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5 Healthier Alternatives To White Rice, According To A Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian

5 Healthier Alternatives To White Rice, According To A Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian
Image by @pressfoto / Freepik

In Asia—the Philippines, particularly—rice is considered a staple in every meal. Filipinos have been so accustomed to pairing everything with rice, the most popular variant of which is white rice. Rice stays popular and abundant in our country because it is filling, affordable, and easily available. We have our farmers to thank for that.

During the pandemic, many took the opportunity to improve their eating habits, try a new diet, and get into fitness programs, knowing how crucial it is to take extra care of our health. For those who want to lose weight, rice has become the “enemy,” thus it is one of the first foods to get eliminated from their diet. Is this a sustainable practice, or is it more realistic to find a healthier alternative to white rice? spoke with Jeanne Guerrero, a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian (RND), to talk about the role that rice plays in our diet. But first, she discussed the popular varieties of rice available in the market.

Brown rice

“Brown rice is whole grain; it has bran and germ, and is high in magnesium and fiber (both of which help control blood sugar level). [It is also] rich in antioxidant and aids in weight control,” says Guerrero.

White rice is highly processed and has most of its fiber and nutrients removed, while brown rice keeps the bran, germ, and endosperm that contain these. According to a study, substituting white rice with brown rice may lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

However, the downside is that brown rice, being a plant-based food, has an antinutrient, phytic acid, that may reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc. Compared to white rice, it also contains a higher amount of arsenic, a toxic heavy metal, although washing the brown rice repeatedly before cooking may remove some of the arsenic.

Brown rice has around 214 kcal per cup and usually costs around Php 50 to Php 100 per kilogram. It is also available in your local supermarkets.

Red rice

Red rice contains anthocyanin, a health-promoting compound, which gives it its red color. Anthocyanin has the capacity to lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes, improve vision, and reduce cancer cells. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

“Red rice is high in fiber, vitamin B1 and B2, calcium, magnesium, and iron, and is rich in antioxidants. [It] can lower blood sugar, help in fighting against asthma, good for bone health, aids in weight control, and improves skin health,” Guerrero adds.

Though its taste may not be to everyone’s liking, red rice is as nutritious as brown rice. Red rice has around 216 kcal per cup and costs Php 60 to Php 150 per kilogram. You may find this at the supermarket as well.

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Black rice

Black rice also contains anthocyanin which has potent antioxidant and anticancer properties. Just like red rice, black rice also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Guerrero says, “It is a good source of protein, iron, and fiber, and has a high amount of lutein and zeaxanthin that supports eye health. It aids in weight control and helps control blood sugar levels.”

Black rice has around 214 kcal per cup and costs Php 100 to Php 150 per kilogram. You can find it in supermarkets, or buy online on Lazada.

Cauliflower “rice”

If you’re looking for a rice substitute that is low in calorie, this is the one for you. Cauliflower “rice” is not technically rice, but cauliflower florets that have been ground to mimic the texture of rice. It can aid in weight control and help stabilize blood sugar levels since it is very low in calorie count and glycemic index.

Cauliflower rice also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, help reduce inflammation, and promote digestive health because it is rich in fiber. It is also rich in choline and Vitamin C. According to research, cauliflower is rich in Vitamin K, which decreases the risk of excessive bleeding (hemorrhage).

Cauliflower rice is also known to be tasty, so no worries on that part. It only has 25 kcal per cup and costs Php 200 to Php 250 per kilogram. You can buy it online on Shopee.

Adlai rice

Adlai belongs to the grass family and is also not technically a rice variety. However, it is popular because it is a healthier substitute for rice. It is rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin. In addition, it’s also high in fiber.

Compared to the rice varieties listed above, adlai contains the highest amount of protein.

Adlai rice has around 356 kcal per cup and costs Php 200 to Php 500 per kilogram. You can buy it online on Shopee.

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What is the best or healthiest type of rice?

Guerrero says, “For me, the best [type of] rice would be the one available around your area, which usually is white rice. Each type of rice differs in nutritional content. If you consume [it with] varied types of food such as meat and vegetables, you can have a balanced meal.

In Baler, Guerrero owns and manages NutriBites, a meal plan delivery service business. “In my experience, every [type of] rice is equally important, although I don’t use white rice since it easily breaks down into sugar in our blood. As much as possible, I want my clients to feel that they’re already full or still full without feeling weak, even after their workout,” she adds.

Should we replace white rice with other varieties, then?

“Yes, especially if you’re a diabetic person or [someone with] a health problem and who isn’t allowed to consume white rice,” says Guerrero.

“I usually consume white rice because it’s easily available and a lot cheaper. In terms of nutrients, I eat varied types of food so I can maximize my nutrient intake,” she adds.

White rice has around 200 kcal per cup and costs Php 35 to Php 60 per kilogram. It definitely is a lot cheaper than the other varieties, but it has the highest glycemic index, too.

Whichever rice variant you choose, Guerrero says to double check the source of your rice, as sometimes it may contain harmful content when it is not properly processed or if it comes from wild varieties.

Lastly, Guerrero adds, “If you are someone who has nutrition and dietetics queries, health problems, or you want to manage your weight, consult with a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian first so you can have proper knowledge and guidance. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet, and what works for you might not with other people.”

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