Forget the days when rice was white, and the only decision you had to make at the supermarket was if you wanted to add a large or massive package to your grocery store.
Today we not only have many different varieties of rice readily available, but also a range of different cooking options, so you’ll find rice in cups, bags and blends with other grains.
So for all you rice lovers out there, it’s time to separate the brown from the wild to the black and everything in between so you can make the best nutritional choice for you and your dietary goals.
Even when it comes to white rice, there are many different options. Now you can find short-grain, arborio, medium-grain, and long-grain white rice varieties in quick cook and traditional, long-cook options. White rice is still the most common type of rice, but nutritionally it is not the best option. Processed in a way that removes much of the brown component, white rice is lower in protein, dietary fiber, and essential nutrients compared to whole grain brown rice. As a highly refined grain, white rice also has a relatively high glycemic index, resulting in relatively high blood glucose levels after eating.
Specifically, shorter-grain white rices include sushi rice and arborio rice, which is commonly used to make risotto. Shorter-grain rices have a higher GI than longer-grain white rices, and can even turn sweet when cooked, which is why they’re also used to make desserts in some cultures. Medium grain white rice is the variety most commonly served in Asian cuisine and has a relatively high GI.
In addition to short and medium grain white rice, there is also long grain rice that includes both basmati and jasmine rice. Sometimes referred to as “healthier” options, long-grain rice has a lower GI than short-grain rice, but still lacks the nutritional density of brown rice.
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The popularity of whole grain brown rice has increased exponentially in Australia in recent years and is now a popular choice in quick cook varieties as well as on Japanese menus. A medium grain rice, brown rice is made from more of the whole grain, meaning it’s higher in both dietary fiber and protein as well as key nutrients including iron, B vitamins and magnesium. With its slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture, brown rice is a healthier alternative to white rice as an everyday addition to salads, stir-fries and sushi.
Sometimes referred to as purple rice, black rice is a nutrient-rich brown rice and contains the antioxidant anthocyanin that gives the rice a rich color when cooked. Rich in iron and vitamin E, black rice is more nutritious than white rice and contains slightly more protein than brown rice, making it an especially filling option. With its nutty flavor, black rice works well with salads, puddings, and desserts.
While not as common in Australia, red rice is a brown rice that also retains its rich color thanks to the antioxidant anthocyanin. With a rich, nutty flavor, red rice is extremely nutritious thanks to its high fiber content and is versatile, making it a great addition to any savory rice mix or salad.
Significantly higher in protein than other types of rice, wild rice is technically a type of grass, not rice. With up to 30% fewer calories, it’s rich in a number of key nutrients, including magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. Although more expensive, wild rice is a great nutritional choice and can be easily enjoyed mixed with other varieties of rice or enjoyed as a salad base.
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Author susie burrell is a prominent Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of shape meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in print and television commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.