the best type and healthiest portion size, according to a dietitian

Is brown rice really better than white? And what about short or long grain? We get to the bottom of it.

It’s a staple food for many, but rice has had its fair share of bad press thanks to its carbohydrate content.

Truth is, however, rice can be a healthy addition to any diet – weight loss or otherwise. It all comes down to the type of rice you choose and how much you serve yourself.

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White vs. brown rice

The first factor in making a healthy rice decision is whether it’s white or brown – the former being the once-every-now-and-then kind of choice, the latter being the more nutritious option.

That’s because white rice is a refined grain, while brown rice is classified as a whole grain.

To get you up to speed, whole grains contain all three natural layers of the grain. They are:

  1. The fibre-rich ‘bran’ on the outside of the grain
  2. The micronutrient-rich ‘germ’ in the core of the grain
  3. The starchy ‘endosperm’ that fills up the majority of the inside of the grain

Refined grains, on the other hand, contain only the endosperm. That means whole grains, like brown rice, offer far more nutrition than their refined counterparts, like white rice.

Long grain vs. short grain

The next determining factor is the length of the grain. I know it sounds trivial, but the length is a good clue as to where the grain might sit on the glycaemic index (GI). As a general rule of thumb, long-grain rice tends to have a lower GI than short-grain rice.

In case you’re not aware, low-GI foods are slowly digested, which means your blood sugars gently rise and fall. This provides long-lasting energy and keeps you feeling full and satisfied.

High-GI foods, on the other hand, are quickly digested. They cause your blood sugars to spike and fall in a short amount of time, which leaves you feeling lethargic and hungry.

How much rice can you really eat at once?

Now you know long-grain brown rice is the bees knees when it comes to good nutrition, it’s time to talk portions. Cue the drum roll…

Technically, one serve of rice is half a cup of cooked rice. Looking at the big picture, women between the ages of 19 to 50 are recommended to have six serves of grains each and every day. For women older than that, it’s four daily serves until the age of 70, and three thereafter. In case you’re wondering, bread, pasta, noodles, oats, cereal, crackers and quinoa also fit into these daily ‘grain’ serves.

I’d recommend spreading these grain serves evenly across the day for a consistent supply of energy. If you’re between the ages of 19 to 50, that could mean two serves each at breakfast, lunch and dinner, or one serve at each main meal and three snacks across the day, or any combination of this. For women who are a little older, I’d suggest having two serves at most for one main meal, and two single serves at other times of the day.

All in all, that means three whole cups of cooked white rice in one meal probably isn’t a wise idea. One cup paired with some veggies and lean protein, however, is a perfectly healthy, balanced meal that anyone can enjoy.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.