Is rice fattening or good for weight loss?

Rice is a staple food in many countries, being eaten multiple times a week. Similar to oatmeal and quinoa it is a grain, and comes in different sizes and colours, with white and brown varieties being the most popular.

White rice is consumed more often, however brown rice is recognized as being healthier. In this article, we will discuss whether eating rice is good or bad for your waistline.

What causes weight gain?

Weight management comes down to a simple equation: calories in – calories out. If this number is positive, you will gain weight; if it is negative, you will lose weight.

You introduce calories into your body via the food that you eat and you use them up naturally throughout the day, and when you exercise. The more strenuously you exercise, the more calories you burn.

When compared weight for weight, certain foods can differ greatly in the number of calories that they have. For example, 100 g of avocado has 160 calories whereas 100 g of spinach has only 23 calories. This is because avocado contains a lot of fat (the healthy kind), whereas spinach is made up of more than 90% water, which has no calories.

The number of calories that a person needs depends on various factors, including their gender, height, weight, age and activity levels. You can use the calculator below to estimate the number of calories you should be consuming.

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level

This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 30 year old lady who weighs 70 kg, is 5.5 feet tall and exercises 4 times a week will need to consume approximately 2200 calories in order to maintain her weight, 1800 calories to lose weight and 1300 calories to lose weight fast.

Consuming fewer calories than what your body needs in order to maintain its weight is known as being in a calorie deficit. Doing so forces your body to use its fat stores as a source of energy.

So how many calories does rice have? Lets take a look at its nutritional information.

Nutritional information

The table below shows the nutritional information of one cup of cooked long grain rice.

White Rice Brown Rice
Calories 206 216
Fat 0.4 g 1.8 g
Cholesterol 0 0
Sodium 1.6 mg 9.8 mg
Carbohydrates 45 g 45 g
Fiber 0.6 g 3.5 g
Sugar 0.1 g 0.7 g
Protein 4.3 g 5 g

The first thing you will notice is that in terms of calories, both white and brown rice contain a similar amount. Comparatively, a cup of cooked oatmeal and quinoa contain 158 and 222 calories respectively.

In our example above, if the lady were to try and follow an 1800 calorie diet, a cup of cooked rice would amount to 12% of total calories. This means that rice can be eaten as part of a weight loss diet.

For example, a sample daily meal plan could look like the following:

Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs and a cup of cooked oatmeal – 314 calories

Snack: low fat Greek yogurt and strawberries – 125 calories

Lunch: chicken breast, steamed vegetables and a cup of brown rice – 590 calories

Snack: hummus and carrot sticks – 230 calories

Dinner: tilapia and steamed vegetables – 250 calories

Total: 1,509 calories

Since she is creating a deficit of more than 700 calories, she would end up losing weight.

The lesson here is portion control. Any food if eaten in abundance, will lead to weight gain. Having one or two cups of rice is fine, provided that you don’t consume more calories than your body burns and you also eat a varied diet with adequate amounts of lean protein and healthy fat.

Rice is an extremely carb rich food, but studies have shown that low carb diets can drastically help with weight loss. This is another reason why rice should be eaten in moderation – so that excess amounts of carbs are not consumed. Individual carb requirements vary greatly from person to person and depend on factors such as age, metabolism and activity levels. A general guideline is to aim for a daily carb intake of 50 – 150 g.

White or brown?

Brown rice is a whole grain, which means it contains the bran, germ and endosperm. White rice is refined and has had the bran and germ (the most nutritious part of the grain) stripped off. This is the main reason why brown rice is considered to be healthier; it retains all of the essential nutrients, whereas white rice doesn’t.

As you can see from the table above, brown rice has almost 6 times the amount of fiber that white rice does. Fiber is important when it comes to weight loss because it helps to keep you feeling full for longer and therefore prevents overeating. This study found that making a small change and getting more fiber can help with weight loss.

Another study found that brown rice (when compared to white rice) could significantly reduce weight as well as waist & hip circumference. And studies such as this and this have found that people who eat more whole grains tend to weigh less. On the other hand, consumption of refined grains has been associated with weight gain.

Brown rice contains significantly larger amounts of vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, niacin, magnesium and phosphorus, making it the healthier choice.

Conclusion

Rice, if eaten in reasonable portions, can be a great part of a weight loss diet. You should definitely opt for brown rice over white rice as it contains more nutrients and has been shown to assist with weight loss.

When preparing rice, it is a good idea to thoroughly wash and drain it 2 or 3 times before cooking. Not only does this get rid of the excess starch, it also makes it easier to cook. Once washed, steam or boil it; this is a healthier option than frying.

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