Healthy white rice substitutes

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Is white rice unhealthy?

Since ages, white rice is considered a staple food in almost everyone’s diet. White rice is a chief source of carbohydrates in our diet. It is included in nearly all of our favorite dishes and makes a filling meal. According to rumors, many people think that white rice is unhealthy to include in our diet. According to research, it’s not that white rice is not particularly unhealthy. It’s just that it doesn’t provide many nutritional benefits. White rice stuffs us with more calories than we need and lacks essential nutrients in its polished form. However, excess white rice can be harmful to one’s health, especially for those who are obese and for those diagnosed with diabetes. White rice is a highly processed and refined staple that does not contain the bran (outer layer) and germ (nutrient rice core), where most of its fiber content is removed whereas bran and germ are intact in brown rice. Hence, white rice lacks many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals present in brown rice. 

Studies suggest that there are many nutrients and high protein substitutes of white rice, which can be substituted for a healthy life. Also, brown rice is considered the best alternative as compared to white rice as all the nutritional value is intact in the brown rice. Brown rice reportedly has a lower glycemic effect in individuals. The glycemic effect is how fast the body converts carbohydrates into sugar, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. That makes it beneficial for people with diabetes as the blood sugar levels are maintained. The high dietary fiber in brown rice as compared to white rice promotes satiety in individuals. As a result, it helps in maintaining weight for individuals who wish to lose weight. Research suggests that people who regularly consume white rice in large amounts are subject to a high risk of metabolic syndromes. These metabolic syndromes include:

⮚     High blood pressure

⮚     High triglyceride (LDL & VLDL) levels

⮚     Low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol

⮚     High fasting blood sugar levels

Meanwhile, brown rice consumption is associated with a lower risk of such metabolic syndromes as well as a lower risk of heart diseases. [1,2,3,4]

Healthier white rice substitutes

Healthier alternatives to white rice

Nowadays, health is considered an epitome part of the lifestyle of individuals. As white rice lacks many nutritional elements, studies suggest white rice can be substituted for many alternative healthy substitutes. Some of the healthy substitutes for white rice can be found below:

1.     Quinoa

Quinoa is among the most popular health foods today. Quinoa is a seed that has a grain-like taste and texture after cooking. It is gluten-free and packed with high amounts of protein. Quinoa contains all the nine amino acids required by our body, making it a complete protein. It also contains essential minerals like magnesium and copper, which play a crucial part in body metabolism and bone health. Quinoa is considered as a great substitute for white rice, which also helps in weight management. [5,6]

2.     Riced cauliflower

Modern research suggests that riced cauliflower is a perfect low-carb and low-calorie substitute for white rice. Riced cauliflower has a mild flavor, and its texture is similar to white rice, with only a fraction of carbohydrates and calories of white rice. It has become a popular alternative for white rice for people on low-carb or keto diets. [7]

3.     Riced broccoli

Similar to riced cauliflower, riced broccoli is a smart substitute for white rice. The caloric count of riced broccoli is identical to riced broccoli, which makes them perfect for a low-carb and low-calorie diet. The nutrient content of riced broccoli is also identical to riced cauliflower, but it is packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. 


4.     Shirataki rice

Another popular white rice substitute, shirataki rice, is a low-carb and low-calorie version of white rice. Shirataki rice is obtained from konjac root, which is native to Asia and contains a distinctive fiber known as glucomannan. The caloric content of shirataki rice is so low that a 3 ounce (85 gram) serving of shirataki rice contains less than five calories. Sometimes it is also referred to as calorie-free rice or rice having zero calories. The primary fiber of konjac root, glucomannan, is considered highly nutritious for the body. Research suggests that it can form a protective barrier along the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. [9]

5.     Barley

Barley is a grain that belongs to the family of wheat and rye. Barley has a chewy texture and an earthy taste and is considered similar to oats. Barley contains similar calories as compared to white rice, but it is a healthier substitute for white rice as it is packed with protein and fiber. Besides, barley contains healthy vitamins and minerals like niacin, zinc, and calcium that promote the healthy functioning of the body. [10]

6.     Whole-wheat couscous

Couscous is small pearls of flour, which are considered as a type of pasta. It is popularly a part of the Mediterranean and middle eastern cuisine. Whole-wheat couscous is considered as a healthier rice substitute as its rich in fiber and protein. Couscous has a great texture of pasta, which is much tastier than regular white rice. 

7.     Chopped cabbage

Similar to riced cauliflower and broccoli, chopped cabbage is an excellent substitute for white rice. Chopped cabbage is low in calories compared to white rice and has a mild flavor with a crunchy texture. Chopped cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, which plays a crucial part in blood clotting, circulation, and bone health. [11]

8.     Whole-wheat orzo

Orzo is a type of pasta that closely resembles white rice in shape, size, and texture. Whole-wheat orzo contains more fiber and protein than regular orzo, making it a healthier choice than regular orzo and white rice. But whole-wheat orzo includes a higher proportion of calories than regular white rice. Hence, an appropriate portion size should be selected, suiting the individual’s health goals. [12]

9.     Farro

Whole-grain wheat product is known as farro. It is chewy in texture and has a nutty taste and can be a great substitute for white rice. Farro has close resemblance with barley but has larger grains. Farro contains large amounts of protein similar to quinoa and has a low glycemic index. When combined with legumes such as chickpeas or black beans, farro provides all the nine essential amino acids to the body. [13]

10. Freekeh

Freekeh is a similar whole grain like farro, which is obtained from wheat grains that are harvested while they are still green. Similar to farro, it contains high amounts of protein and fiber. Freekeh also contains an abundant amount of iron required in the body for healthy red blood cells. [14]

11. Steel-cut oats

An alternative that is closer to its normal condition is steel-cut oats. The grain kernel is only cut into two or three pieces by a thick metal blade so that water can penetrate the smaller pieces more easily when they are cooked. Steel-cut oats keep you full longer since they take longer for your body to process. Steel-cut oats are a healthy choice because your body does all of the work, whole foods take longer to digest, energy and nutrients are released slowly.

12. Bulgur wheat

Bulgur wheat is also a whole-wheat substitute for rice. It is similar in size and looks like couscous, but whereas couscous is pasta made from wheat germ, bulgur wheat is small, cracked bits of whole-wheat grains. It’s widely utilized in tabbouleh, a Mediterranean salad dish that also features tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs. Except for the vegetable-based choices on this listing, bulgur wheat is the lowest in calories. It contains 76 calories in 1/2 cup (91 g ), about 25 percent fewer calories than an equivalent dose of white rice. It’s an excellent rice alternative for those trying to reduce calories but still need the familiar texture and taste of grain.


There are many healthy substitutes of white rice which are available for people according to their health need. These alternatives can be used for people who wish to have a gluten-free substitute for white rice or protein & fiber-rich substitute for white rice. These whole grain substitutes are similar to white rich but contain many nutritional values that are not present in regular white rice. Hence, next time you wish to try something new rather than regular white rice, you can always try one of these healthier substitutes of white rice.