White Rice for Weight Loss

Bowl of rice with chopsticks
Bowl of white rice. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

While the high-protein diet craze pushed carbohydrates to the sidelines, the truth is that carbs have a place in a healthy diet. Your brain runs on glucose -- a form of sugar -- and carbs also serve as the primary fuel for other tissues, including your muscles. The key is to choose healthy carbs that are likely to keep you satisfied and full as they fuel your healthy lifestyle. White rice isn't ideal for weight loss, but it can be eaten as an occasional treat.

Calories in White Rice

Based strictly on its calorie content, white rice isn't terrible for a weight loss diet. A cup of cooked long-grain white rice has 202 calories -- a moderate amount, and roughly 13 percent of your calorie "budget" if you're following a 1,500-calorie diet. That's about the same as a cup of long-grain brown rice, which has 216 calories. While white rice isn't as low in calories as other diet foods, like fruits and vegetables, you can likely still budget for it in your meal plan -- if you really enjoy it -- without exceeding your daily calorie intake.

White Rice's Effect on Hunger

Where white rice falls short, however, is its ability to fill you up. While it's not exceedingly high in calories, it won't keep you satisfied for long after your meal -- so you're more likely to either overeat out of hunger, or feel deprived and find it tougher to stick to your diet.

That's because white rice digests more quickly than its whole-grain counterparts, explains the Harvard School of Public Health. After you eat white rice, you'll experience a rapid increase in your blood sugar levels. That triggers the release of insulin, which lowers your blood sugar levels. But because this all happens so fast, your body can overcompensate, leading to low blood sugar levels that leave you feeling hungry. So you may feel more tempted to reach for a snack after eating white rice than if you'd eaten brown rice. Refined carbs, including white rice, are linked to weight gain over time, notes Harvard.

Drawbacks Compared to Brown Rice

White rice also has other weight-loss drawbacks compared to brown rice. It's lower in magnesium, a mineral that supports the healthy, active lifestyle you'll need to lose weight. Magnesium supports muscle function, and it also has an effect on blood sugar levels -- which may affect hunger -- reports a review published in Current Sports Medicine Reports in 2015. White rice has 5 percent of the daily value for magnesium per cup, compared to 21 percent for brown rice.

White rice is also lower in fiber. Dietary fiber slows down digestion, which means you're less hungry for longer after your meal, and it's also linked to weight loss, according to a 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. White rice has just 2 percent of your daily value for fiber per cup, while brown rice has 14 percent.

Healthier Substitutes for Weight Loss

If you don't like the flavor of plain brown rice, experiment with other whole grains to reap their weight loss benefits. Try using quinoa instead of white rice, or try wheat berries -- cooked whole wheat kernels -- amaranth or freekeh, a roasted green wheat with a slightly smokey flavor. Consider trying different types of brown rice as well, to see if one suits your taste. Jasmine and basmati brown rice each have their own unique flavor profiles and might be more appealing than general long-grain brown rice. Alternatively, pulse cauliflower in your food processor until it forms a rice-like texture, and use it as a base for stir-fries instead of rice to lower your calorie intake.

Making your "rice" from 2 cups of chopped cauliflower, instead of eating a cup of white rice, saves you 148 calories. If you made this switch twice a week for a year, you'd lose about 4.5 pounds of fat, not counting any weight lost from other lifestyle changes.

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