Rice can be a part of a diet that supports healthy weight if you understand the importance of portion control, pairing rice with foods that promote satiety and fullness, and how rice can differ in nutritional content.
In this article, we'll explore all there is to know about rice for healthy weight so you can make the best choices for your own diet and nutritional needs.
What is Rice?
Rice is a versatile ingredient that can be paired with almost any other food item. With over 756 million tons produced worldwide and over half the world’s population living on this grain as a staple food, it’s unsurprising that it is a staple in many cultures.1 In the supermarket, you may see various types of rice, including jasmine, black rice, brown rice, white rice, and wild rice.
Rice is made up of three main components:
- Bran: the fiber-rich outer layer that protects the rice seed
- Germ: the nutrient-rich core
- Endosperm: the middle layer that contains carbs and protein
Brown and wild rice are whole grains that contain the bran and germ. However, white rice has the bran and germ removed during processing, which improves the tast, prolongs shelf life, and enhances cooking qualities.2
Depending on the variety, rice can be a good source of potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Rice and Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar. Foods with a high GI are digested and absorbed quickly, causing your blood sugar to spike. Foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a gradual rise in blood sugar. Higher GI foods are linked to weight gain.3
White rice has a high GI, while brown rice has a lower GI—but it's still higher than other fiber-rich foods like vegetables or some legumes.4 The type of rice you choose can make a difference in how quickly it raises your blood sugar. More fiber typically means a food has a lower GI, and white rice has less fiber than brown rice, which translates to feeling fuller longer with fewer blood sugar spikes.
Blood sugar spikes are linked to weight gain because of insulin. Insulin is released to remove the sugar from the blood, which is a normal healthy response. But if insulin levels remain high, it can promote fat storage.5
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating more white rice (greater than or equal to five servings a week) was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In comparison, more brown rice (greater than or equal to two servings a week) showed a lower risk.6 White rice is also linked to higher rates of obesity and a lower intake of fiber.7
Rice and Blood Sugar Spikes
Resistant starch is a type of fiber that is not digested by the body. As it moves down your GI tract, it enters your large intestine, where it's fermented by your gut bacteria (which also helps support a healthy gut).
When rice is cooked and cooled, the starch molecules rearrange and become more resistant to digestion. Resistant starch is considered supportive for weight loss because it takes more energy to digest and improves satiety.8
A study examining freshly cooked white rice versus cooled rice found that cooled rice had significantly more resistant starch. It also lowered the glycemic response compared with freshly cooked rice.9
This means that when you eat cooled rice, it has a lower GI and is less likely to spike your blood sugar. You don't have to eat the rice cold because the rice was reheated in the above study and still had positive effects on blood sugar.
7 Different Types of Rice
Below are a few varieties of rice that you may find in your local supermarket. The nutritional value and glycemic index of rice is extremely varied depending on cooking method, meal timing, and type of rice.
Basmati rice is a long grain, aromatic rice popular in Indian cuisine. The glycemic index of basmati rice is between 50 and 58, depending on the cooking method.
Jasmine rice is a long grain, fragrant rice popular in Southeast Asian cuisine. The glycemic index of jasmine rice is 60, placing it in the medium range.
Arborio rice is a short grain, sticky rice often used in Italian dishes like risotto. The glycemic index of this rice is estimated to be 69. Foods with a glycemic index of 70 and above are considered high glycemic foods.
Sushi rice is the short grain, sticky rice that you find in sushi rolls. On its own, this rice has a glycemic index of 89, which is considered high.
Rice rice is a type of rice high in antioxidants, which are responsible for giving this grain its deep red color. Red rice has a low glycemic index rating of 55.
Black rice actually has a deep purple color and a nutty flavor. It’s glycemic index is 42 and it also contains three times as much fiber as white rice.
Wild rice is not actually rice! This type is made of seeds from an aquatic grass and has a chewy texture. Wild rice has a glycemic index of 57, which is similar to oats and brown rice.
Is Rice Good for Weight Loss?
Like many foods, rice doesn't have a magical weight loss or weight gain property, but it can be a part of a healthy diet. Too much of anything, even healthy foods, can lead to weight gain.
If you follow a low-carbohydrate diet, rice isn't usually included because it's a high-carb food. But for, other diet preferences, including certain types and amounts of rice in your diet could support a healthy weight. Here's what to keep in mind.
Serving Size of Rice
A serving size of rice is typically 1/2 cup or about the size of a deck of cards.2
Here's where rice can either be supportive or detrimental to weight loss—portion size matters. It's easy to eat much more than this, which is part of the reason rice is often overlooked as a food to include in a healthy diet. Too much can add extra calories that may add up fast.
How to Include Rice in Your Diet for Weight Loss
The effects of white rice on weight loss are conflicting. Some studies have associated diets high in refined grains, like white rice, with weight gain, belly fat, and obesity, while other studies have found no correlation.10,11,12,13
Also, numerous diets around the world center around the consumption of white rice and have been shown to promote weight loss and decrease blood pressure, specifically in countries where white rice is a daily staple.14,15,16
If you want to lose weight or are focused on weight management, the best way to include rice is to eat it as part of a healthy, balanced diet. This means including a variety of other nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Here are some ways to make sure rice is supporting your health goals:
When cooking rice, try to make ahead and cool it before eating. This will turn the starch into resistant starch, which has a lower GI and is less likely to spike your blood sugar. Also, focus on boiling your rice in water or chicken broth. When creating fried rice or other rice varieties, the glycemic index of the rice could change and cause spikes in blood glucose levels.
Pair your rice with lean protein and veggies. This will help to keep you feeling full and satisfied. You may consider eating protein and fiber first or even starting with a salad. Research shows that eating protein and fiber-rich foods can help minimize blood sugar spikes.17
Suggested Serving Size of Rice
Be mindful of portions. Keeping an eye on how much rice you eat at a meal can help you control your calorie intake and lose body weight. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with a carbohydrate like rice, and a quarter with protein.
Choose brown rice or wild rice over white rice. Brown rice and wild rice are generally better for weight loss because they're whole grains and higher in fiber (but you can still have white rice sometimes, too, just mix it up!).
Monitor your blood sugar. Keep an eye on your personal response to rice. If you are trying to minimize spikes, tracking your personal reaction to rice and how your blood sugar responds to pairing it with other foods can help you make the best choice for your body.
Is Rice Good for You?
The answer to whether rice is good for you isn't black and white because it depends on the type of rice (and more factors, as you'll learn below), but overall, rice does have some health benefits:
- Rice is a good source of carbohydrates, which is your body's primary energy source.
- Rice is naturally gluten-free, making it the perfect option for individuals with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
- Whole grain rice, like brown rice, is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, niacin, and B vitamins.18
- Depending on the type, rice can be a source of high fiber. Fiber from whole grains is important for digestive health, blood sugar balance, and satiety, and it's also linked to weight loss. Dietary fiber can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.19
- Some types of rice, such as red and black rice, also contain antioxidants that protect the body against free radical damage.20
- Brown rice, in particular, has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, hypertension, and inflammatory markers.21,22
Use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to Track Your Response to Rice
If you're interested in monitoring your blood sugar response to eating rice as part of your weight loss program, you may want to consider using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM is a small device worn on your body that tracks blood sugar levels in real time.
A CGM can help determine which types of rice or how much rice affects your blood sugar. Each of us has a different response to rice, so tracking your own blood sugar response can be a valuable tool in helping to create a healthy diet that works for you. Using a CGM paired with the Signos app gives feedback to personalize your weight loss plan.
So is rice good for weight loss? The takeaway is that rice doesn't have to be off-limits if you want to lose weight. When eaten with other nutrient-rich foods, you can keep enjoying rice as part of your daily diet.
Topics discussed in this article:
- This is how much rice is produced around the world - and the countries that grow the most. (2022, March 9). World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/visualizing-the-world-s-biggest-rice-producers/
- Brand-Miller, J., & Buyken, A. E. (2020). The Relationship between Glycemic Index and Health. Nutrients, 12(2), 536. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12020536
- Atkinson, F. S., Brand-Miller, J. C., Foster-Powell, K., Buyken, A. E., & Goletzke, J. (2021). International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values 2021: a systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 114(5), 1625–1632. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab233
- Trouwborst, I., Bowser, S. M., Goossens, G. H., & Blaak, E. E. (2018). Ectopic Fat Accumulation in Distinct Insulin Resistant Phenotypes; Targets for Personalized Nutritional Interventions. Frontiers in nutrition, 5, 77. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00077
- Sun, Q., Spiegelman, D., van Dam, R. M., Holmes, M. D., Malik, V. S., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Archives of internal medicine, 170(11), 961–969. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2010.109
- Azadbakht, L., Haghighatdoost, F., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2016). White Rice Consumption, Body Mass Index, and Waist Circumference among Iranian Female Adolescents. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 35(6), 491–499. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2015.1113902
- Higgins J. A. (2014). Resistant starch and energy balance: impact on weight loss and maintenance. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 54(9), 1158–1166. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2011.629352
- Sonia, S., Witjaksono, F., & Ridwan, R. (2015). Effect of cooling of cooked white rice on resistant starch content and glycemic response. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 24(4), 620–625. https://doi.org/10.6133/apjcn.2015.24.4.13
- McKeown NM, Troy LM, Jacques PF, Hoffmann U, O'Donnell CJ, Fox CS. Whole- and refined-grain intakes are differentially associated with abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adiposity in healthy adults: the Framingham Heart Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010 Nov;92(5):1165-71. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29106. Epub 2010 Sep 29. PMID: 20881074; PMCID: PMC2954448.
- Kim J, Jo I, Joung H. A rice-based traditional dietary pattern is associated with obesity in Korean adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012 Feb;112(2):246-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.10.005. Epub 2012 Jan 25. PMID: 22732459.
- Kolahdouzan M, Khosravi-Boroujeni H, Nikkar B, Zakizadeh E, Abedi B, Ghazavi N, Ayoobi N, Vatankhah M. The association between dietary intake of white rice and central obesity in obese adults. ARYA Atherosclerosis Journal. 2013 Mar;9(2):140-4. PMID: 23690814; PMCID: PMC3653247.
- Harris Jackson K, West SG, Vanden Heuvel JP, Jonnalagadda SS, Ross AB, Hill AM, Grieger JA, Lemieux SK, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of whole and refined grains in a weight-loss diet on markers of metabolic syndrome in individuals with increased waist circumference: a randomized controlled-feeding trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Aug;100(2):577-86. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.078048. Epub 2014 Jun 18. PMID: 24944054; PMCID: PMC4095661.
- Sichieri R. Dietary patterns and their associations with obesity in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 2002 Jan;10(1):42-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2002.6. PMID: 11786600.
- Shi Z, Taylor AW, Hu G, Gill T, Wittert GA. Rice intake, weight change and risk of the metabolic syndrome development among Chinese adults: the Jiangsu Nutrition Study (JIN). Asia Pacific Journal Clinical Nutrition. 2012;21(1):35-43. PMID: 22374558.
- Cunha DB, de Almeida RM, Sichieri R, Pereira RA. Association of dietary patterns with BMI and waist circumference in a low-income neighbourhood in Brazil. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010 Sep;104(6):908-13. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510001479. Epub 2010 Apr 27. PMID: 20420750.
- Shukla, A. P., Iliescu, R. G., Thomas, C. E., & Aronne, L. J. (2015). Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels. Diabetes care, 38(7), e98–e99. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc15-0429
- “FoodData Central.” Accessed June 8, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169704/nutrients.
- Watanabe, S., Mizuno, S., & Hirakawa, A. (2018). Effects of brown rice on obesity: GENKI Study I (Cross sectional epidemiological study). J Obes Chronic Dis, 2(1), 12-19.
- Goufo, P., & Trindade, H. (2014). Rice antioxidants: phenolic acids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, tocopherols, tocotrienols, γ-oryzanol, and phytic acid. Food science & nutrition, 2(2), 75–104. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.86
- Kazemzadeh, M., Safavi, S. M., Nematollahi, S., & Nourieh, Z. (2014). Effect of Brown Rice Consumption on Inflammatory Marker and Cardiovascular Risk Factors among Overweight and Obese Non-menopausal Female Adults. International journal of preventive medicine, 5(4), 478–488.
- Kashino, I., Eguchi, M., Miki, T., Kochi, T., Nanri, A., Kabe, I., & Mizoue, T. (2020). Prospective Association between Whole Grain Consumption and Hypertension: The Furukawa Nutrition and Health Study. Nutrients, 12(4), 902. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12040902
- Grains. (2023). US Department of Agriculture. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/grains