A Comprehensive Guide to Rice: Nutrition Facts, How Brown Compares With White, How to Prepare It, and More

Medically Reviewed
a bowl of rice
Rice is naturally gluten free.Thinkstock

It’s one of the world’s most ancient crops — rice has been farmed for 8,000 years. And while cultivation started in China, it’s a modern-day dietary staple across nearly every continent, having been first produced in the late 1600s in the United States. (1) One reason: It grows in a variety of climates. Another: Rice is rife with nutrients.

Today, the rice under that stir-fry you made for dinner last night likely came from one of six states, including Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri. (1) Most of the rice produced is used for the dinner table, but you can also find it in processed foods, beer, and pet food. (1)

If there was one type of rice, things might get boring, but you can buy a variety. You’re probably most familiar with brown or white — and the iterations thereof, like basmati and arborio — but there’s also black, purple sticky, and red, all of which have their unique taste and potential health benefits. (2)

Brown vs. White Rice Nutrition Facts: Calories, Carbs, Vitamins, and Minerals

After brown rice is harvested, machines remove the tough husks. If the bran part of the rice remains on, you have brown rice, which is considered a whole grain. If it’s further processed to take off this bran (a rich source of nutrients), you’ll get white rice, which is then enriched with vitamins. (3) Here’s how brown and white rice stack up per 1 cup of cooked rice: (4,5)

Brown Rice

Calories: 248

Protein: 5.5 grams (g)

Fat: 2g

Carbohydrates: 52g

Fiber: 3g

Sugar: 0.5g

Iron: 1.13 milligrams (mg)

Thiamin (vitamin B1): 0.36mg

Niacin (vitamin B3): 5.17mg

Vitamin B6: 0.25mg

Magnesium: 79mg

Phosphorus: 208mg

White Rice

Calories: 205

Protein: 4.25g

Fat: 0.4g

Carbohydrates: 44.5g

Fiber: 0.6g

Sugar: 0.1g

Iron: 1.9mg

Thiamin (vitamin B1): 0.26mg

Niacin (vitamin B3): 2.33mg

Vitamin B6: 0.15mg

Magnesium: 19mg

Phosphorus: 68mg

Is Brown Rice Healthy? What the Research Says About Its Possible Health Benefits

You may be surprised to learn that brown rice actually has more calories and fat than white. While they’re pretty comparable in terms of protein, brown really shines in its fiber content. Because brown rice is still in its most natural form, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's?MyPlate?guidelines, it still contains the bran, which means brown rice?has five times the fiber of white. People who eat high-fiber diets may have a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and some types of cancer.

But 95 percent of the population in the United States doesn’t get enough fiber (the recommended daily intake, or RDI, is 25 g for women and 38 g for men), so you’re well served by incorporating brown rice into your diet as a whole-grain source, according to a paper published in November 2015 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (6) What’s more, eating brown rice is smart. People who ate at least two servings of brown rice per week decreased their risk for type 2 diabetes by 11 percent. A second finding, from a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine: Eating brown instead of white rice lowered the risk for the condition by up to 16 percent. (7)

Does Rice Help You Lose Weight? Or Gain Weight?

You may shy away from rice because of its high carb content, but there’s no reason to be scared of it — even if you want to lose weight. Eating more whole grains like brown rice is associated with maintaining a healthier weight. Indeed, one study published in March 2017 in the American Journal of Nutrition found that people who added whole grains to their diet for six weeks had a higher resting metabolism and didn’t absorb as many calories during digestion compared with those whose diets were based on refined grains. (8) The difference between the groups was 92 calories per day. This may be one reason why a diet that includes whole grains has been linked to fat loss, the researchers say.

Is Rice Okay for People With Diabetes?

While eating brown rice may help protect you from type 2 diabetes, it’s a different ballgame when you live with the condition. But you can definitely eat rice.

The American Diabetes Association recommends watching your portion sizes when you eat starchy foods like rice.

Its calories mainly come from carbohydrates, and the number of carbs you can eat at a meal is different for every person. Talk to your healthcare team to find out the amount you should aim for. (9)

Is Rice Gluten-Free? What to Know if You Have Celiac Disease

For those living with celiac disease, eating gluten-free is imperative for their health. If you have celiac, you can make rice a part of your gluten-free diet, as rice naturally contains no gluten. (10)

Even sticky rice — sometimes called “glutinous rice” — is also gluten-free. (11) That said, this only applies to plain rice. If yours comes in a box with a seasoning, that mix may contain ingredients that have gluten.

You’ll also want to check with the chef when you’re at a restaurant to make sure nothing is added to the rice that would have gluten.

Another tip: Buy rice that is labeled gluten-free; even rice in bulk bins can be cross-contaminated with other grains, warns the advocacy group Beyond Celiac. (11)

How Else Is Rice Used? Rice Bran, Rice Bran Oil, Rice Milk, and More

Rice is used to make a variety of products, including:

Rice Bran Rich in nutrients, 2 tablespoons contain 3 g of fiber and 2 g of protein, and is an excellent source of minerals, like iron and magnesium. (12)

Rice Bran Oil This oil has a high smoke point, making it good for higher-heat cooking. (13) Beauty brands also add rice extracts to moisturizing facial products, like Rice Dry Oil from Fresh.

Rice Milk If you’re looking for a nondairy milk, consider rice milk. Per cup, it supplies 113 calories, 2 g of fat, and 22 g of carbohydrates. (14) It’s lower in protein than dairy milk (only about?? g), so it’s not a proper substitute. Remember to buy unsweetened versions — you’ll get a slightly sweet flavor from the rice without the added sugar anyway.

Red Yeast Rice In the United States, red yeast rice is most commonly used as a cholesterol-lowering supplement made from fermenting rice with yeast. (15) It can interact with other cholesterol-lowering medication, specifically Mevacor (lovastatin), to cause side effects, so talk to your doctor before using red yeast rice.

Brown Rice Pasta
If you’re gluten- or wheat-free for any reason but still want to enjoy pasta, go for brown-rice pasta, which is made with brown rice, rice bran, and water. It’s comparable to regular pasta with one serving containing 242 calories, 49 g of carbohydrates, 5 g of protein, and 2 g of fiber. (16) A cup of whole-wheat spaghetti, on the other hand, has 184 calories, 37 g of carbohydrates, 7 g of protein, and 5 g of fiber. (17)

How to Select and Store Rice for the Best Quality

At the store, you’ll have a lot of choices when it comes to rice. Traditional dried rice will come in a bag, box, or in the bulk aisle, and it takes the longest to cook. There’s also instant rice (like Minute Rice), which takes as little as five minutes to prepare. Another option is to purchase ready-made rice, which comes in a small bag that you pop in the microwave to steam for about 90 seconds.

When storing dry, uncooked rice, you can keep the white variety indefinitely in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. Dry, uncooked brown rice lasts three to six months in the pantry, 6 to 12 months in the fridge, and 12 to 18 months in the freezer. (18)

The benefit to storing in the fridge or freezer is that it helps keep bugs (yep, gross) out of your rice. Otherwise, keep it in a cool, dry area unopened in the original bag or in an airtight container. Cooked rice should be tossed after six days, max. (18)

How to Cook Perfect Rice in Your Home Kitchen

To cook great rice, all you need is to have the ratio of water to rice down:

Cooking White Basmati Rice

For every ? cup of dry basmati (white) rice (which makes two to three servings), add ? cup of water or broth and bring to a boil. (19) Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on, then remove the pot from the heat and let sit 10 minutes.

Cooking Brown Basmati Rice

For brown basmati rice, you’ll use a ratio of ? cup rice to 1 cup water. Simmer for 40 minutes then let sit off heat for another 10. Fluff with a fork. (20)

General Tips for Cooking Rice

Cooking times vary depending on what type of rice you’re making, so read the package directions first. Many people swear by rice cookers, an appliance that effortlessly cooks rice perfectly every time.

Another way to boil rice? You can also “pasta cook” rice, which is handy for times when you just don’t feel like measuring. (Another plus: no stuck-on rice on the bottom of the pot.) Simply boil a large pot of water, add your rice, and simmer. Check the rice for doneness sooner than you would normally, this method tends to cook rice faster. Drain and serve. This works with most kinds of rice, but it will remove some of the nutrients on enriched varieties (usually white). (21)

Arsenic in Rice and Other Health Risks of the Pantry Staple

One possible concern with eating rice is that in the typical diet it’s the top source of exposure to arsenic, a substance naturally found in the soil. As crops like rice grow, they can absorb arsenic. Long-term exposure to high levels is linked with certain types of cancer. (21)

But you don’t have to swear off rice. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that rice can be eaten safely in the context of a varied diet — and this goes for adults as well as infants who may be fed rice cereal. (In that instance, rotating between other cereals, like oat and barley, is smart.) If you’re concerned, “pasta cooking” rice will remove up to 60 percent of the arsenic. (21)

Frequently Asked Questions About Rice and the Answers

For fast facts about rice, look no further than this list below:

Q: Does rice have gluten?

A: No, rice is naturally gluten-free. But if you need to avoid gluten for a medical reason, buy rice labeled certified gluten-free to avoid possible cross-contamination. (11)

Q: What are potential red yeast rice side effects?

A: If you are taking a red yeast rice product that contains monacolin K (a cholesterol-lowering chemical) and the statin lovastatin, side effects include muscle pain and weakness, rhabdomyolysis (a potentially life-threatening condition), and liver toxicity. Another concern: Research has found that almost 40 percent of red yeast supplements were contaminated with a substance called citrinin, which can cause kidney damage in animals. (15) Talk to your doctor before taking a red yeast rice product.

Q: Is brown rice better than white rice?

A: Brown and white rice contain a similar number of calories (248 vs. 205), carbs (52 vs. 44.5), and protein (5.5 vs. 4.25). But because it’s a whole grain, brown rice contains more fiber than white, making it a good choice if you typically fall short of the digestion- and weight-friendly nutrient. (4,5)

Q: Is brown rice good for you?

A: Both brown and white rice may be a healthy choice, depending on your goals and health concerns. But in general, rice eaters tend to have healthier diets overall, according to an article published in March 2014 in the journal Scientific Research. (22) These people tend to have higher intakes of fiber, folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium, as well as fruits and vegetables. They also typically eat less saturated fat and added sugars. The bottom line: If you want to eat rice, you don’t have to go for lower-carb substitutes like “cauliflower rice.” A scoop under a curry or stir-fry or served alongside a piece of fish or chicken can make for a healthy, well-balanced, nutrient-rich meal.

Brown Rice Top Sellers on Amazon

Interested in making brown rice a staple on your plate? Here are the top five best-selling dried brown rice products on Amazon:

  • Nishiki Premium Brown Rice;?$16.47 for a 15-lb bag; Amazon
  • Lotus Foods Rice Ramen Noodles; $17.39 for a pack of 10; Amazon
  • Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice; $20.75 for a pack of 6; Amazon
  • Lundberg Wild Blend; $11.84 for a 4-lb bag;?Amazon
  • 365 Everyday Value Brown Rice; $3.99 for 2-lb bag; Amazon

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking


  1. History of Rice Cultivation. Ricepedia.
  2. Rice of Many Colors. Oldways Whole Grains Council. September 27, 2017.
  3. How is Rice Grown? USA Rice.
  4. Rice, Brown, Long-Grain, Cooked. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
  5. Rice, White, Long-Grain, Regular, Enriched, Cooked. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
  6. Dahl WJ, Stewart ML. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. November 2015.
  7. Sun Q, Spiegelman D, van Dam RM. White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women. Archives of Internal Medicine. June 2010.
  8. Karl JP, Meydani M, Barnett JB. Substituting Whole Grains for Refined Grains in a 6-wk Randomized Trial Favorably Affects Energy-Balance Metrics in Healthy Men and Postmenopausal Women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. March 2017.
  9. Diabetes Myths. American Diabetes Association. July 5, 2017.
  10. What Can I Eat? Celiac Disease Foundation.
  11. Is Rice Gluten-Free? BeyondCeliac.org.
  12. Bob's Red Mill Stabilized Rice Bran. Vitacost.
  13. Complete Guide to Cooking Oils & Smoke Points. Anova.
  14. Beverages, Rice Milk, Unsweetened. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
  15. Red Yeast Rice. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. March 19, 2018.
  16. Pasta, Gluten-Free, Rice Flour and Rice Bran Extract, Cooked. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
  17. Pasta, Whole Grain, 51% Whole Wheat, Remaining Unenriched Semonlina, Cooked. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
  18. Storing Rice: How Long Does Rice Last, Cooked and Uncooked? StillTasty.
  19. Organic California White Basmati Rice. Lundberg.
  20. Organic California Brown Basmati Rice. Lundberg.
  21. Questions & Answers: Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. October 5, 2017.
  22. Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE, Fulgoni VL. Rice Consumption Is Associated with Better Nutrient Intake and Diet Quality in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2010. Scientific Research. March 2014

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