Rice is a staple food around the world. It’s versatile, economical, and stretches your meals. But while it contains several health benefits, it’s extremely high in carbohydrates.
There are many varieties of rice, with most types of rice hovering around 45 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Some types, such as brown rice, wild rice, and basmati rice, contain some health benefits. Others, such as white rice, are classified as refined carbohydrates.
The carbs in white rice are considered “bad carbs” because the grains are processed, removing most of their dietary fiber and nutritious components.
Below, you’ll learn about the health benefits of some varieties of rice. You’ll also learn about low-carb rice alternatives.
The Health Benefits of Rice
Although the carbs in rice are too high to be considered keto-friendly, it does have some notable health benefits, including:
- High manganese levels[*]
- High magnesium levels[*]
- Ability to improve cholesterol levels
- Can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Rice Contains Over 85% of Your Daily Manganese
Brown rice contains over 85% of the recommended daily amount of manganese[*]. Manganese plays a key role in antioxidant and enzyme functions, which help metabolize the food you eat. It also improves cognitive functioning, reduces the risk factors associated with diabetes, and can help encourage weight loss[*].
Manganese plays a vital role in the health of your bones, liver, pancreas, and kidneys. This mineral also prevents blood clots, regulates your blood glucose levels, and can reduces the effects of premenstrual syndrome[*].
It’s a Good Source of Magnesium
Magnesium is required for your body to produce energy. It is a mineral found naturally in many foods such as leafy green vegetables, fiber-rich foods, and whole grains such as brown rice[*].
Magnesium improves nerve function and helps regulate your blood glucose levels. It aids in protein synthesis, bone and muscle development, and helps regulate your blood pressure[*]. Proper magnesium levels can help optimize your sleep cycle, reduce insomnia and anxiety, aid digestion, and regulate your calcium, potassium, and sodium levels.
Rice Helps Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Whole grain rice includes fiber-rich bran — the outer layer of the grain which is removed in refined grains.
The fiber in brown rice lowers cholesterol levels by attaching to waste in your digestive tract and removing it from your body. Research indicates that fiber can also help prevent small blood clots, reducing risk factors for heart attack or stroke[*].
It Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Whole grain rice boasts a much lower glycemic index than refined grains such as white bread and whole wheat bread. The glycemic index is a measure of any particular food’s potential to raise your blood glucose levels[*].
Generally, the lower amount of total carbohydrates in a food, the lower the food’s glycemic index. Foods with a low glycemic index help prevent spikes in your blood sugar. Maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels is key to diabetes prevention[*].
Can I Have Any Rice on a Low-Carb Diet?
When you’re in ketosis, your body burns ketones by using your fat stores for energy. Carbohydrates stored in your body prevent this from happening. So, if you are starting a ketogenic diet and are trying to achieve ketosis, you’ll want to avoid rice.
Unlike other diets, getting into ketosis alters your metabolism. When you eat high-carb foods, you can get kicked out of ketosis. The high amount of carbs in rice can cause your insulin levels to spike, disrupting the progress you’ve made towards reaching ketosis. If you have too many carbs, your body will resort back to using carbohydrates for energy.
Some people who have been following a ketogenic diet for some time adopt a cyclical keto diet (CKD), a diet used by athletes such as bodybuilders which allows some carbs.
Consider Low-Carb Alternatives to Rice
While whole-grain rice contains some health benefits, you should avoid it for the most part on a low-carb, ketogenic diet. Rice is only an acceptable addition to your diet if you:
- Are following the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD).
- Have had no carbs for the day. In that case, you can have up to 1/2 cup of brown rice (about 22.5 grams of carbs).
There are plenty of keto-friendly, delicious alternatives to rice. Many veggies can be “riced” with a food processor or a cheese grater to make rice-like strands. You can then roast or sautee these veggies on the stovetop to include them in a variety of dishes.
4 Incredible Low-Carb Rice Alternatives
If you’re craving rice, try incorporating cauliflower rice, miracle rice, or other rice alternatives into your diet. They have far fewer calories and total carbs than rice. In fact, miracle rice has zero calories.
Suitable rice alternatives include:
- Rutabaga: Rutabaga is a root vegetable, similar in texture to potatoes. With only 9 grams of net carbs per serving and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber, it makes an excellent low-carb rice substitute[*].
- Shirataki rice: Also known as miracle rice, this calorie-free, zero-carb rice substitute is an excellent source of soluble fiber. Plus, it takes no effort — you can simply purchase it online from Amazon or from the grocery store.
- Butternut squash rice: At 13.6 grams of net carbs per cup, you may want to limit your intake of “butternut rice.” However, butternut squash is still a great addition to a healthy diet, as it is an excellent source of vitamin A with almost 300% of your daily value, vitamin C, and vitamin E[*].
- Cauliflower rice: Arguably the most well-known rice substitute, cauliflower rice is extremely versatile. You can use cauliflower rice in Mexican, Thai, and Italian dishes. This cruciferous vegetable is incredibly healthy, containing 2.5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of total carbohydrates, and just 25 calories in 1 cup[*].
You can try these rice alternatives in these Perfect Keto recipes:
- Crispy Skin Salmon With Pesto Cauliflower Rice
- Savory Shrimp Keto Stir Fry With Baked Cauliflower Rice
- Spicy Tuna Keto Sushi Roll
Rice Alternatives That Are Not Keto-Friendly
When looking for a low-carb rice substitute, you need to be wary of starchy vegetables, complex carbs, and foods with a high GI. Here are a few side dishes you should avoid on keto:
- Lentils: The fiber content of lentils is extremely high, coming in at nearly 16 grams per cup. Unfortunately, lentils have almost 40 grams of total carbs per serving size, so they should be avoided[*].
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a natural, whole food, but they have a 63 ranking on the glycemic index, which is not much better than wild rice, brown rice, or long-grain rice[*]. Therefore, sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables should be avoided.
- Quinoa: Quinoa, like rice, is a gluten-free grain. And like rice, it’s incredibly high in carbs — at 40 grams of carbs per cup, it’s best avoided[*].
The Carbs in Rice Are Too High to Be Considered Keto-Friendly
Rice is a high-carb, gluten-free grain. Due to the amount of carbs in rice, it is not considered keto-friendly, although some varieties — namely brown rice — have several health benefits.
If you’re looking for a low-carb rice alternative, consider cauliflower rice, miracle rice, or butternut squash rice. Try to avoid high-carb rice alternatives including lentils, quinoa, and sweet potato rice.
Need more ideas for keto recipes? Eat fewer carbs and follow a meal plan to set yourself up for success. Browse Perfect Keto’s extensive recipe library and shop for products that can help you start a keto diet.