1 serving of rice

Exactly How Healthy Is Brown Rice?

Brown rice is a versatile, nutty-flavored whole grain that’s likely tucked away in your kitchen pantry. It’s easy to cook and makes a satisfying side dish to just about any protein or veggie. But how does it stack up nutritionally? Should brown rice be considered a healthy whole grain, just like quinoa, farro, and freekeh?

Read on to learn the nutrition of brown rice, the best way to cook it, and why you should (or shouldn’t) make it part of your diet.

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Brown Rice Nutrition

According to the USDA, healthy adults need about 3 to 6 ounce-equivalents of whole grains each day. A typical serving (or 1-ounce equivalent) of cooked brown rice equals about ½ cup or 1 ounce dry.

Here is the nutrition breakdown for a ½ cup serving of cooked medium-grain brown rice, according to the USDA:

Calories 100
Fat 1g
Saturated fat 0g
Unsaturated fats .6g
Carbohydrates 23g
Sodium 0g
Sugar 0g
Fiber 2g
Protein 2g
Calcium 0% DV
Potassium 2% DV

Carbohydrates

Brown rice is a good source of energizing complex carbohydrates. Compared to simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates are considered healthier because they contain fiber and are broken down more slowly by the body. If you’re looking to cut carbs, however, you may want to consider whole grains with less carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or bulgur.

Fiber

Incorporating high-fiber foods like brown rice into your diet can help keep you full and prevent overeating. Specifically, brown rice contains insoluble fiber, which helps to keep things moving regularly through your digestive tract.

Manganese

While you won’t see it on nutrition labels, brown rice notches an impressive amount of manganese. One serving of brown rice packs 1.07 mg, or about 50 percent of your recommended daily intake (2.3 mg). In the body, manganese helps with bone formation and also works alongside essential enzymes like DNA and RNA. Additionally, manganese helps convert energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your body.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

From a nutrition perspective, brown rice is considered to be a healthier choice than white rice. Brown rice is a whole grain because it’s less processed—the hull is removed, but the bran and the germ remain. White rice, on the other hand, is not a whole grain because its hull, bran, and germ are all removed during processing.

Per serving, white rice and brown rice have about the same amount of carbohydrates and protein. The major difference, however, is fiber content. Brown rice packs a solid amount of fiber for a relatively small serving size, while white rice has none whatsoever. As a result, brown rice is much more satiating than white rice, which is processed more quickly in your body.

Brown Rice and Arsenic

A growing concern is the arsenic content of rice, including both brown and white varieties. Arsenic, a known carcinogen, has been linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. This harmful chemical naturally occurs in the soil and can find its way into water supplies. This is especially problematic for rice, which grows in large amounts of water.

When buying brown rice, double check the source first. A 2014 report from Consumer Reports found that rice varieties from Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana contained the highest amounts of arsenic. The same study also found that brown rice contained higher amounts of arsenic than white rice, but don’t let this deter you. You can greatly reduce the amount of arsenic by soaking the rice overnight, then draining and rinsing it thoroughly. Ignore what you see on the package—and cook the rice using a 1:5 rice to water ratio instead.

The FDA strongly recommends limiting arsenic exposure in pregnant women, infants, and young children. If this is something that concerns you, you can always substitute whole grains with very low amounts of arsenic—such as bulgur, barley, and farro—in place of brown rice.

How to Cook Brown Rice

Cooking brown rice on the stovetop is easy. The key is to gently simmer it in a covered saucepan (no peeking!) until it’s fluffy and fragrant. Hone your technique by making this basic brown rice recipe.

Once you’ve nailed cooking brown rice, there are endless ways to enjoy it. Use it as the base for a burrito bowl or fried rice, or turn it into a pilaf by mixing in fresh herbs and other ingredients.

The Verdict on Brown Rice

Image zoom Greg DuPree

Brown rice is a healthy whole grain that can absolutely be part of a balanced diet. Another plus: Brown rice is also a gluten-free grain, making it a solid option for those who have celiac disease.

While rising concerns about arsenic levels in brown rice may cause some to seek alternatives, this doesn’t mean you should avoid it entirely. When consumed in moderation, brown rice has plenty to offer nutritionally. To get the most nutrients from brown rice, make sure to pair it with leafy greens and lean proteins.

Also known as wholegrain rice, brown rice is the same as white rice except that the bran and germ of the grain are still attached. With this outer layer left on the grain, brown rice is more nutritious and is higher in fibre.

White rice has a softer, more delicate flavour, while brown rice has a stronger, nuttier taste that stands up well to punchier flavours like smoked fish, ginger and soy sauce.

The key to success every time is to use the right amount of water to rice – for brown rice you’ll need double the amount of water to rice. You should also give it enough time to absorb the water. Most packs of brown rice will say to boil for longer than white rice, so for around 30-35 mins. The trick is to simmer it for most of that, then for the last 5-10 mins leave it, well covered, to absorb the water off the heat – resulting in light perfectly tender grains every time.

All rice should be eaten on the day it’s cooked. If you cook too much rice and want to eat it cold or save some for later, you need to cool it down quickly (within an hour) and put it in the fridge – don’t leave it out at room temperature. Once stored, use it up within 24 hours, and if you’re reheating it you must do so thoroughly and only do so once. See our guide for more information on food safety.

Basic brown rice recipe

Serves 4

  • 250g brown rice
  • 500ml water
  • You will need a medium sized saucepan with a well-fitting lid.
  1. Put the rice in a saucepan and pour over the water. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  2. Cook for 30 mins then turn off the heat.
  3. Quickly cover with a lid and leave tightly covered for another 5-10 mins to absorb any remaining water.
  4. Serve immediately with a stew or curry, fish, chicken or tofu.

Our top 5 brown rice recipes:

Quick salmon, preserved lemon & olive pilaf

This wholesome brown rice pilaf is inspired by Middle Eastern flavours and uses a handful of ingredients.

Quick salmon, preserved lemon & olive pilaf

Charred spring onions & teriyaki tofu

Rustle up this teriyaki tofu served with wholegrain rice in just 30 minutes. Easy and low in fat, this vegetarian dish is perfect for busy weeknights.

Charred spring onions & teriyaki tofu

Spiced rice pudding with blackberry compote

Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg flavour this healthier rice pudding served with a naturally sweetened, chunky berry sauce.

Spiced rice pudding with blackberry compote

One-pan tikka salmon with jewelled rice

Marinate salmon with yogurt and curry paste, then cook with brown rice in one pan to steam the fish until tender and flaky.

One-pan tikka salmon with jewelled rice

Spicy lamb & feta skewers with Greek brown rice salad

These kofta-style kebabs with feta, harissa and onion are served with a wholesome basmati rice flavoured with parsley and mint.

Spicy lamb & feta skewers with Greek brown rice salad

Find more brown rice recipe inspiration…

Brown rice recipe collection
How to use grains
Veggiestan – how to cook rice
Alternative grains
Healthy lunch ideas for work

Have you made any of our recipes with brown rice? Leave a comment below…

It’s Easy –

Eating healthy (and understanding healthy portion sizes) doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. The rules, the restrictions, and the mathematical measurements can really make the action of eating healthy sound like some complicated formula for finding world peace.

The truth is, we can make this journey as complicated or as easy as we’d like. However, we never really stop and give ourselves the credit that WE ARE smart, intelligent, strong, and capable people. So what do we do instead? We gravitate towards the quick fixes, the latest diet trends, or give up altogether because it’s overwhelming.

Hello McFly…

WE CAN BE HEALTHY, HAVE GREAT CAREERS, GROW AMAZING FAMILIES, AND ENJOY LIFE…all at the same time. It’s possible. Healthy portion sizes included!

While you struggle with the concept of “choosing” one or the other, I’m going to give you permission to have it all. Instead of “searching” for quick-fixes, you have to shift your focus towards the stuff that’s going to last a lifetime and learn tools that you’ll use every day.

Simple. Delicious. Fun. Whole. Real.

Although we don’t promote calorie counting, we do feel that you need to have a basic understanding of how much food YOU ARE consuming and how much “caloric energy” is in each serving. The best place to start is to actually record your food for a few days in a journal or an app (there are TONS out there). You’ll be amazed at how much you actually are eating. You may even begin to notice patterns in your eating habits.

Eating healthy is a general goal. Time to get specific. Now, don’t do this food journal forever. Just document it for a week or so and you’ll see how eye opening the process actually is.

To sprinkle in some FUN and to help you understand PORTION SIZE, we took a few snapshots of familiar objects (around your desk) that will help you “get the picture.” Besides, who really knows what a 4 oz. piece of chicken is, or ¼ cup of almonds is, or how much one serving of ice cream should really look like?

Grasp These HEALTHY PORTION SIZES – Basics







Desk Object Equivalent Food Estimated Calories
iPhone 4 oz. Chicken Breast ~130 calories
iPhone 4 oz. Steak ~200 calories
iPhone 4 oz. Salmon ~130 calories
Coffee Mug 1 cup Kale ~30 calories
Coffee Mug 1 cup Lettuce ~16 calories
Pencil 1/4 cup Almonds ~160 calories
Pencil Sharpener 1 oz. Feta Cheese ~75 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Quinoa ~111 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Brown Rice ~108 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Beets ~37 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Sweet Potato ~90 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Carrots ~26 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Ice Cream ~220 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Frozen Yogurt ~110 calories
Mini Mouse 1/2 cup Plain 0% Greek Yogurt ~65 calories
Pay Check 13 pieces Chips ~150 calories
Business Card 20 grams 85% Dark Chocolate ~120 calories

Uggh.

Make things simple for yourself, learn the basics, apply it to your own life, and keep it creative. If you haven’t checked out “Kale. All Day. Err Day.” – that might be a great place to start. Even if you already eat healthy, don’t have bad food habits, have no desire to cleanse your body for one week (while still eating food), then maybe you’d be curious about the simple and delicious recipes – like our Egg MacDaddy Muffins.

Kale. All Day. Err Day.

If you like this post, checkout more nutritious and healthy living tips in our latest interactive book, Kale. All Day. Err Day. It’s enhanced and interactive for a super fun, learning experience. It’s filled with a great story all about kale, how-to videos, and recipes for the busy and the hungry. Did we mention, it’s FREE…for a limited time. Hurry – check it out here. (New book coming late 2016…)RiceRice is a grain that, just like wheat, is a member of the grass family. The stalks grow anywhere from 60 to 180 cm (2 to 6 feet) tall, and bloom with flowers that produce the grain as its seed. In Europe, it is grown in Northern Italy, and in some parts of Spain. It is, of course, also grown throughout Asia.

Contrary to popular belief, rice doesn’t grow only in rice paddies — fields flooded with water. Some varieties of rice also grow on hills.

For the most part, rice is described based on the size of its grain, and the degree of processing it has had.

Whenever a recipe or someone refers to “rice”, unless they specify a type, what is meant is white rice.

The answer to the question of “how much rice to cook” starts with the debate about what constitutes a serving size. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans people are really skimpy in their allowance. Weight Watchers® is more generous. Still, both probably fall short of what constitutes a serving in real life in people’s minds. See the Equivalents section below for the guidelines.

Cooking Tips

See Equivalents section below for how much white rice to cook.

See also the entry on Brown Rice for how much brown rice to cook.

How to cook rice

Here are two standard methods for cooking rice:

Method 1
Per cup ( 8 oz / 200 g) of uncooked rice, bring to a boil in a large saucepan 2 cups (16 oz / 500 ml) of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Don’t dump the rice in all at once; slowly pour it in (don’t stir while pouring.) Then stir lightly, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes

Method 2
Heat 1 tablespoon of fat (such as oil or butter) in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Pour in 1 cup (8 oz / 200 g) of uncooked rice, stir around to coat, and cook until rice turns a bit transparent, about 5 minutes. (Optional: for a nuttier tasting rice, brown the kernels a bit by cooking them a bit longer until they just start to brown.) Slowly pour in 2 cups (16 oz / 500 ml) of already boiling water from the kettle, stir in 1 teaspoon of salt if desired, cover, and then cook for 15 minutes.

For either method:

  • if all the water has gone but the rice is not yet tender, add a few tablespoons of boiling water, cover and cook a bit more;
  • if water has remained but the rice is cooked, remove cover and cook a minute or two uncovered to allow water to evaporate until the water is gone.

Miscellaneous rice cooking tips

  • Don’t stir rice while it is cooking, as stirring it will make it sticky. (Risotto is the exception: you want it sticky.)
  • The wider the mouth on your pot, the better your rice will cook.
  • If you have storage space for a rice steamer, they are inexpensive, and for some people can take some stress out of cooking rice.
  • When reheating leftover rice in a microwave, add 1 teaspoon of water per cup (150 g / 4 oz) of cooked, leftover rice. Put covered in microwave and zap for 3–4 minutes, or until uniformly piping hot.
  • To make a soup thicker, throw in a few handfuls of leftover cooked rice towards the end.

Substitutes

Bulgur Wheat, various Grain Berries, Couscous.

Nutrition

Wholegrain and brown rice are the same grain of rice.

When the rice grain is husked, the rice is brown in colour. This is what is known as wholegrain or brown rice. Further refining to make the white rice removes the brown exterior.

Brown rices are more nutritious than white because the brown layer retains some of the nutrients found in the husk.

Rice has absolutely no gluten.

Equivalents

Rice measurements, equivalents and yields are very imprecise, being dependent on so many factors including even — literally — the weather. It just depends essentially if you want to err on the side of calorie-control, or generosity.

How much uncooked rice equals how much cooked rice

Just memorize that brown rice is times two, white rice is times three.

  • Brown rice essentially doubles in both volume and weight after cooking. 1 cup of brown rice will yield 2 cups; 1 kg of brown rice will yield 2 kg.
  • White rice essentially triples in both volume and weight after cooking. 1 cup of white rice will yield 3 cups; 1 kg of white rice will yield 3 kg.

How much white rice to cook for a single person

There are two different serving-size suggestions from the dietary professionals, one smaller and one a bit larger.

Smaller serving: To end up with a single serving of 75 g (1/2 cup / 2 oz in weight) of cooked white long-grain rice: start with 25 g (2.5 tablespoons / 1 oz ) of uncooked white long-grain rice.

Larger serving: To end up with a single serving of 150 g (1 cup / 4 oz in weight) of cooked white long-grain rice: start with 50 g (1/3 cup / 2 oz ) of uncooked white long-grain rice.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015 – 2020 edition, Appendix 3) suggests the first, smaller amount. The larger amount is offered up by Weight Watchers® and other dietary sources as of 2015, and while probably closer to the minimum that people are going to actually have, will likely still seem skimpy to many people.

How much white rice to cook for a crowd

The following is based on the serving amount of 150 g (1 cup / 4 oz ) for long-grain white rice. Even so, it does not allow for generous servings, second-helpings, or left-overs. To allow for that, or when cooking for larger numbers, it is probably advisable to plan for a few extra servings.

See also the entry on Brown Rice for how much brown rice to cook.

Rice equivalency notes

  • The weights of uncooked compared to weights of cooked are of course more accurate than when volume-style measurements get involved
  • Cup volumes of cooked and uncooked will vary wildly depending on the type of rice (e.g. risotto rice), how forcefully it was packed down in the cup, the humidity of the given day even, etc. And weight / volume equivalencies of uncooked rice will also vary wildly as well, depending on the type of rice, whether it is short-grain or long-grain, brown or white, etc. Thus, the equivalencies below won’t always jive with each other, especially given whether rounding for kitchen usability for a particular instance was done up, or down. But sacrificing usability for extreme mathematical precision is impractical in a real-world kitchen.
  • For kitchen purposes, rounding 1/2 cup of uncooked rice to 4 oz / 120 g in weight (1 cup uncooked to 8 oz / 250 g in weight) is usually fine. Feel free to round it down to 1/3 cup / 2 oz uncooked if you want less food on the plate!

Storage Hints

Store dried, uncooked rice in a sealed container in a dry, cool place. With the exception of brown rice, rice will keep indefinitely.

Refrigerate leftover cooked rice in a sealed container within an hour of cooking; do not let stand out longer. Use with 3 to 5 days.

Most of us are guilty of cooking too much when it comes to starches. And when we do try to cook less, it somehow ends up not being enough. It’s very hard to get it just right, so how much, in dry weight, should be sufficient per person? Of course it all depends on whether the pasta, rice or couscous is meant to be for a first course or a main course, how hungry you and your family or guests are, and whether or not you want leftovers. But let’s take a look at the average portion sizes used worldwide.

Rice

When it comes to rice the norm seems to be about ½ cup (90g) per person, although some people prefer to use a bit less – about 1/3 cup (60g) per person. And remember we are talking about uncooked rice here, which means that when it’s cooked it’s usually about a cup per person, as rice doubles in size. For a main meal this is definitely enough!

Pasta

As a general guide, you should allow 75g dried pasta, 115g-150g fresh pasta or 175g-200g filled pasta (such as ravioli) per person. The same rule applies to all types of pasta – whether it’s spaghetti, penne, rigatoni or elbows. 70-80 grams of dry pasta turns into a satisfyingly deep-dish plateful. A mound is too much, because it will leave no space for the rest of the meal. When it comes to spaghetti a measuring stick is available to buy in most homeware shops, or you could order one online. This measuring tool has different sized holes from one upwards, and you put in whatever amount passes through the hole to match the amount of servings.

Couscous

Couscous is perhaps less popular than rice and pasta, but is slowly but surely becoming more widely used. A general rule is that 100g couscous per person is sufficient. But of course this also depends on what you are serving it with. 1 cup dry couscous makes 2 – 2 ½ cups cooked couscous. As a side dish, plan on ½ to ¾ cup cooked couscous per person.

It’s important to fuel your body properly. Otherwise, caregiving can take a greater toll.

A healthy diet emphasizes certain foods and recommends a number of servings per day. But you may have a question: Just what counts as a serving, anyway?

It’s a great question. It can be easy to consider too much as a single serving, especially with tasty foods we like.

Here’s a breakdown for several kinds of foods:

Grains: ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cooked cereal; 1 oz. dry pasta or rice; 1 slice bread; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes.

Vegetables: 1 cup equivalent of vegetables is 1 cup raw vegetable or vegetable juice, 2 cups leafy salad greens.

Fruits: 1 cup equivalent is 1 cup fruit or ½ cup of fruit juice (orange juice, etc.) or 1/3 cup of a fruit juice blend.

Protein foods (meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and nuts): 3 oz. cooked lean meat, poultry or seafood; 2 egg whites or 1 egg; ¼ cup cooked beans; 1 tbsp. peanut butter; ½ oz. unsalted nuts/seeds. Note that ¼ cup cooked beans = 1 oz. protein equivalent but ½ cup cooked beans = 1 vegetable.

Dairy foods (milk, yogurt and cheese): 1 cup equivalent is 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1½ oz. natural cheese such as cheddar cheese, or 2 oz. processed cheese.

Helpful rules of thumb

Here are a few helpful serving size guidelines to remember:

  • One cup of raw leafy vegetables or a baked potato should be about the size of a small fist.
  • Three ounces of cooked lean meat or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • A teaspoon of soft margarine is about the size of a single die (from a pair of dice).
  • An ounce and a half of fat-free or low-fat cheese is about the size of four stacked dice.

Consider setting a goal to eat healthy 80 percent of the time. You can use the remaining 20 percent for an occasional treat, or for times when you’re crunched for time and have to prioritize convenience over nutrition.

And here’s food for thought: Once you start eating right, it will be easier to get your loved one started on some heart-healthy, nutritious habits too.

Learn more:

  • Top 10 cooking tips

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