Rice, a cereal grain, is a staple food for more than half of the world. According to the U.S. Rice Federation, 120,000 types of rice exist. Many people classify rice as long-grain, short-grain, white, or brown because rice varieties are categorized by their kernel size, degree of milling, starch content, and even flavor.
When a person is struggling with weight gain, they may feel giving up carbohydrates like rice could help them lose the weight. So, does rice make you gain weight? Learn more about rice varieties, nutrition, and how rice may impact weight.
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Types of Rice and Weight Gain Effects
Today, many types of rice line store shelves, giving plenty of options for your next burrito bowl, plant-based soup, or stir-fry. Rice is a nutrient-dense food that contains nutrients like carbohydrates (starches), proteins, magnesium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus while providing very little fat. And depending on the variety, some rice has more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than others.
One cup of cooked brown rice contains the following:
Fat: 1.6 grams
Protein: 4.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 46 grams
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Iron: 1 milligram (5% Daily Value)
Magnesium: 86 milligrams (20% Daily Value)
Phosphorous: 150 milligrams (12% Daily Value)
Zinc: 1.2 milligrams (11% Daily Value)
Pantothenic acid: 0.764 milligrams (15% Daily Value)
Vitamin B-6: 0.29 milligrams (17% Daily Value)
A 2019 study published in Advances in Nutrition reviewed 25 studies and found low to very low evidence that any specific food group causes weight gain. Though more research is needed, if there’s little evidence that any one food group drives weight gain, then there’s not much to say about a single food causing weight gain. Still, any excess of calories, whether coming from rice (carbohydrate), protein, or fat, will lead to weight gain if you are taking in more calories than your body burns. Learn more about common rice types you may have stored in your pantry.
Brown rice is known as white rice’s healthier counterpart because it’s a whole grain. Three parts comprise a whole grain⸺the bran, germ, and endosperm. All three of these components contain nutrients like fiber and antioxidants. A 2022 review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition analyzed 13 randomized control trials and found that eating brown rice promoted weight loss compared to white rice. This is likely due to the higher fiber content in brown rice. Further, brown rice contains bioactive compounds that research says may help improve insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, and gut health.
White rice goes through a milling process where the bran and germ parts of brown rice kernels are removed, lowering its fiber, vitamins, and mineral contents. Therefore, white rice isn’t considered a whole grain but a refined grain. People may be more likely to order white rice at restaurants or cook it at home because it is less chewy in texture, softer, and cooks faster than brown rice.
While some people prefer the taste and consistency of white rice, it’s important to know that it is digested differently from brown rice in our body. White rice is a high-glycemic food, which means it quickly raises blood sugars, leading to an increase in insulin production. Research suggests an increase in insulin may be linked to weight gain; however, studies have yet to prove that high-glycemic foods cause weight gain. Does white rice make you gain weight? White rice is slightly higher in calories and carbohydrates than brown rice and could contribute to weight gain if excessive calories are eaten over time, but white rice itself does not lead to weight gain and can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet. That being said, white rice lacks fiber, a critical nutrient in weight management. The lower fiber content means white rice may be less filling than whole-grain brown rice, potentially causing you to consume more calories in a meal to get full or causing you to feel hungry again sooner after a meal.
All rice has an inedible husk that’s removed during milling. Before husk removal, parboiled rice is steam-treated, which makes it more firm, chewy, and yellow than white rice. Making parboiled rice produces resistant starches, types of prebiotics that are good for gut health. Additionally, parboiled rice has a high protein content, and its resistant starches may be better for maintaining healthy blood sugars than other rice forms. Well-balanced blood sugars are helpful for metabolism and may make it easier to manage a healthy weight. Further, parboiled rice holds more nutrients and has higher amounts of protein, iron, fiber, folate, phosphorus, and other nutrients than regular white rice.
Basmati rice is a long-grain rice common in Middle Eastern cuisines, often used in pilaf recipes and to complement curry dishes. Basmati rice grains are much less sticky than other rice varieties, and the rice grains don’t usually clump together. Basmati rice is available in white and brown varieties, but brown basmati rice is richer in fiber, iron, and calcium. A 2018 review published in Antioxidants says brown rice is associated with better blood sugar control because of its lower glycemic index.
Like basmati rice, jasmine rice is a long-grain rice; however it is typical in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. It’s a fragrant, delicate type of rice with a fluffy, non-sticky texture that’s well-liked. Jasmine rice offers similar nutrition as other rice, and its brown variety also provides more nutrition from fiber, iron, and B vitamins. B vitamins are critical in energy metabolism, which aids in managing a healthy weight.
Often eaten in Asian countries, black rice is a whole grain that can add color and appeal to various dishes. Antioxidants called anthocyanins are anti-inflammatory nutrients responsible for black rice’s deep purple pigment and may also contribute to many health benefits. Anthocyanins are common in dark plant foods like purple potatoes and blueberries. As the “superfood” of rice types, black rice seems to have as many anthocyanins as blueberries. A quarter cup of uncooked black rice also offers 4 grams of protein, an essential nutrient for weight management, by helping balance blood sugars and helping you feel satisfied.
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Tips on How to Include Rice in Your Diet
Some may falsely believe that rice makes you gain belly fat, but rice isn’t a food that will sabotage your weight loss efforts. Rice has many benefits, like being naturally gluten-free, versatile, affordable, and nutritious. If losing weight is your goal, you don’t have to cut rice from your diet. Like any other grain, rice can be a part of a healthy eating pattern. Here are a few ways to include rice in a balanced diet.
Choose Whole Grains
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), there’s a link between eating whole grains and positive health outcomes. That said, the DGAs suggest that half of your total grain consumption is whole grains. Choose brown rice varieties half the time to help meet the DGAs guidelines for good nutrition and better health.
Don’t Fear Rice
A healthy relationship with food is vital to achieving your weight loss goals, which begin with checking your mindset to lose weight effectively. Labeling rice as a bad food can wreak havoc on your mental health when you do eat it. All foods can fit into a healthy diet, and you’ll do your body and brain a favor by making peace with all foods, including rice.
Create Healthy Portions
Using the Plate method can help you balance meals, ensure a variety of nutrients are present, and ensure you feel full when finishing your meal.. This method suggests that you fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter of your plate with lean protein, and the remaining quarter with a whole grain or starchy vegetable like brown rice. This approach is a way to diversify your meals rather than eating just one food group.
Pair with Vegetables
Balancing meals by including multiple food groups is the key to getting good nutrition.
Rice is an incredibly versatile food and can be a base to include more vegetables. Unless it’s black rice, rice tends to be bland in color and flavor, so cook it with foods such as kale, beets, and sweet potatoes for ultimate flavor, visual appeal, and texture, all while increasing the nutritional value of your meal.
You can better support your weight and health goals by moving more. Exercise is a gift for your body and mind that can help manage stress, promote weight loss, and get better sleep. Beginning a new exercise routine can feel like an uphill task, so starting with exercises for beginners may make adding movement to your daily routine more practical.
Reaching Weight Loss Goals with FORM
So, does rice make you gain weight? The truth is that no single food like rice directly causes weight gain. Rice is a staple of many diets and has many benefits so you don’t need to avoid it, even if you’re trying to lose weight. All varieties of rice can fit in a healthy diet, regardless of being white, brown, long-grain, or short-grain. Brown rice can be a healthier choice because it’s high in fiber, folate, magnesium, and other essential nutrients that can support good health and may help with weight loss.
Further, including rice in your meals can be a way to eat more vegetables, legumes, and lean proteins, which help create balanced meals and variety. Consider using the Plate Method to balance your meals and enjoy whole grain rice most often. If you need weight loss support from a physician or Registered Dietitian, schedule a call or send us a message. You can also take our quiz to see if you are eligible for the Form medical weight loss program.
About the Author
Julia Axelbaum, RD, Director of Clinical Nutrition, CSOWM, LDN
Julia Axelbaum is a Registered Dietitian board certified in obesity and weight management at Form Health. She studied Nutrition and Public Health at New York University and completed her clinical training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Julia worked as a bariatric dietitian at NewStart Bariatrics in St. Louis, MO and went on to become the Bariatric Program Coordinator where she fully launched the center’s first non-surgical, medical weight loss program. Julia is passionate about helping her patients learn how to take control of emotional eating, develop a more balanced mindset and improve their relationship with food.