Rice is often seen as a more healthy alternative to pasta or even potatoes. Nevertheless, some health-conscious people worry about consuming too much starch and wonder about the starch content of this versatile grain: Is rice a starch?
Is Rice a Starch?
Rice contains a lot of starch yes, especially when it is still dry, dense, and uncooked. Because while it is being cooked, rice swells up by absorbing water, the overall percentage of the starch content is lower in cooked rice than it is in raw rice.
Some people also like removing the starch clinging to the rice after cooking by first draining the water that the rice was cooked in and then carefully rinsing the rice under cold, clear water until all of the starchy, cloudy liquid has been washed away.
Since this also drains away an (admittedly minuscule) amount of nutrients, always take care to serve rice with healthy and nutritious sides.
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What Is the Difference Between White Rice and Brown Rice?
The difference between white rice and brown rice does not lie, like some people assume, in a different species of rice plant, but in the way that producers process their rice.
This does not mean, of course, that there are not countless different kinds of rice, with different tastes, preparation methods, and places of origin, but the difference between brown and white rice is found in what is done with the rice that has been harvested.
White rice has been polished and stripped of its bran and germ. This makes it easier to cook and increases its taste and shelf life but reduces its nutritional value. Therefore, a lot of producers enrich their white rice with vitamins.
Brown rice consists of intact, whole grains. Since the bran and germ are the most nutritious parts of rice, this makes brown rice significantly healthier. It is richer in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants.
Especially for people with diabetes, brown rice is generally the better choice.
What Are the Risks of Eating Too Much Rice?
As with any type of food, when you eat it too often and in very large portions, rice, too, has its negative facets. When consumed too often, rice can, for example, increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Rice has a high glycemic index score, which means that it can result in an elevated blood sugar level after eating. Since Type 2 Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels, too much rice would increase these negative effects.
Cooking brown rice, which is rich in fiber, should be preferred to white polished rice when a member of the household has diabetes.
Unfortunately, brown rice is not free from having negative aspects. In its bran – the hard outer layer of grain – rice can contain heavy metals that accumulate in the body over time.
Since rice takes up these metals from the soil, you should always ensure that the rice you buy is not grown close to heavily polluted industrial or mining areas.
While all cereal grains, as well as other food crops, can accumulate metals, rice has a higher propensity for this than, for example, wheat.
Opposite Opinion: Above, you could read the mainstream opinion on rice and eating too much of it. But you should know that there is a so-called Rice Diet created by Walter Kempner, MD. The diet or treatment rather was a simple therapy of white rice, fruit, juice, and sugar and was reserved for only the most seriously ill patients. Although low-tech, the benefits of the Rice Diet far exceed those of any drug or surgery ever prescribed for chronic conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart and kidney failure, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity.
Why Do Some People Prefer to Avoid Starch?
First, let us consider what starch actually is. Carbohydrates can be split into three categories, and starch is one of those – the other two are sugar and fiber. Thus, people who avoid carbohydrates tend to avoid starch, too.
It is worth noting, though, that starch belongs to the so-called complex carbohydrates. This means that the sugar that starches contain is released slowly into the blood – as opposed to food that causes blood-sugar highs, which leave people tired, hungry, and craving more carbohydrates.
However, food that is naturally rich in starch results in a long-lasting feeling of satiety.
Unfortunately, nowadays, many food items contain highly refined starches – these have the negative effect of blood-sugar spikes and are especially risky for people with diabetes or heart disease.
Thus, while starch should be a part of every balanced and healthy diet, it is important to eat food like rice or potatoes that have a naturally high starch content instead of food items that are made with refined starch, like a lot of snacks, breakfast cereals, and white bread that are made with refined wheat flour.
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MORE RELATED INFORMATION
Long-grain rice such as jasmine and basmati has the least starch. Jasmine rice is a long-grain variety of rice grown mostly in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and it’s similar to basmati rice, but it has a shorter grain.
On the other hand, Basmati rice is very long and slender and becomes softer and fluffier after cooking.
Everywhere you read, it’s always recommended to wash rice grains. But why? What will happen if you don’t?
If you don’t wash rice before cooking, residual starch will gelatinize in the hot cooking water and make the cooked grains of rice stick to each other, which can lead to a gummy texture.
Eating rice provides you with energy, and it’s making you complete, which can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity. Its fiber can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Rice also contains a fair amount of protein, and it’s known to prevent constipation. Brown rice is generally more nutritious than white rice because of its higher fiber and magnesium content.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.