There’s a reason why rice is one of the most consumed cereals in the world. That’s great versatile, and can be adapted to complement a wide range of flavor profiles and dishes. In addition, there are many varieties to choose from (over 120,000if you want to be technical!). Food & Wine reports that rice accounts for one-fifth of total calories consumed worldwide.
White rice, also known as enriched rice, is one of the most popular types. White rice is refined rice, meaning it has been ground to remove the outer husk, bran layers, and germ. Despite its prevalence, white rice tends to get a bad rap due to the way it’s processed, especially compared to its more nutritious whole-grain cousin, Brown rice. You may have heard that white rice is a “bad carb” or a source of empty calories. However, is it worth doing without it altogether?
We spoke with Lauren ManagerMS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPTauthor of First Time Mom Pregnancy Cookbook, The 7 Ingredient Healthy Pregnancy Cookbookand Fueling Male Fertilityat get the inside scoop on what eating white rice really does to your body. It turns out there are some surprising good and not so good side effects.
Looks like your Chipotle the drive won’t keep you overloaded and feel sluggish. If you add white rice, of course.
“White rice is a source of carbohydrates, which is your body’s main source of fuel,” says Manaker. “Additionally, many varieties of white rice, at least in the United States, are fortified with B vitamins which may also help support energy levels.”
According to research published in the journal, Nutrientsall the B vitaminswith the exception of folate, are involved in at least one stage (if not several) of the energy production system within the cell. That being said, getting a dose of every B vitamin is essential for gaining energy. And too little will limit your body’s energy production, which can potentially negatively impact your metabolism and overall health.
According to Manaker, arsenic is a trace mineral which, when consumed frequently and in large amounts, can lead to unpleasant health outcomes.
“Arsenic has been found in rice, so when you consume this grain, you may also be ingesting this element,” she says.
Although white rice is lower in arsenic than brown rice, it is still important to avoid consuming too much and to vary its grains. Some options that contain less arsenic and are worth trying are amaranth, quinoabulgur and farro.
You can also check to see if arsenic levels are lower or higher in the area where your rice was grown. For example, white basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan may contain less arsenic than other types of rice. Another example is sushi rice from the United States.
It turns out that eating white rice can provide major flexibility when it comes to bone health.
“We all know that calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for bone health,” Manaker says. “But a little-known nutrient for bone health, manganese, is found in white rice.”
“Although more data is needed, some studies suggest a link between consumption of white rice and the risk of metabolic syndrome,” Manaker says.
According to Mayo Clinic, “metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.” Conditions include high blood sugarexcess body fat around the waist, increased blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
A study published in the Asian heart suggested that those who ate the most white rice were associated with a 30% higher risk of metabolic syndrome. Even if it’s not serious, it’s still quite important. So if you’re at risk for any of these conditions, consider replacing the white rice with something else.
Kayla Garritano is a staff writer for Eat This, Not That! She graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and earned a double minor in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more