If you have hypertension and are a fan of rice — in your favorite sushi, burritos, rice bowls and more — you may be wondering how it affects your blood pressure. While there's no direct evidence white rice raises blood pressure, whole grains like brown rice are the better choice for heart health.
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Read more: Nutritional Values of White Rice Vs. Brown Rice
According to Mayo Clinic, grains like rice serve as a good source of complex carbs, which pack essential vitamins (especially B vitamins) and minerals like iron, folate and more. However, it is important to note that not all grains are created equal. Whole grains, specifically, reign supreme when it comes to your health due to their nutrient-dense nature.
In addition to being more nutritious for you, whole grains are also richer in fiber than their non-whole-grain counterparts. Per Mayo Clinic, whole grains like brown rice retain all portions of the seed (the fiber-rich bran, germ and endosperm) — hence what makes them whole.
Refined grains like white rice, on the other hand, have been milled to have no bran or germ, Mayo Clinic says. As a result, your bowl of white rice may have a softer texture, but it is also less nutritious, with less fiber, protein and overall nutrient content than its brown rice counterpart.
Rice and Blood Pressure
If you have hypertension or want to lower your blood pressure, the fiber content of your whole-grain food selections like brown rice is crucial. According to an April 2016 review in Food & Function, higher-fiber whole grains help lower blood pressure.
In line with those findings, over 200 clinical trials and other studies examined for a February 2019 meta-analysis in the Lancet found that higher fiber diets corresponded to significantly lower systolic blood pressure when compared to diets with lower fiber intake.
Mayo Clinic agrees, recommending specifically that you eat more fiber, like that in brown rice, for such benefits as:
- Overall heart health.
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Reduced inflammation.
- Weight management.
- Blood sugar control.
Implementing whole grain rice varieties like wild rice and brown rice can be an important part of that recipe for total wellness, explains Mayo Clinic.
Beyond fiber content alone, brown rice is a better choice when it comes to your blood pressure, according to New York City-area private practice dietitian Christa Brown, MS, RDN, because it "has potassium and magnesium as part of its composition."
Likewise, a September 2016 review in the Iranian Journal of Kidney Diseases indicates that both potassium and magnesium are significant nutrients in preventing and treating high blood pressure.
And because brown rice, per USDA, has more than double the potassium and more than triple the magnesium of white rice (based on USDA nutritional info), it serves as a smart swap if you are looking to increase these essential minerals in your diet.
Whole Grains for Heart Health
Beyond keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range, regularly consuming whole grains may also improve overall health.
According to a June 2016 meta-analysis of 45 studies in the BMJ, intakes of such whole grains as whole grain bread, breakfast cereals and added bran were associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease and all-mortality causes. However, the same meta-analysis found little to no evidence that supported this positive health association with white rice and refined grains.
The bottom line, per the Mayo Clinic: To increase your intake of whole grain foods, swapping out some of those staple white rice portions (as well as white varieties of bread, pasta, tortillas, etc.) for whole grain alternatives like brown rice and whole grain bread can pave the way to better heart and overall health.
Read more: Is Rice Good or Bad for You?
Is This an Emergency?
- BMJ: “Whole Grain Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Cause and Cause Specific Mortality: Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies”
- Christa Brown, RDN, private-practice dietitian, New York City area
- Food & Function: “Dietary Fiber and Blood Pressure Control”
- Iranian Journal of Kidney Diseases: “Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent and Control Hypertension”
- Lancet: “Carbohydrate Quality and Human Health: A Series of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses”
- Mayo Clinic: “Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet”
- Mayo Clinic: “Whole Grains: Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet”
- USDA: “Rice, Brown, Cooked, No Added Fat”
- USDA: "Rice, White, Cooked, No Added Fat"