unsatisfied.
Vitamins and Minerals
Don't rely too heavily on rice cakes to up your vitamin and mineral intake -- you'll only get a trace amount. Rice cakes contain very small amounts of several B vitamins, like folate, B-12, B-6, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. The biggest role of these vitamins is to work together to convert carbs, protein and fat into energy, although they also power your neurological system and have various roles in red blood cell production. Your crunchy grub contains a little calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to work toward keeping your bones strong. You'll also get some zinc, for wound healing and immune functions; iron, which helps transport oxygen; and a couple electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, to keep your heart beating and muscles moving.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Harvard Medical School: Listing of Vitamins
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Snacks, Rice Cakes, Brown Rice, Rye
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Snacks, Rice Cakes, Brown Rice, Multigrain
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Snacks, Rice Cakes, Brown Rice, Plain