Rice doesn't have to be your go-to side dish; a variety of other grains can serve a similar purpose. Many of these grains are nutritionally superior to either brown or white rice. Stick with familiar grains or try out some alternative grains to add more variety to your diet. These can be ordered online if they aren't available at your local supermarket.
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Higher Protein Options
Make your side more filling by choosing a higher-protein grain instead of rice. A 1-cup serving of white rice has 4.4 grams of protein, and brown rice has just slightly more with 4.5 grams. The same amount of couscous has 6 grams of protein, millet has 6.1 grams, quinoa has 8.1 grams and amaranth has 9.3 grams per cup.
Higher Fiber Choices
Fiber helps fill you up without a lot of calories, making it easier to control your blood sugar. It also helps lower your risk for heart disease, cancer and digestive conditions such as constipation and hemorrhoids. Each cup of white rice has just 0.6 gram of fiber, and a cup of brown rice has 3.5 grams, or 14 percent of the daily value of 25 grams. Amaranth and quinoa each contain 5.2 grams per cup, and the same amount of barley provides 6 grams.
Better Sources of Micronutrients
A serving of white rice has more than 10 percent of the daily value for thiamine, niacin, folate, iron, manganese and selenium. Brown rice isn't fortified like many types of white rice, so it often contains less iron and folate, but it is a better source of vitamin B-6, magnesium and phosphorus. Millet has more zinc, copper and phosphorus than either type of rice, and significant amounts of thiamine, niacin, magnesium and selenium. Quinoa has more manganese, phosphorus, zinc and copper than either type of rice, and provides significant amounts of iron, folate, vitamin B-6 thiamine and riboflavin. Amaranth is an even more nutrient-dense option, with more calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and copper than white or brown rice, and significant amounts of folate, vitamin B-6, selenium and magnesium.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends choosing whole grains at least half of the time because they're more nutritious than refined grains. Opt for whole-wheat couscous or brown rice instead of the refined grain version. You can also save time by choosing an alternative to rice. Couscous cooks in just five minutes, quinoa in 15 minutes and amaranth in 20 minutes. Millet takes a bit longer, requiring 25 to 30 minutes, but this is still faster than the 40 minutes it takes to make brown rice.