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White Rice & Cholesterol

author image Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.
White Rice & Cholesterol
A bowl of white rice on a table. Photo Credit: Miles Davies/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re concerned about high cholesterol or need to lower your current levels, white rice isn’t necessarily your best food choice. Although eating white rice in moderation might not drastically affect your cholesterol, high-fiber starches are more beneficial. If you love white rice, incorporate modest amounts in a heart-healthy meal plan that features plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based oils and lean protein foods.

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Research Study Findings

In women, eating white rice and other refined grains is associated with lower high-density lipoprotein -- or “good” -- cholesterol, according to a study published in 2014 in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.” Low HDL levels increase your risk for developing heart disease. In men, researchers found, those with higher percentages of their calorie intake from total carbohydrates had lower HDL levels. There were a total of 6,845 participants included in this study and all were between 30 and 65. Researchers obtained dietary information using the 24-hour recall method.

White vs. Brown Rice

Although eating white rice doesn’t necessarily mean your HDL cholesterol levels will be low, replacing white with brown rice -- or other whole-grain foods -- helps increase your total dietary fiber intake, which in turn reduces your risk for heart disease. For example, a cup of white rice provides less than 1 gram of fiber, but a cup of brown rice contains more than 3 grams of dietary fiber. To help keep dietary cholesterol levels in check, the American Heart Association suggests eating about 25 grams of fiber from foods daily.

Healthy Weight Management

Eating too much white rice -- or any food -- can lead to overweight and obesity, being obese increases your risk of high blood cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. Because protein increases satiety, boosting dietary protein -- found in low-fat dairy foods, lean meats, egg whites, soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds -- is often an effective weight-management strategy, according to a study published in 2012 in “Physiology and Behavior.” If you’re overweight or obese, losing just 10 pounds can reduce your low-density lipoprotein -- or bad -- cholesterol by 5 to 8 percent, notes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Institute of Medicine suggests obtaining 45 to 65 percent of your calories from carbs and 10 to 35 percent from protein.

Recommended Portions

The amount of rice and other grains you should eat daily depends on your daily calorie needs. Although whole grains are often a better choice than refined grains, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggests that it’s okay to eat up to 3 ounces of refined grains daily when consuming 2,000 calories per day. A 1-ounce portion from the grains group equals one-half cup of cooked white rice. Heart-healthy whole grain foods include brown rice, quinoa, basmati rice, oatmeal, bulgur, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereal and whole-grain barley.

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