That soft noodle filling the bowl of your Vietnamese noodle bowl is not spaghetti but vermicelli rice noodles. These noodles, made from ground rice, are found throughout Asia and are used in a number of different cuisines including Thai and Chinese, in addition to Vietnamese. Nutritionally, the vermicelli rice noodle is calorie-dense and high in carbs, but almost fat-free and low in sodium.
Rice Noodles Calories
With 214 calories in a 56-gram— or 2-ounce — serving, vermicelli rice noodles are a high-energy-dense food. Energy density refers to the number of calories a food contains compared to its weight. The vermicelli noodle contains 3.8 calories per gram; compare that to a low-energy-dense food such as broccoli, which has 0.5 calories per gram.
High-energy-dense foods are not as filling as low-energy-dense foods, and if you're not careful you might eat more calories than you intended. Eating the noodles as part of a broth-based soup, such as the Vietnamese pho, can help fill you up so you eat fewer noodles.
Carbs in Rice Noodles
Most of the calories in the vermicelli rice noodles come from carbs. A 2-ounce serving contains 47 grams of carbs. As your primary source of energy, carbs should provide most of your day's calories — 45 to 65 percent.
While the noodles are a good source of carbohydrates, they are not a good source of fiber, a type of carb your body cannot digest. One serving provides only 1 gram. Fiber prevents constipation and may help reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Read more: A Complete Guide to Complex Carbohydrates
Fat and Cholesterol Free
Vermicelli rice noodles contain a negligible amount of fat and no cholesterol. Fat is an essential nutrient your body uses as a source of energy and to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Most of the fat in your diet should come from unsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil and avocados. Fried foods are a source of trans fat, which increases the risk of heart disease. So when ordering your noodles, it's healthier to order them soft instead of fried.
Incomplete Source of Protein
The noodles contain 3 grams of protein per 2-ounce serving. Because the noodles are made from rice, they do not contain all of the essential amino acids, making them an incomplete source of protein. But you can meet your daily protein needs eating other foods throughout the day, even if they are nonmeat sources, such as other grains, beans or vegetables.
Read more: What Do Salt & Sugar Do to Your Body?
Low in Sodium
Getting too much sodium in your diet increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. When trying to limit the sodium in your diet, vermicelli rice noodles make a good choice as long as you combine them with other low-sodium foods. A 2-ounce serving contains 10 milligrams of sodium. Limit your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Low-Energy Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Broccoli, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, With Salt"
- American Heart Association: "Sodium"
- USDA Food Composition Database: "Rice Vermicelli"
- USDA Dietary Guidelines: "Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"