If you're trying to figure out the best way to cook rice, here's a comparison of steamed rice, boiled rice and parboiled rice. The calories, nutrition and texture vary according to the cooking method.
Steamed vs. Boiled Rice
Rice is a staple food in many countries, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; however, different cuisines cook it differently. Steamed rice, which is popular in Chinese cuisine, for example, primarily cooks by absorbing water that has vaporized into steam, resulting in a stickier form of rice.
Boiled rice, on the other hand, is submerged in water while it cooks. Indian, Middle Eastern and Persian cuisines favor basmati rice, which is typically boiled and is both firmer and fluffier when cooked.
The texture of the rice also depends on the length of the grain; the Harvard T.H. Chan School notes that while long-grain rice tends to produce firmer, separated grains of rice, short- and medium-grain varieties of rice tend to produce stickier rice. The more starch the rice has, the stickier its consistency when cooked.
Steamed Rice Nutrition
Just 1 cup of steamed rice contains, per the USDA:
- 205 calories
- 0.4 g fat
- 1.6 mg sodium
- 44.5 g carbs
- 0.6 g fiber
- 0.1 g sugar
- 4.3 g protein
Nearly 90 percent of the calories in cooked rice come from carbs.
Boiled rice is sometimes cooked in more water than it requires; afterward, the excess water is drained and thrown away, which can result in less starch and water-soluble nutrients in the rice. Soaking or rinsing rice before cooking it can also cause some of the starch to drain away, per Ricepedia. Starch is a type of carbohydrate found in grains, beans and potatoes and is the primary type of carb in white rice.
While white rice has barely any fat and minimal protein, it does have some nutrients like potassium, folate, phosphorus, magnesium and iron, especially if it has been enriched. The refining process strips white rice of its bran and germ layers, which are rich in fiber and nutrients, respectively.
However, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that some manufacturers add back some of the iron and B vitamins to the rice. These enriched varieties of rice have less nutrients than unrefined brown rice, as only a fraction of the nutrition is added back, but they have more nutrition than unenriched white rice.
Parboiled Rice Nutrition Facts
Parboiled rice, also called converted rice, is nutrient-dense.
During processing, manufacturers soak and steam the rice kernels under intense pressure. Many of the nutrients from the rigid outer hull go right in to the inner part of the kernel, and the hull falls off. The end result, parboiled rice, is packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals and has a lower glycemic index than white rice.
You'll get a big portion of your day's B vitamins by enjoying a side of enriched parboiled rice. The B vitamins work in unison to break down the food you eat and turn it into energy, a process known as metabolism, per Harvard Health Publishing.
They also help your body make blood cells, aid in message transmission from your brain and protect brain cells.
A 1/2 cup of parboiled rice has:
- 28% DV thiamin (B1)
- 23% DV niacin (B3)
- 10% DV vitamin B5
- 32% DV folate (B9)
Parboiled rice will give you small amounts of several minerals, although a 1/2 cup cooked portion has less than 10 percent of your DV of these vitamins. You'll get a small amount of iron, which helps carry oxygen in your blood.
Parboiled rice offers trace amounts of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, to help keep your teeth and bones strong. Parboiled rice adds a touch of potassium and sodium to your diet — these two minerals play major roles in regulating the fluid balance between cells, as well as supporting your heart and muscle functions.
Rice on the Glycemic Index
Most carbohydrate-containing foods have a glycemic index rating. This scale ranks foods based on how they affect your blood sugar. The higher the score, 70 or above, the more likely it is to cause your blood sugar to go up.
Moderate GI scoring foods have a rating of 55 to 69, while foods low on the scale have a rank of less than 55. Generally, the lower the rating, the less of an impact the food has on your blood sugar.
- White rice is highly likely to make your blood sugar skyrocket, as it has an index score of 89.
- Brown rice has a more moderate effect, due to its rating of 50.
- Parboiled rice has a score of 56 to 69
How to Cook Rice the Healthy Way
If you're trying to cut down on your carbohydrate or calorie intake, wash the rice a few times until the water runs clear, boil it and drain away the excess water when you're done to get rid of some of the starch. However, this method is not ideal, because it causes boiled rice to lose its nutrition.
Alternatively, you can steam the rice or boil it with the exact amount of water required, in order to help the boiled rice retain its nutrition. You can also opt for a combination of the two methods, where you boil it first and then switch off the heat to let it steam.
Opting for any of these three methods can help preserve the nutrients in the rice. If you're eating white rice, make sure you opt for an enriched variety, since that has more nutrition than regular white rice.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Rice”
- USDA: “Rice, White, Long-Grain, Regular, Enriched, Cooked”
- USDA: “Rice, White, Steamed, Chinese Restaurant”
- Ricepedia: “Cooking Methods”
- American Diabetes Association: “Get to Know Carbs”
- USDA: "Rice White Short-Grain Raw Unenriched"
- USDA: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. - Enriched Parboiled Rice"