Which Whole Grain Is Healthier, Brown Rice or Oatmeal?

Both brown rice and oatmeal are whole-grain foods that make up part of a healthy diet. They're unrefined, meaning the fiber and nutrients haven't been stripped away through processing. You'll get calories, carbohydrates and a small amount of vegetarian protein from eating either brown rice or oatmeal. They also supply you with essential vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron.

Is brown rice or oatmeal healthier for you? (Image: Arx0nt/iStock/GettyImages)

Calories, Fat and Protein

When it comes to brown rice vs. oats, these two differ in their calorie content. One cup of cooked brown rice provides 216 calories, while one cup of cooked oats provides 145. That means eating a serving of oatmeal as opposed to rice saves you 71 calories.

However, even though they differ in calories, rice and oatmeal provide comparable amounts of fat and protein. Brown rice has two grams of fat and five grams of protein, and oats have two grams of fat and six grams of protein.

Carbohydrate Content

The calorie difference of brown rice vs. oats comes from the amount of carbohydrates they contain. A serving of rice gives you 45 grams of carbohydrate while a serving of oats gives you only 25 grams.

If you have diabetes or are following a low-carbohydrate diet or reduced carbohydrate meal plan, oats better help you to stay within your daily carb limit. A serving of either grain also provides you with about four grams of dietary fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate that aids in digestion, cholesterol regulation and weight management.

Vitamins Supplied

Your body relies on an adequate intake of vitamins to support various aspects of your overall health. Eating both brown rice and oats helps you meet your daily need for the B vitamins thiamine, niacin and B-6.

However, rice provides more niacin and B-6 than oats, while oats have more thiamine than rice. These B vitamins play a role in energy metabolism and muscle, nerve and heart function. They also help maintain the health of your skin, immune system and digestive system.

Essential Minerals

You'll also get essential minerals from eating brown rice and oats. Both contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium. Oats contain double the iron that rice has. In addition, breakfast cereals made with oats are often fortified, meaning they contain added iron.

However, brown rice is slightly higher in the minerals magnesium and manganese, which play a role in muscle and nerve function, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, and the production of protein, connective tissues, hormones, bones and blood clotting factors.

Culinary Uses

Both brown rice and oatmeal require cooking to soften the grains. Covering one part grain with 1.5 to two parts water is adequate to hydrate both the grains. However, rice takes 45 minutes to one hour to cook, whereas regular, old fashioned oats take only about seven minutes to cook.

Once cooked, rice can be used as a side to savory entrees or mixed with vegetables, beans or meat as an entree itself. Oats are typically used as a hot breakfast cereal, in granola or in baking, such as in oatmeal bars.

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