Rice is a dietary staple in many countries around the world, and it provides a number of essential nutrients, including fiber and B vitamins. Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as rice, are often linked to weight gain, but, at least in the case of rice, some research shows that it isn't likely to make you fat. Any food eaten to excess can cause weight gain, however, so watch your serving sizes.
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Rice Calories and Nutrition
You'll save calories and get more fiber if you choose brown rice over the more refined white rice. A 1-cup serving of cooked white rice has about 242 calories, 4 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fiber. The same amount of cooked brown rice has 218 calories, 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, which is 14 percent of the daily value for fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, making it easier to eat less and lose weight. Regardless of the type of rice you choose, it provides significant amounts of the B vitamins thiamine and niacin, as well as manganese. Many types of white rice are fortified to provide extra folic acid, and brown rice is a good source of vitamin B-6.
Rice and Weight Gain
People who eat rice are more likely to have slightly lower body weights and smaller waist circumference measurements than people who don't, according to a study published in the FASEB Journal in 2008. This study was at least partially funded by the USA Rice Federation, however, so further research is necessary to back up these findings.
Choose brown rice over white rice, as it may be better for limiting weight gain. People who ate brown rice lost slightly more weight than those who consumed white rice in a study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2014. These potential weight loss benefits may be due to the type of protein found in rice. In a study done on rats, researchers concluded that a protein in rice may change how the body burns fats to help decrease body weight. This study was published in Lipids in Health and Disease in 2012, but further research is needed in humans before conclusions can be drawn.
Fitting Rice Into a Healthy Diet
While rice may be healthy and not necessarily linked to weight gain, your overall diet is more important than any one food item when it comes to staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight. Increasing the amount of protein in your diet and decreasing the overall amount of carbohydrates may help you feel full and lose weight better than a diet that's higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2003.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends dividing your plate equally between lean protein foods, fruits, vegetables and starchy foods, such as brown rice. Women should eat about 5 to 6 ounces of grains per day, and men should eat 6 to 8 ounces, with at least half coming from whole grains. An ounce of rice is equal to 1/2 cup of cooked rice.
On days when you don't eat rice, consider eating 100 percent whole-grain bread. People who ate meals containing bread felt fuller after eating than those who ate rice or pasta in a study published in Hospital Nutrition in 2011. Other good whole grain options include oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat or bulgur.
Potential Safety Considerations
Even if eating a serving or so of rice per day doesn't make you fat, you shouldn't get all of your carbohydrates in the form of rice. Rice is often contaminated with at least small amounts of the heavy metal arsenic, which can increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems, according to research published in Consumer Reports in 2014. The article recommends limiting consumption of rice and rice products to minimize exposure, for example, eating no more than 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice per week if you don't consume any other rice products and less rice if you also eat other rice-based products.