You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy white rice. It’s versatile, comforting, and can absorb any flavor you throw at it. Whether it’s the base of a burrito bowl or wrapped into one, rolled into your favorite fresh sushi, or just used as a side item to your favorite vegetable and protein dish, this grain is truly loved by many. However, knowing that it’s more processed than other types of rice, many rice lovers may be questioning its nutritional value and asking the important question: Is white rice healthy?
A loaded question, it has many complex answers. On the one hand, white rice is low in fat and reasonably low in calories, and it can be used in various healthy dishes. Conversely, white rice undergoes a good amount of processing, where the bran, germ, and husk are removed—and most of its fiber and nutrients along with it.
In order to learn more about the potential benefits and risks of eating this popular grain, we recruited the help of a few expert dietitians. Read on, and for more on your favorite carbohydrates, check out 6 Healthiest Breads to Eat for Weight Loss, Dietitians Say.
A look at the nutrition info
4 benefits of white rice
According to Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements, white rice “is a high-carbohydrate food that provides a quick and easily digestible source of energy, and it can be particularly beneficial for individuals engaging in physical activities or needing a quick energy boost.”
Carbohydrates naturally provide your body with energy whenever you eat them, but the specific effect it has depends on the type of carb. For instance, refined sugars and grains are going to be absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream because they lack fiber, meaning you may get an immediate boost of energy, but you may feel a crash later on. Whole grains and other complex carbs—like starchy vegetables or legumes—will give you slower, more sustained energy. So, white rice can provide you with an “energy boost,” but it may not last as long as if you were to eat brown rice or another whole grain.
3 downsides to white rice
One healthy benefit of white rice is that it is entirely gluten-free, “making it suitable for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease,” says Best. “It can be a valuable staple for those following a gluten-free diet and seeking alternative grain options.”
However, if you’re someone who needs to avoid gluten for medical reasons, you may want to talk with your doctor or dietitian before incorporating white rice. There may be better gluten-free grain options for your specific health needs.
As we mentioned earlier, white rice is a processed grain, meaning many of the nutrients are stripped from the grain before its put on grocery store shelves. However, this type of rice still contains some macro and micronutrients that are helpful for your overall health.
“Despite its refined nature, white rice contains essential nutrients such as folate, thiamin, and iron, which contribute to overall nutritional intake,” says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD.
So, even though it has lower levels of nutrients than something like brown rice, not all is lost.
Again, a lot depends on what your specific health goals and nutritional needs are. Still, Sabat adds that white rice “is naturally low in fat and cholesterol, making it a suitable choice for individuals aiming to manage their weight or maintain heart health.”