Rice is one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. It’s a daily food in much of Asia but has long been popular the rest of the world over.
The standard type of rice available to many is white rice, and we are led to believe that this is perfectly healthy. However, there is a range of health benefits associated with other kinds of rice, such as red and brown.
Brown rice is the most widely known kind after white rice, but it’s nowhere near the healthiest version of rice available.
If you’re trying to lose weight, or simply want to eat healthier, making little changes like the type of rice you eat will have a big impact on your overall diet and health.
In this article, we’ll show you why white rice isn’t very good for you, and the health benefits of red rice.
At the end of the article are a few interesting red rice recipes to get you inspired.
Why is white rice so unhealthy?
The most important thing to know about white rice is that it’s the most highly refined type of rice in the market. It’s exactly the same principle as white sugar, in that this is the most processed form of the food available.
While its white color is one of the main reasons it’s more popular, it’s actually through this refinement process that much of the nutritional value of the rice is lost.
Just as with bread and sugar, white rice became the popular version because the refinement process was seen as a symbol of wealth.
If you could afford a more processed and refined version of a product, it showed you didn’t need to eat the cheaper, less refined version. Of course, much of our understanding about healthy eating has changed since this was the way of thinking, and we now know that nutritional value is much more important than looks.
As part of the processing, the rice is stripped of its bran and germ, and these are the areas that contain much of the good nutrients that we need to stay in shape.
Further polishing of the rice removes its aleurone layer, which is rich in B vitamins and essential fatty acids.
Essentially, after processing, white rice is just starch.
Once the white rice is in its final form it has lost up to 66% of its essential nutrients.
Eating too much white rice can lead to vitamin deficiencies, as it’s little more than just starch. It might also be treated with additives to help the bleaching and polishing process, which can be harmful in their own way.
White rice in its fully processed form does little more than fill you up and provide you with a source of simple carbohydrates, and really isn’t the best choice if you’re trying to eat healthily.
The benefits of red rice
The most significant difference between red rice and white rice is the level of processing they’ve been put through. Red rice is usually un-processed, meaning the rice grains are still in their hulls.
This is the part of the grain that contains all of the beneficial nutrients, and so is possibly the most important part to eat.
This is the same principle as choosing whole wheat bread over white bread, and means you’re getting as much nutrition from your food as possible.
Red and brown rice are very similar in terms of processing and health benefits, but red rice has a couple of major advantages over brown varieties.
To find out the full list of benefits of red rice, check out the list below.
We’ve found as much useful information as possible on the health benefits of red rice, so hopefully you’ll be able to use this to improve your overall diet.
1. It’s full of essential nutrients
As mentioned above, the majority of nutrients found in rice are in the hull.
This is still intact on red rice grains, so you’re getting the full range of nutrients. It’s an amazing source of zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins, including B1, B2, and B6.
It also contains levels of manganese, selenium, potassium, and even some protein. In fact, red rice contains more zinc and iron than any other kind of rice, including brown.
This makes it the healthiest in terms of nutritional benefits, and so should be your first choice if you’re trying to eat healthily.
Zinc and iron are very important for healthy blood and circulation, helping your blood carry higher amounts of oxygen. Not getting enough iron in your diet is a very common problem, and can lead to anemia.
If this is something you experience, making this small change can make a big difference.
The range of B vitamins are essential for keeping your body healthy, and again it’s very common for people to not get enough of them in their diets.
2. It’s rich in anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are what make the rice red. It’s a flavonoid (something that gives food color) and is found in many red foods.
It’s an amazing antioxidant that’s great for combating free radicals, which have been linked to the growth of cancer.
This is because free radicals cause cells to oxidate, leaving them exposed to damage and mutation. Red rice is the most antioxidant-rich type of rice, and it’s all thanks to anthocyanins.
This pigment also has uses in improving heart health and controlling obesity.
Considering these are all too common problems for many people, switching to red rice can have a big impact on your overall health.
3. Red rice is high in fiber
One of the biggest benefits of leaving the hull intact is that it means more fiber in your diet.
Fiber has long been known as an essential food group that aids gut health, and it’s important that you get the right mix of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Whole grains are one of the best sources of soluble fiber, and a portion of red rice contains 10% of your daily intake of fiber.
Considering how small a portion of rice actually is, this is an amazing proportion of fiber in such an easy to eat food.
Fiber-rich foods also help keep you fuller for longer, and so are ideal if you’re on a diet and trying to cut down on snacking between meals.
This makes red rice a perfect food if you’re trying to watch your weight, and it’s fine to eat for lunch and dinner.
4. It’s good for diabetics
Managing your diet is incredibly important if you’re diabetic, but it can be very difficult to make the right choices.
One of the biggest things that diabetics have to watch out for is a food’s glycemic index.
Foods with a high glycemic index can be harmful for diabetics because they can have serious effects on their blood sugar levels. That said, glycemic index is always worth watching if you’re dieting or watching your weight because everyone’s blood sugar is affected by carbohydrates, and tracking this can be a useful way of watching your calorie intake.
White rice is pretty much only carbohydrate, and so it has a very high glycemic index (somewhere around 70).
Red rice however has a much lower glycemic index (around 55), making it a much better choice for diabetics. Its index rating is lower because it’s got a wider range of nutrients, and is boosted by its fiber content.
So if you’re diabetic, or watch your glycemic index intake, switch to red rice for better control.
5. It lowers blood cholesterol
There are two kinds of blood cholesterol: good and bad.
LDL (low-density lipoproteins) are the bad kind of cholesterol, and can lead to heart disease, artery damage, heart attacks, and more. Red rice helps to lower levels of bad cholesterol because of its anthocyanin content.
This is not only an antioxidant, but an anti-inflammatory too.
6. Red rice is good for your skin
Anthocyanin to the rescue once again!
It’s a very powerful antioxidant and can help to reduce skin aging and damage cause by UV light. It also has positive effects for people with psoriasis, and can help reduce your risks of other skin-related diseases.
Switching to red rice from white is not only beneficial for your internal health, but your skin’s health too. What makes it even better is that it’s a completely natural, and healthy, way to combat skin aging.
7. It’s good for pregnant women
Many of the benefits listed above are particularly helpful for pregnant women, as they need to take in as many extra nutrients as possible.
Red rice is a great source of vitamins and minerals, and its antioxidant properties are very helpful during pregnancy. When you’re pregnant and needing to eat as many nutrients as possible, switching to red rice is a great way to do this.
Red rice recipes
Essentially, you can use red rice in any recipe that calls for rice.
It does take slightly longer to cook than white rice because the hull means it takes longer to boil, so just remember this if you’re using it a recipe.
Most cooking times will be based on white rice, as this is the most common variety.
That said, here are some of the best recipes that celebrate red rice.
Basic red rice recipe
- 20g butter
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 finely chopped red peppers
- 2 cups red rice
How to make it:
- In a saucepan, fry the onion and red pepper over a medium/high heat until softened.
- After about 5 minutes, lower the heat and add the rice. Add 4 cups of boiling water and stir well. Add salt to taste.
- Once the water is simmering, cover with a lid.
- Cook for about 40 minutes, turn off the heat and leave for 15 minutes. The rice is now ready to serve.
Mixed bean and rice salad
- 375g red rice
- 2 x 400g cans mixed beans
- 340g can sweetcorn
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 red peppers, diced
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 red chili
How to make it:
- Cook the rice for around 40 minutes in a pan of boiling water. Once cooked, rinse under a cold tap to cool.
- Once cold, add the beans, sweetcorn, onion, and peppers.
- Mix in the lime juice and zest, honey, and chili. Mix well, and season to taste. This dish will keep in the fridge for several days.
Stir-fried red rice
- 200g red rice
- 1 tbsp oil
- Large handful of mushrooms (oyster or chestnut are best), cut in half
- 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 2 scallions, sliced
- Handful of spinach, or half a bok choy
- 2 medium eggs
- 60g cashew nuts, toasted
How to make it:
- Cook the rice in a pan for 30-40 minutes. Once cooked, set aside for 10-15 to dry.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add mushrooms and vegetables. Fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the rice and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the eggs, and stir for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the eggs are scrambled and cooked. Serve immediately.
Switching from white rice to red rice is a very easy way to improve your overall nutritional intake. It has much higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals and is a great source of fiber. Although it’s not as popular as other varieties of rice, it’s growing in popularity and will be available in many health food shops. We not only love the taste of red rice, but we also love all the health benefits.