Weight loss doesn’t have to be as complicated as it’s often made out to be -- dropping excess pounds is often as simple as getting active and eating right. Though cutting calories is an essential component of most successful weight-loss programs, the kind of food you choose to eat is also important. Rice -- an easily digested, gluten-free grain that’s relatively inexpensive and versatile in recipes -- can be a good choice when you’re trying to lose weight, provided you choose the right kind.
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Stick With Brown Rice
Brown rice is a whole-grain food, meaning its bran, endosperm and nutrient-dense kernel have been left intact. Unlike refined grains, whole grains are a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Consuming nutrient-dense foods helps you meet your nutritional needs while restricting calories, and dietary fiber keeps you satiated without contributing additional calories, supporting your weight-loss efforts. A 2010 study published in Nutrition Research supported the notion that whole grains are good for weight control. The study, which examined the association between a whole-grain-rich diet and body weight, found that adults who include more whole grains in their diet generally weigh less than those who eat fewer whole grains.
You’ll get about 220 calories and almost 4 grams of dietary fiber from a 1-cup serving of medium-grain brown rice; a cup of wild rice, which is also a whole grain, provides about 170 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Both are a good source of iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B-6, thiamine and niacin.
Steer Clear of White Rice
Whether you’re looking to lose weight or prevent weight gain, white rice isn’t a good choice for your daily diet. That’s because white rice is a refined grain, stripped of its bran, endosperm and kernel. The effect it has on your body is much the same as that of traditional pasta, white bread or even a cookie -- it’s digested and absorbed quickly, causing your blood sugar levels to rise rapidly and your insulin to respond proportionately. This is partly why refined grains are less satiating than whole grains -- the elevated blood sugar levels and insulin response caused by eating them can lead to hunger spikes. These spikes make it hard to control your caloric intake and may even put you at risk of weight gain.
If you need another good reason to avoid white rice, here it is. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found that adults whose diets are rich in refined grains are more likely to carry excess abdominal fat, the kind that’s been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other significant health problems.
You’ll get about 240 calories and no dietary fiber from a 1-cup serving of medium-grain white rice. The refined grain only contains trace amounts of the vitamins and minerals found in brown rice.
Practice Portion Control
Despite its benefits, rice could easily derail your diet because it’s relatively easy to eat too much. Whether brown rice is your favorite whole-grain side dish or your go-to for grain-based dishes, it’s important to keep in mind that not practicing portion control with rice may significantly boost your caloric intake. The standard size for a single serving of brown rice is 1 cup. If you cover your plate with rice, you may be eating as much as 440 calories worth in one meal. If your diet plan calls for sticking to about 1,600 calories a day, a double serving of rice accounts for nearly 30 percent of the day’s calories.
Make Healthy Rice Dishes
If plain brown rice doesn’t appeal to you, be sure that how you prepare your rice doesn’t sabotage your weight-loss plans. Risotto, a creamy Italian rice dish, can be significantly higher in calories and fat because it’s made with wine, butter and cheese. Fried rice, a take-out food staple, can also be substantially higher in calories and fat, as well as sodium.
Try using lemon or lime juice to jazz up plain brown rice, or fold in some chopped fresh herbs or greens -- cilantro, basil and arugula are as nutritious as they are flavorful. Use healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients when making multi-ingredient rice-based salads, but be aware that even healthy ingredients can significantly boost a dish’s caloric content. A cold brown rice salad made with avocado, pine nuts, olive oil and salmon may be appetizing and healthy, but it’s also a calorically dense meal that should be portioned out mindfully.
- Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains A to Z
- Harvard Health Publications: Reaping Gains from Grains
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Food and Diet
- Nutrition Research: Whole Grain and Fiber Consumption Are Associated With Lower Body Weight Measures in US Adults -- National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Whole- and Refined-Grain Intakes Are Differentially Associated with Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults -- The Framingham Heart Study
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Rice, Brown, Medium-Grain, Cooked
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Rice, Wild, Cooked
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Rice, White, Medium-Grain, Cooked, Unenriched