What Type of Rice is Healthiest?

Short-grain, long-grain, basmati, brown. What are the nutritional differences between all the different types of rice?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #90

What are the Nutritional Differences in Rice?

Brown rice is a whole grain, meaning that both the germ and the bran parts of the grain have been preserved. In white rice, these have been polished away. As a result, brown rice is higher in magnesium and other minerals. It also has more fiber. For example, a cup of white long-grain rice contains just one gram of fiber, whereas a cup of brown rice contains four. As a point of reference, you’re shooting for between 25 and 30 grams of fiber each day.

One of the things fiber does for you is slow down the speed at which carbohydrates are converted into blood sugar. Said another way, fiber lowers the “glycemic load” of a food. When you’re talking about glycemic load, lower is better.

How Does White Rice Affect Blood Sugar?

Although some types of rice have a lower glycemic load than others, no type of rice can really be considered a low glycemic food.

As a general rule, brown rice has a lower glycemic load than white rice. But there are other factors that come into play as well. Long-grain rice has a lower glycemic load than short-grain rice. Of all the long-grain rice, basmati seems to have the lowest glycemic load of all.   So, in terms of glycemic load, the best choice would appear to be brown basmati rice, with short-grain white rice at the other end of the spectrum. 

What’s the Serving Size of Rice?

But before you start stressing out over whether white basmati might outrank brown short-grain, I think you need to put these differences in perspective. Although some types of rice have a lower glycemic load than others, no type of rice can really be considered a low glycemic food. That’s why it’s important to exercise some portion control—no matter what kind of rice you’re eating. A serving of cooked rice is one cup, or about the size of your fist.  

For guidelines on how many servings of different kinds of food you should eat, see my article on keeping your diet on track.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.