The amount of carbs in rice is much higher compared to its protein content. White rice, in particular, is loaded with refined carbohydrates and has little fiber. Brown rice, wild rice and quinoa are a healthier choice, offering more protein and fiber per serving.
White rice contains a modest amount of plant-based protein. The downside is that it's low in fiber and high in simple carbs, which may lead to blood sugar spikes.
White Rice Protein and Calories
If you're a regular gym-goer, you probably know that white rice is rich in carbs. That's why many athletes consume it post-workout when the body needs a quick source of fuel to replenish its glycogen stores. Even so, there are healthier sources of carbs available.
Read more: 16 Diet-Friendly Healthful Carbs
White rice also contains small amounts of protein, fat, fiber and micronutrients, including iron and zinc. Here's a quick breakdown of its nutritional content per serving (a half-cup, cooked), as reported by the USDA:
- 103 calories
- 2.1 g of protein
- 22.3 g of carbs
- 0.2 g of fat
- 5 percent of the DV (daily value) of iron
- 4 percent of the DV of zinc
- 3 percent of the DV of phosphorus
- 2 percent of the DV of magnesium
- 16 percent of the DV of manganese
The daily recommended allowance of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. But that's the minimum amount, not what you're supposed to eat, notes Harvard Health Publishing. Instead, try to consume up to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram per day. This nutrient should account for 15 to 25 percent of your daily energy intake.
Each gram of protein supplies 4 calories, according to the USDA. Therefore, if your diet provides 2,000 calories per day, you should aim for 75 to 125 grams of protein or more, depending on your activity level.
White rice protein is negligible. Cooked brown rice, by comparison, provides 2.3 grams of protein and 109 calories per serving. The same amount of wild rice delivers 3.3 grams of protein and 83 calories. Quinoa is even higher in this nutrient, with 4.1 grams of protein and 11 calories per serving.
Is White Rice Good for You?
White rice calories are not a reason for concern. What you should worry about is white rice's carb content. A March 2012 systemic review featured in BMJ has linked white rice consumption to an increased risk of diabetes, especially in Asian populations.
Another review, which was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in October 2013, suggests that whole grains, but not refined grains, may protect against diabetes. White rice may increase the risk of developing this condition. Researchers recommend swapping refined grains for whole grains to reduce your chances of getting diabetes.
The problem with white rice is that it contains simple carbs that go straight into your bloodstream, causing insulin and blood sugar spikes. Unlike brown rice, this grain has the bran and germ removed. Many nutrients, including fiber and B-complex vitamins, are lost during processing, explains Harvard Health Publishing.
Dietary fiber slows down carbohydrate absorption into your system and may lower the risk of diabetes. White rice is low in fiber, with less than 0.3 grams per serving.
All in all, this grain isn't inherently bad. Despite being low in protein and fiber, it's still a better choice than fries, potato chips, cookies and breakfast cereals.
Your overall diet matters too. The carbs in white rice are unlikely to affect your health when consumed in small amounts. If, say, you eat rice once a week or so, it probably won't make any difference.
As far as protein content goes, there are better options than white rice to choose from. Fish, lean meat, eggs, low-fat dairy, legumes, whole grains and seeds are significantly higher in protein.
Read more: 13 Surprising Vegetarian Sources of Protein
A half-cup of dry oats, for example, boasts over 13 grams of protein and 8.3 grams of fiber — that's one serving. Cooked kidney beans, by comparison, offer 7.7 grams of protein and 5.7 grams of fiber per serving (a half-cup). Chickpeas, green peas, pumpkin seeds and sweet potatoes are all higher in protein and fiber compared to white rice.
- Center for Young Women's Health: "Sports and Nutrition: Fueling Your Performance"
- USDA: "Rice White Long-Grain Regular Enriched Cooked"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day?"
- USDA: "How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?"
- USDA: "Cooked Brown Rice"
- USDA: "Cooked Wild Rice"
- USDA: "Cooked Quinoa"
- BMJ: "White Rice Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review"
- European Journal of Epidemiology: "Whole Grain and Refined Grain Consumption and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Dose–Response Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Rice"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- USDA: "Uncooked Oats"
- USDA: "Cooked Kidney Beans"